Can there be anything more exhilarating than following in the footsteps of your Ryder Cup heroes?
Luckily you can. Venture to the fabulous inland venues that staged the trans-Atlantic match-up in its infancy, the revered links courses on the Lancashire coastline or jet off to sunnier skies to take on Real Valderrama. While getting a tee time at Muirfield and Wentworth can prove tricky, golfers have the opportunity to play at every European venue that has staged the Ryder Cup.
How many have you played?
Head twenty miles west of Paris towards the Chateau of Versailles and you will find a setting fitting of golfing royalty. The long-time home of the French Open, a Rolex Series event that annually draws a world-class field, Le Golf National cemented its places as one of the greatest ryder Cup venues of all-time. It’s a venue that was perfectly suited for the transatlantic match-play event, with mounding to spare and the final holes running through an amphitheatre-like bowl.
How we would love to see the Ryder Cup return to this fabulous links, which last hosted the prestigious event back in 1969.
Regularly ranked as the best golf course in England, Royal Birkdale has hosted the contest on two occasions. Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Peter Alliss were among the big-name players in the field during the latter occasion, which would prove to be the closest contest in Ryder Cup history. The match is perhaps best known for a remarkable piece of sporting by a young Jack Nicklaus, who would concede a two-footer to Tony Jacklin on the final green, resulting in the first overall tie in the matches’ history.
It's often said that if the Open Championship headed inland it would likely be staged at Ganton. While that is yet to transpire, the Yorkshire venue has hosted almost every other prestigious event in European golf, including the Ryder Cup, back in 1949. Somewhat bizarrely, the USA's decision to bring a half ton of meat to England was one of the event's main headlines, as was the return of Ben Hogan as a non-playing captain following his near-fatal car accident a few months before.
The course itself plays much like a links course, despite being some miles from the sea and is unquestionably one of England's finest inland layouts.
This storied venue has played host to ten Open Championship. Less well known is that the historic Lancashire links has also staged two Ryder Cups, back in 1961 and 1977. The latter occasion would be the last time that Team GB and Ireland would compete alone against the dominant Americans, who by this point had won ten consecutive matches.
The links is nothing short of a masterpiece and is famed for its formidable and cunning collection of bunkers, which guarantee that Royal Lytham is considered among the most difficult of the Open Championship venues.
This classic links is one of the most underrated courses on the Lancashire coastline. All too often overshadowed by its prestigious neighbours, Southport & Ainsdale has played host to two Ryder Cups, back in 1933 and 1937, with the earlier contest marking the last time Great Britain and Ireland would be victorious for over two decades.
A James Braid masterpiece, the rolling links is a testing championship layout, which plays its way through wild dunes and snarly gorse. The layout remains an Open Championship Final Qualifying venue and has played host to numerous top amateur tournaments over the years.
Walton Heath is home to two outstanding heathland courses, both of which rank among England’s finest layouts.
Herbert Fowler would design the New and the Old, with the latter revered world-over as an exceptional test of golf. It is a reputation that has attracted some of the biggest contests in the game, including the 1981 Ryder Cup.
Taking place during an extended period of American domination, USA would win the contest by 18½ to 9½ points.
Gleneagles would host the first unofficial Ryder Cup, back in 1921 when Golf Illustrated invited a group of American players to compete in the British Open. It would be almost a century before the event would return to the Scottish venue, which serves up one of the most beautiful settings in golf.
Originally staged over the James Braid-designed Kings course, the 2014 Ryder Cup would return to the new edition at the resort, the PGA Centenary Course, with Europe recording a resounding victory.
The only course built specifically to host the world’s biggest team tournament, Celtic Manor would produce a scintillating contest in 2010, with the match coming down to the final singles pairing. Delayed till Monday due to poor weather, Graeme McDowell would finish off Hunter Mahan on the iconic par-3 17th to give Europe a one-point victory and continue their four-match winning streak on home soil. The rolling parkland course in the Usk Valley forms part of the extensive Celtic Manor estate, which is also home to two further championship courses as well as a plethora of leisure and dining facilities.
Host to the 1957 Ryder Cup, Lindrick all too often gets overlooked. It shouldn’t, for it is undoubtedly one of the best British courses to host the prestigious event. The hidden gem would be the scene of a rare victory for Team GB, the first in twenty-four years. The course culminates with one of the finest holes in the game, the 210-yard par-3 eighteenth, which is featured in the World's 500 Greatest Golf Holes.
Designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie, Moortown was the first ever venue to host the Ryder Cup on this side of the pond, back in 1929. Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen were among the players who made the journey to compete in the second staging of the biennial tournament, which was plagued by hail and heavy snow.
A classic moorland course, the peaty fairways, flanked by silver birch and heather, are ridiculously good to play off and ensure that Moortown is regarded as one of England's finest tests.
Valderrama is the first course in continental Europe to host the Ryder Cup. A massive million-dollar refurbishment by original designer Robert Trent Jones in the run-up to the event would transform the layout into one of Europe's finest courses. Weaving its way through omnipresent cork trees, Valderrama is a truly special place to play golf. The venue would provide the backdrop for one of Europe’s most nail-biting victories, with Seve Ballesteros’s side seeing off a rallying final day comeback from Team USA to win by a single point.
Who can forget Darren Clarke's emotional reception on the 1st tee at the K Club in 2006?
The K Club is Ireland’s big, glamorous parkland course. There are lakes, rivers, ancient trees and lots and lots of space. The Palmer course carries quite the reputation (designed by Arnold Palmer) and it delivers all the frills and thrills you’d expect. It's an exceptional resort, with a clubhouse and facilities to match, and a worthy second course, The Smurfit, that sits alongside its more famous sibling.
The Belfry needs little introduction. Host to four Ryder Cups, more than any other venue on the planet, the Warkwickshire resort is one of the most iconic destinations in the game. Seve Ballesteros may have put the Brabazon on the map as an iconic Ryder Cup course, but with a wealth of moments to draw from, golfers can relive the magic of the tournament on almost every hole.
For spectators, there isn’t much that can match the thrill and excitement of watching Europe take on the US in the Ryder Cup. Likewise, for avid golfers, not much can live up to playing a former or future Ryder Cup venue. The USA has a history of staging the Ryder Cup at exclusive country clubs. Nonetheless, there are several courses worth travelling to play including the spectacular 1991 host Kiawah Island.