With the Ryder Cup returning to golf’s spiritual home in Scotland for this year’s tournament at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, it’s only fitting to look back at some of the other memorable courses that have played host to one of the biggest tournaments in the history of the sport. Here we remember some of the best Ryder Cup courses for professional and amateur golfers
The Belfry, UK
It’s possible that no other course is so intrinsically linked to the Ryder Cup than The Belfry. Hosting the tournament a record four times, it has seen some gripping episodes on its immaculate greens. Who could forget Sam Torrance’s iconic European win in 1985 on the Brabazon Course, or the wild victorious celebrations of the European team in 2002 when Paul McGinley ended up in the lake. Of the three world-class courses spread over 500 acres of stunning English countryside, there is one that holds a special place in the hearts of the golfing elite, and for good reason. The Brabazon Course was where the Europeans were awarded their first victory over the Americans in over 28 years at the 1985 tournament. Well known in golfing circles for its perilous bunkers and strategically placed lakes, the Dave Thomas and Peter Alliss designed course remains a challenge for even the most seasoned pros.
PGA National, Palm Beach
More than just a golf course, the PGA National Palm Beach is a first class resort equipped with some of the best spa, restaurants and entertainment facilities in Florida. The 1983 Ryder Cup took in the highs and lows of the infamous Champion Course, which saw the Americans walk away victorious in one of the closest matches in Ryder Cup history. Originally designed by golfing architects Tom and George Fazio, the course was redesigned in 1990 by golfing great Jack Nicklaus. The notorious “˜Bear Trap’ – a trio of holes that mark out some of the toughest play on the PGA tour – definitely separates the men from the boys.
Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester
With majestic oak, maple and evergreen trees lining the courses, and a grand mock Tudor clubhouse, Oak Hill Country Club is among the most attractive Ryder Cup courses. Once little more than barren land, the 355-acre site in Pittsford took on its remarkable transformation under the creative eye of legendary golfing architect Donald Ross. Universally regarded as one of the most challenging courses in America, the East Courses feature Ross’ signature slopes, hills and narrow fairways, designed to test accuracy and poise. Hosts of the 1995 Ryder Cup, avid golfing fans watched with baited breath as the European team, off the back of Philip Walton’s winning game, stole back victory from the US. In commiseration for the American loss, Oak Hill was dubbed Heartbreak Hill and a plaque marks the infamous spot where Walton sealed the deal.
Medinah Country Club, Chicago
During its 80-year history the Medinah Country Club has hosted some of the most prestigious tournaments in golfing history, including the thrilling 2012 Ryder Cup. Designed by Tom Bendelow – commonly regarded as one of the best golf course architects of all time – the three 18-hole courses are simply referred to as no. 1, 2 and 3, and considered some of Bendelow’s best work. But as one of America’s most prominent golf clubs Medinah has undergone various renovations over the years, and in 2002 Rees Jones modified course no. 3 in anticipation of the club hosting the 2012 Ryder Cup. Formerly considered a “˜ladies’ course, no. 3 is now the most famous and incorporates a daunting slope and many crosses of the expansive Lake Kadijah. The lake provides a beautiful backdrop to the pristine grounds, which also offer a swimming pool, ballroom and large formal dining room.
As the “home of golf” it’s no surprise that this Scottish course is held in such high regard. Approximately 20 miles outside of Edinburgh, the 18-hole links course is a vast stretch of land without any trees – but don’t imagine this makes it any easier to navigate. A notoriously tough course, Muirfield features plenty of challenges, like the tall heather that litters the grounds and deep pot bunkers (not to mention the strong winds). Considered one of the top Ryder cup courses, Muirfield has also hosted numerous international and national championships during its long and colourful history. Golfing champion Jack Nicklaus loved it so much he named his own course in Ohio (Muirfield Village) in its honour. Nestled behind the 18th green is the Elizabethan-style clubhouse; built in 1891, it pays homage to the club’s long and illustrious heritage.
Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Charleston
As the infamous spot where the Ryder Cup’s “war by the shore” took place (one of the most fierce and closely contested games in the tournament’s history), the Kiawah Island Golf Resort has an important place in golfing history. A culmination of intense rivalry on and off the course saw one of the Cup’s most contentious matches set the tone for future battles. The club continues to be a firm favourite among professionals and amateurs eager to perfect their skills and advance their technique. The barrier island and lagoon setting offer beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean, and due to the height of the course it poses the additional challenge of high winds, an unusual feature among American golf courses. Though beautiful, golfers shouldn’t be fooled by the quaint seaside setting – this is one of the top Ryder Cup courses and designed to test the mettle of any ardent golfer.
Have you visited any of these Ryder Cup courses? Where do you like to play golf on holiday? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Chantelle Symester