Four years ago we were invited down to play the 2010 course at Celtic Manor just two months prior to the Ryder Cup, and to be honest, it was one of the best all round golf experiences I’ve ever had, from arriving at the overwhelming grand hotel through to the distinguished but slightly daunting 2010 course, there was little to match it. Four years later it’s Gleneagles turn to host the prestigious event, and Lefty and myself were again invited down to see how they would handle the golf event of the year.
The Ryder Cup is not just a golf competition, it’s far far more, the travelling 1,000 plus media representatives along with the 250,000+ spectators, the players and their far from small entourage require a small town with an infrastructure more akin to city than a golf resort. And don’t forget the small matter of a TV audience in excess of 500 million across 183 countries. Step in to Gleneagles.
With its awe-inspiring 5 star hotel, 5 courses and activities including Equestrian School, Gundog School, Falconry Centre, Off-road Driving Centre and much more, it certainly ticks all the boxes of the kind of resort the Ryder Cup needs. If you check out Gleneagles on Google Maps you’ll get an idea of the shear magnitude of the complex.
So on a brisk May morning (4.00am to be exact!) we set out on the mother of all 1 day golf trips, a 5 1/2 hour drive up to Scotland, 18 holes of golf on the PGA Centenary Course, followed by a 5 1/2 hour drive home! Golfing County Golfer style!
Upon arrival, you instantly realise why it has been chosen and why the G8 summit was held here a few years ago. From being greeted at the hotel, to the start on the first hole, it’s 5 star service. We however had an hour to spare before we played, so naturally we sat down for a pint first in the main club house that services the 5 courses.
After a burger and a pint (we let Spence pick up the tab….. ouch!) we stocked up on balls and headed to the changing rooms where, as described by one of the shop assistants, “there is obviously the sauna”, obviously, like all courses!
After a quick swing on the driving range we stood on the 1st ready to sample the course soon to be graced by the games best players, well nearly. It was in May that we played, a full 4 months prior to the Ryder Cup so the course, although laid out ready, still needed a lot of work to get it competition ready. The first 5 holes in particular will look totally different by September, to what we saw.
The course, as with the 2010 course, is nothing short of a monster, for a 18 handicapper like myself it’s a real beast, even off the yellows. The layout and the setting however were nothing short of spectacular, with the rolling Scottish hills in the background and undulating fairways, it’s just plain beautiful, very little I’ve played compares to it.
Overall the course did beat us though, by the time you stand looking up the 470 yard uphill 18th we felt like we’ d played 36 holes not just 18.
One of the out standing holes is the 8th, down hill and swinging left, with 4 huge bunkers on the corner waiting to catch you. How this hole is played will be hugely down to the player and the match they’re playing in. With a big drive they might be able to reach the green, but get it wrong and you’re in a lot of trouble! Certainly one to look out for. As is the 9th, a par 5 reachable in 2 if you’re brave! With water running down the right of the fairway, their first will have to be big and the second the same! Cutting over the water, it’ll be a brave man that has a go, and there‘s a lot of them in both camps.
I’m sure that by September the course will have changed a lot, and with the addition of 50,000 spectators it’ll change again, but to play the course that will host the Ryder Cup, the first time in Scotland for 40 years and the first time ever in its current format, was a huge privilege and an experience I’ll never forget. Gleneagles clearly has what it takes to host the event, now we just sit and wait until September for one of sports greatest spectacles.