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Author: Ruben van der Zaag

Ryder Cup golf courses

22 September 2021
9 min. read
Ruben van der Zaag
It's Ryder Cup week! The biennial event between the best golfers of Europe and the United States couldn't take place in 2020, so it was moved to 21-26 September at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin. Because our focus is mainly on Europe, we've listed the 10 Best European Ryder Cup venues. You can even book a tee time on some of these Ryder Cup courses and feel like a real pro!
Grandstands at the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in France. (Photo: Cutkiller2018, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Best European Ryder Cup venues

The Ryder Cup has been held 42 times, so 21 European golf clubs have now hosted this event as it is played alternately in the USA and Europe. Below a selection of the 10 Best European Ryder Cup venues is provided, listed by the rating given by golfers on Leading Courses (until September 2021).

1. Royal Birkdale Golf Club - host in 1965 and 1969

Situated on the golden links of the North West coast in Southport, Royal Birkdale is possibly the finest of all courses in England. Royal Birkdale has held more Championship and International events (like The Open and The Ryder Cup) since WWII than any other course in the world. 

In 1969 the Ryder Cup that was held at Royal Birkdale probably was one of the best matches when it comes to competitiveness as 18 of the 32 matches went to the last green. The match ended in a 16-16 tie. 

2. Real Club Valderrama - host in 1997

Real Club Valderrama is located in Andalucia, the largest and southern-most region of Spain. A few miles north of Gibraltar, it is approximately two hours' drive from Cádiz and one and a half hours from Málaga. The climate is ideal for year-round golf. Valderrama has won the Golfers' Choice Awards for Best Golf Course in Spain many times and is considered to be one of the very best golf clubs in mainland Europe.

The 1997 Ryder Cup was the first time the event was held in continental Europe. The European team won by a margin of 1 (14½ to 13½) to retain the Ryder Cup.

3. Celtic Manor Resort - host in 2010

The speed with which Celtic Manor has impressed itself on the world golfing scene is little short of miraculous. Less than seven years after it was founded in 1995, it was selected as the host course for The 2010 Ryder Cup. Already one of the leading golf complexes in Europe, Celtic Manor opened the new Twenty Ten Course in 2007 - the first course in history to be purpose-built for staging The Ryder Cup.

For the first time in Ryder Cup history, the Sunday singles were played on Monday, due to heavy rain on day one, which had delayed the schedule. In the last match, Europe's Graeme McDowell sank a 15-foot putt to make birdie on the 16th hole and beat Hunter Mahan to give Europe a 14½ to 13½ victory.

4. Walton Heath Golf Club - host in 1981

Walton Heath Golf Club was founded in 1903 and the initial course (Old Course) was opened for play in May 1904. At that time James Braid was the Club's professional and was to remain in that capacity until his death in 1950. The course was laid out by W. Herbert Fowler, at that time a leading amateur golfer. He created one of the finest examples of heathland golf, which so closely resembles the traditional seaside links courses, out of a jungle of heather, gorse and bracken.

Team USA won the match at Walton Heath with a score of 18½ to 9½. Since 1979 this has been the largest margin of defeat for the European team at the Ryder Cup.

5. Muirfield Golf Club - host in 1973

Many of the world's greatest players believe that Muirfield golf course near Edinburgh is the fairest examination of championship golf among all the great and historic courses of the British Isles. If the definition of fairest is that there are no hidden bunkers, or subtle bumps and hollows as at St Andrews, or the blind shots of Prestwick for instance, then there can be little argument.

Team USA won the Ryder Cup at Muirfield with 19-13. It was the first time that the "Great Britain" team was called "Great Britain and Ireland".

6. The Belfry Hotel & Resort host in 1985, 1989, 1993 and 2002

The Belfry has become synonymous with golf and is a Mecca for professional and amateur players alike. The golf courses, which are located just outside of Birmingham, are easily accessible and draw players from all over the UK and further afield. Three spectacular courses, sculpted from acres of lush North Warwickshire woodland, have provoked some of the most dramatic moments in the sport's history, and have hosted more Ryder Cup matches than any other venue in the world.

In fact, the Belfry hosted 4 Ryder Cups between 1985 and 2002. Europe won 2 of the matches, USA 1 and the 1989 edition resulted in a tie. The last edition in 2002 was won by the European Team led by Sam Torrance. The Europeans won 15 1⁄2 – 12 1⁄2. The decisive 1⁄2 point was secured by Paul McGinley in his match against Jim Furyk after he holed a 10-foot par putt on the 18th hole.

 7. Royal Lytham & St Annes - host in 1961 and 1977

Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club was founded in 1886 and the present course was constructed in 1897. The Clubhouse celebrated its Centenary in 1998. It is one of the premier links courses in the world, host to ten Open Championships, two Ryder Cups and numerous other major tournaments including the Women's and Seniors Open Championships.

In 1961 the United States team won the match by a score of 14½ to 9½ points and in 1977 Team USA did it again with a score of 12½-7½. That was the last year Great Britain and Ireland made up the team for the Ryder Cup. From then on it was allowed for players from continental Europe to participate in the Ryder Cup.

8. The Gleneagles Hotel - host in 2014

The Gleneagles Hotel hosted the Ryder Cup in 2014. Gleneagles is home to three 18 hole courses (PGA Centenary, King's Course and the Queen's Course). The Wee Course is a 9-hole course. According to reviewers on Leadingcourses, the King's Course is the best. The inspiration of two of the greatest names in the game, five times Open winner James Braid and the Golden Bear himself Jack Nicklaus, the courses offer tantalising challenges for all levels of player.

In 2014 it was only the second time the Ryder Cup was held in Scotland, after Muirfield in '73. The European team of captain Paul McGinley won their third consecutive Ryder Cup (after the victory at Celtic Manor in 2010 and the "Miracle of Medinah" in 2012) at Gleneagles with 16½–11½. Jamie Donaldson from Wales hit the winning shot by landing his approach to the 15th hole less than 2 feet from the hole and Keegan Bradley conceded the hole.

9. Ganton Golf Club - host in 1949

There are few better places to play golf than Ganton. As you arrive along the lane to the Clubhouse there is a feeling of peace which is only broken by glimpses of the bunkers.  The course is laid out on quiet undulating heathland which with a sandy subsoil is very free draining. The fairways are predominantly bents and fescues, which provide a firm base for all well-executed shots. It was said that the lies at Ganton provide the perfect place to practice one's brassie shots; not that today's players carry, let alone need a brassie. However, the modern player will find that Ganton puts a premium on accuracy rather than length.

After four foursomes on Friday Europe lead by 3-1, but in the Saturday singles, the American team proved to have more individual class, by winning the session 6-2, resulting in a 7-5 victory for The United States.

10. Le Golf National - host in 2018

Located just 10 kilometres from the famous Palace of Versailles and 25 km away from the Eiffel Tower, Le Golf National is a destination to be crossed off on your bucket list! Open to all golfers, the Parisian venue boasts 3 golf courses including the mythical Albatros Course which is famous for its four extremely difficult closing holes.

In 2018, it was only the second time the Ryder Cup was played outside Great Brittain and Ireland. Following Spains Valderrama in 1997, France got the honours for the 2018 edition. Team USA came to France as defending champion but had lost the last five matches in Europe. Although considered the weaker team on paper, the European team proved once again that the Ryder Cup is about team spirit, not individualism and beat the Americans by 17½ points to 10½.

The history of the Ryder Cup

The Ryder Cup is a 3-day matchplay event between a team from the United States of America and a European team. The competition is contested every two years with the venue alternating between courses in the United States and Europe. The Ryder Cup is named after the English businessman Samuel Ryder who donated the trophy.

Both teams consist of 12 players and each match that is played is worth one point. If a match ends in a tie (all-square) both teams get ½ point.

On both Friday and Saturday 4 foursome (alternate shot) matches and 4 fourball (better ball) matches are played. On the last day 12 singles matches are played. There are 28 points to be won in total. 14½ points will win a team the Ryder Cup, and 14 points are required for the defending champion to retain the Ryder Cup. All matches are played to a maximum of 18 holes.

In the early years, the Ryder Cup was played between Great Britain and the United States. The first official Ryder Cup took place in the United States in 1927 at Worcester Country Club. After the Second World War the American team dominated the Ryder Cup so much that a decision was made to also allow continental European players to qualify for the European Team from 1979.

The Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits is the 43rd meeting between Team USA and Team Europe. Since 1979 The European Team leads the Americans by 12-8 in victories.

2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club

In 2023 the Ryder Cup will make its first appearance in Italy as the match is being played at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Guidonia Montecelio near Rome. On 14 December 2015, Rome was announced as the host of 2022 Ryder Cup (which was later moved to 2023). Italy beat Germany, Austria and Spain to win the bid for 44th edition of Ryder Cup.

The transformation of the Marco Simone Golf Club commenced with all the architects, engineers and agronomists who started the first phase of the project to construct a site that would become the next European headquarters to host the Ryder Cup. With the coordination of European Golf Design, in collaboration with Tom Fazio II (son of architect Jim Fazio who designed the original Marco Simone Golf Club course), a new playing route was created, able to host the largest golf event in the world in 2023.

Marco Simone Golf and Country Club is bookable online via Leading Courses. This is your chance to feel like one of the players and play the course before they have!

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