My list of courses where the Ryder Cup should go... but never will

My list of courses where the Ryder Cup should go… but never will

Bringing the Ryder Cup to the Old Course at St. Andrews, the home of golf? Not a chance.
Bob Martin/SI

The 2018 Ryder Cup will be played in France, we learned recently. That’s the perfect choice because golf owes its very existence to the country of France.

Not really. Just checking to see if you’re awake.

My reaction to the news was the same as yours. France? You’ve got to be kidding.

Am I outraged by the decision to play a Ryder Cup in France? No. I’m not even surprised. Given the recent history of the Ryder Cup and the decisions by the PGA of America and the European PGA to chase the money, it was to be expected. I’m just disappointed, again.

Remember, these are the people who awarded the 1991 Cup to Kiawah Island’s Ocean course before it was even built. These are the people who took the Ryder Cup to Ireland and of all the legendary Irish links to choose from, selected the K Club, which looked like it belonged in Myrtle Beach… but not in the area’s 10 best courses. These are the people who keep going back to a certain potato field in England – The Belfry – instead of any of the England’s top 50 courses.

Then there was Valderrama in Spain. Europe memorably won that one in 1997, captained by Seve Ballesteros in his home country, but other than that, there wasn’t much to brag about. Upon learning that Valderrama had been chosen as the host site, former European Ryder Cup captain Tony Jacklin famously quipped, “The Spanish couldn’t run a raffle.” He was not proven wrong. Buses at Valderrama ran late if they ran at all, bathrooms were locked, policemen staged a wildcat strike and some hotels proved to be horror stories. That was just for starters.

Let’s not forget Wales last year and Celtic Manor’s 2010 course. It was the Wales version of La Costa – a course built at the bottom of a valley. Or, where the water goes to drain. Unfortunately, the event at Celtic Manor was scheduled at the start of the rainy season in Wales, just as La Costa used to host the Tournament of Champions in the only month of the year (January) when southern California gets rain. I’ve never seen a tournament played on a course that was as drenched as Celtic Manor was.

At least the Ryder Cup in France should have good bread and wine. Maybe the course is outstanding too. It doesn’t ultimately matter for match play, I suppose. France will probably do fine.

I guess it’s just an old-school, outdated notion that the Ryder Cup can be played on one of the world’s great courses. It’s just another TV show now. It’s just another cash grab, so the course doesn’t matter.

Here, then, is my list of courses where the Ryder Cup should go… but never will:

The Old Course: St. Andrews is the home of golf. Clearly, it would make way too much sense for it to host the Ryder Cup. And it’s in Scotland, whose people know more about golf than any others in the world. It’s a fun, funky course and would be a delight for match play. One drawback is that the course is so flat that it’s difficult for spectators to get a vantage point, and the seven double greens force fans to stay on one side of the course. Somehow, that hasn’t deterred them from flooding to the British Open there.

Ballybunion: There may not be a more dramatic track in the world than Ballybunion’s Old course. It’s hard by the ocean, starts off crossing an ancient cemetery and features wild, ocean-side holes. And wind? You can count on it.

TPC Sawgrass: No, it’ll never happen. The PGA of America would have to pay the PGA Tour to use the course. But think about it. We’ve seen how dramatic two playoffs starting at the island-green 17th hole have been. How about pivotal matches coming to that hole every session? You like the three-hole finish for stroke play? It would be even better for match play, where players typically have to be more aggressive. Somebody could win the 17th with a 5 or a 7 on a windy day. Way cool.

Pine Valley: It’s a bit of an anachronism as courses go, it’s super private and the club obviously isn’t interested in letting the world inside its gates. But a man can dream, can’t he?

Kingsbarns: This track will never get a Ryder Cup for the same reason that Spyglass Hill never gets any major championships. As long as you’re there, right up the road, why not just go to the Old Course – or in Spyglass Hill’s case, Pebble Beach?

Pebble Beach: Now that I mention it, why not? Is there a more dramatic and beautiful setting for golf in the States? Yeah, why would you take anything to Spyglass with Pebble right there?

Muirfield: It’s not the prettiest course, but this Scottish layout is one great test of shotmaking. Plus, it always makes for a memorable Open.
The list could go on and on. There are so many great courses in Scotland, Ireland and England. But apparently we’ve got to share the Ryder Cup with the rest of Europe now. Everyone wants a turn; everyone wants a piece of the pie. Get in line Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Poland, Norway and the Netherlands.
It’s politics. It’s money. And it’s a shame.