Ryder Cup Countdown — Future Venue Wish List
Other Ryder Cup stuff: Alternate Proposed Formats, Pre-Tournament Superlatives, Europe All-Name Team, U.S. All-Name Team
determining the All-Name Team for both Europe and the U.S. over the past two days, it’s time to switch gears a bit and talk about Ryder Cup venues. Specifically, venues that I would absolutely love to see get a chance to host the event.
For perhaps the preeminent golf event in the world, the Ryder Cup has been played at some pretty boring sites. This year’s venue, Le Golf National outside of Paris, has hosted the French Open nearly continuously since 1991, which at least gives it some sort of cache. Plus, the players apparently enjoy the place, and the final, water-threatened holes will surely produce some drama.
But it’s got no real link to the history of the game, and while bringing the tournament to continental Europe will certainly help #growthegame, the French don’t seem particularly pleased about it.
Looking back over the recent course history shows a litany of tracks that meet the same requirements — a pedigree of hosting large-scale events, some connection with a governing golf body, (relative) proximity to a major city, good spectator sight lines (please note the artificial mounds in the photos above), and a property that can accommodate tens of thousands of spectators who will be spread out along (at most) twelve holes at any one time.
When it comes to the Ryder Cup, width is less crucial between the ropes than outside them.
This is how you end up with a list of venues like the ones we’ve had, and will soon have. Check it:
2002: The Belfry. Giant resort, FOUR-time Ryder Cup host, and site of the GB&I PGA
2004: Oakland Hills. Solid, good pedigree, nothing wrong here
2006: The K Club. Giant resort, an “inland links” designed by Arnold Palmer that frankly makes a mockery of the term “links”
2008: Valhalla. Owned and operated by the American PGA exclusively to stage large tournaments
2010: Celtic Manor. Giant resort, course was purpose-built to host the event
2012: Medinah. Five-time major host, enormous footprint, right near Chicago
2014: Gleneagles. Giant resort, the most parkland-style course you could find in Scotland
2016: Hazeltine. Oft-criticized golf course, relatively close to Minneapolis
2018: Le Golf National. Discussed above
2020: Whistling Straits. Please, God, no
2022: Marco Simone. 10 miles from Rome, only had to beat three other bids (Austria, Germany, Spain) to host the Cup
2024: Bethpage Black. Can’t wait
2028: Hazeltine again
2032: Olympic. Why are we scheduling these so far out?
2036: Congressional. How do we know D.C. will still exist then?
Anyway, the future looks pretty bleak. While the requirements above may present the best spectator experience for the folks on the ground, they clearly preclude tournament organizers from staging the event at some of the world’s finest golf courses. When Ross, Mackenzie, Tillinghast, Hanse, Doak, Coore+Crenshaw, or any of the other terrific golf architects from throughout history design(ed) a course, they thought about the course from the player’s perspective, not the fan’s.
With that in mind, here’s my wish list of future Ryder Cup venues, in order of decreasing likelihood. For this exercise, I’m setting aside the PGA/USGA “claims” that have been staked on certain courses. Let’s get into it.
The Old Course at St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland
You had to know it would start here. There isn’t much that hasn’t been said about The Old Course, and the idea that the Ryder Cup should be played there isn’t a new one, but it would be such a slam dunk that it’s a wonder it hasn’t happened yet. It’s about as close to Edinburgh as Gleneagles was in 2014, and its role as Open site and host of the yearly Dunhill Links shows it can handle spectators. Think of the scenes: Dustin and Koepka driving the 18th green and forearm high-fiving like the Bash Brothers. Reed holing out for birdie from the Road Hole bunker and then planting his putter into the Swilcan Bridge like an American flag. Hell, guys could purposely hit into opposite sides of the double greens just to shit talk their opponents in other matches. It would be wild.
Pebble Beach Golf Links, Carmel, CA
The greatest meeting of land and sea in golf is a no-brainer Ryder Cup venue. It checks all the boxes listed above, and while the on-course spectator experience isn’t exceptional, the TV coverage would be superb. The only glimpses we get of Pebble are during the annual Larry the Cable Guy Pro-Am Sponsored by Clint Eastwood, and on the occasions that the U.S. Open comes to town, the course is turned up to an extreme level. A late-September Ryder Cup at Pebble, with the course playing fast and firm and the wind off the Pacific wreaking havoc, would be must-watch TV.
Los Angeles Country Club (North Course), Los Angeles, CA
Another no-brainer here. Gil Hanse recently restored this George Thomas masterpiece, and it will host the U.S. Open in 2023. With a par-3 that played something like 115 yards during the recent Walker Cup, another par-3 playing close to 250, and three 450-ish yard holes coming in, this urban gem sets up perfectly for a string of high-profile matches that go right down to the wire.
Trump Turnberry (Ailsa Course), Turnberry, Scotland
I do not like Donald Trump, but I do like this golf course. I’m not sure I’d be able to avoid all Trump-related coverage in the runup to a Ryder Cup played at Turnberry, but once the event started, it wouldn’t matter whose name was on the entrance sign. After some massive renovations by Martin Ebert, the course is tailor-made to host a televised, small-sided match play event. Four of the first 11 holes are par 3s, most of them taking advantage of Turnberry’s stunning coastal setting. The four Open Championships contested here, including the famous 1977 Duel in the Sun, would provide context and enough B-roll to make anyone sick of the shaggy hairdos, and overall, I just think this one is a layup.
Castle Stuart, Inverness, Scotland
This might actually have a chance as well, and if it does end up hosting the event, I’m mortgaging anything I have that’s expensive enough to mortgage in order to attend. Designed by Gil Hanse and opened in 2009, Castle Stuart has hosted four Scottish Opens, and sits firmly in the top 10 of my Must Play list. Views, undulation, spectator mounds, half-par holes, a 595-yard finisher… yes please.
National Golf Links of America, Southampton, NY
Arguably America’s greatest golf course, and certainly the one that most exemplifies the genius of C.B. Macdonald, National might prove to be an ideal Ryder Cup host. Granted, the PGA would have to get creative with staging and crowd control, but the nature of the course lends itself so well to head-to-head play. National plays to a total of 6,873 yards, which could likely be stretched (or shrunk!) to fit whatever the PGA wanted. Two-shotters range from 327 to 478 yards, and with today’s technology, the par-5s would be reachable in two as well (the longest is 540 yards). The course hosted the 2013 Walker Cup, and is set on over 350 acres of rolling, bouncy, links-style turf, meaning its giant greens and girthy fairways filled with blind alleys could still confound the day’s best golfers.
Pacific Dunes, Bandon, OR
Arguments abound over which course at Bandon reigns supreme, but Pacific Dunes gets my vote as the one I’d most like to see host a Ryder Cup. The first two holes play 305 and 370 yards, giving golfers a chance to come out hot and, depending on wind conditions and the the fortune inherent in a bouncing golf ball, have two looks at eagle to start a match. Tom Doak’s trademark large, undulating greens are out in full force here, and are protected by all manner of DAF bunkers, gorse, water, wind, and both internal and external contour. On-the-ground spectator experience? Garbage. Hospitality options? Nearly zip. Quality of golf? Extremely high.
Streamsong Resort, Bowling Green, FL
Space is not an issue at Streamsong, as the resort is built on a 16,000 acre property. Nor is the variety or quality of golf, as the PGA would have three 18-hole layouts built by Doak, Coore+Crenshaw, and Gil Hanse from which to cobble together an 18-hole routing. The green sites, central hazards, forced carries, and crazy undulations make this property an ideal test site if the PGA decided to really go nuts. Since Red and Blue occupy the same property, and Black sits close by, there are definitely opportunities to Frankenstein a few hybrid holes, or to simply let the three design teams’ work speak for themselves. Either way, the resort sits in the middle of nowhere, but that didn’t stop them at Gleneagles.
Chicago Golf Club, Wheaton, IL
Is it too short, at just 6,950 yards? Probably, but so is National. Is it set on a gorgeous, seaside property? No, but neither is Streamsong. Would the best players likely take most of the strategy out of the course by crushing it over everything and setting up wedges into basically every hole? Yes, but they’re already doing that on courses that don’t have any strategy anyway. At least at historic, Macdonald-designed Chicago Golf, you could have Ken Brown segments detailing the thought process behind the fairway bunkers and how the course’s terrific design is thanks to its stellar routing, variety of holes and spectacular green complexes. Watching the world’s best golfers execute their brand of bash and lob across the country’s first 18-hole golf course would present a fascinating look at where the sport has come. And on the off chance someone got into trouble and had to start thinking his way through a hole or two, it would become all the more compelling.
Royal County Down, Newcastle, Ireland
I realize that golf course rating is a flawed science, but any time a course other than Augusta or Pine Valley tops the Golf Digest ratings, as Royal County Down did in 2016, you know it’s pretty good. Strung along the Irish Sea, this rugged links might not offer as stern a test as some other venues, but it’s got scenery in spades, and any offline drives risk ending up in some very uncomfortable spots — at least judging by the photo above.
Royal St. George’s, Sandwich, England
Listed at number 11 in Golf Club Atlas’s 147 “Custodians of the Game,” Royal St. George’s has hosted 13 Open Championships, and will get the chance again in 2020. Boasting a variety of blind shots, seaside holes, and a startlingly large bunker, yet often overlooked in the rota due to The Old Course, Turnberry, Troon, Hoylake, etc., Royal St. George’s deserves more time in the spotlight.
Royal Dornoch, Dornoch, Scotland
Likely too far north to ever seriously contend for a Ryder Cup, Royal Dornoch is one of golf’s great pilgrimages. It’s beset by winds off the water, which are made doubly tricky by some perched-up greens that likely influenced Donald Ross, one of the town’s notable native sons.
Ballybunion, County Kerry, Ireland
Simply one of the finest true links anywhere in the world. Although it would be helpful if it were just about anywhere else in the world, as its remote location in southwest Ireland might deter the European PGA from holding the event there. Honestly, I’m all in for a no-spectator Ryder Cup if it means we get to see guys play this course.
North Berwick West Links, North Berwick, Scotland
Would this ever happen? No. Would it be freaking amazing if it did? Yes. Did I play this course once? You bet. Did I take way too many pictures? Find out.
Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Another extreme long shot, although this course does have some bite to it in a few places. Blind shots, a particularly vexing par-5 on the front, and enough quirk and intrigue to keep even the best players invested. Also, I played this one too.
The Course at Yale, New Haven, CT
Straight up, I just want to see dudes putt through the Yale swale.
Essex County Club, Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA
I wanted to put Myopia here, but having played that course earlier this year (NBD but HBD), I found it just a little bit too easy for a professional golfer. Like, I shot 85 with a triple bogey on a hole where I lost my ball from 100 yards (thanks fescue). So I think the top pros would eviscerate it after a few practice loops. Essex, by contrast, offers more subtle challenges, and does a better job of incorporating the natural granite deposits that make golf in New England so roly-poly.
Pine Valley Golf Club, Clementon, NJ
Cypress Point Club, Pebble Beach, CA
Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, GA
CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE??