Here’s an impressive stat—Golf Care ambassador Bernard Gallacher has attended every Ryder Cup tournament since 1969.
Be it as a player, captain, vice-captain to Tony Jacklin, radio commentator or special guest, Gallacher has worn many Ryder Cup hats, as it were.
In his own words, here are a handful of Ryder Cup venues that have stood out to him over the years…
Hosted the Ryder Cup: 1965, 1969
I have special memories here for obvious reasons.
The 1969 Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale was the first I ever played in. I was just 20, which at the time, made me the tournament’s youngest-ever player.
The course at Birkdale is long and difficult, with a superb last hole par 5, which finishes in front of the iconic clubhouse.
That tournament in 1969 is also widely remembered for Jack Nicklaus conceding an 18-inch putt to Tony Jacklin in the last match to ensure the competition ended in a tie. This is still considered one of sport’s greatest gestures even today.
Muirfield (AKA: The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers)
Hosted the Ryder Cup: 1973
Another of my favourite Ryder Cup venues, Muirfield, is an
iconic course on the south banks of the Firth of Forth, about 20 miles from Edinburgh.
The course is always in excellent condition, with narrow fairways, extremely penal rough, deep bunkers, and faultless greens. Jack Nicklaus won his first Open at Muirfield mostly using a 1-iron off the tee.
I played in the Ryder Cup in 1973 here, and although we started well, we were beaten by the better side in the end. Personally, my week was spoiled by food poisoning after the opening day, which forced me to sit out on the second day—disappointing for my partner, Brian Barnes, and me, especially considering our strong start on day one.
Laurel Valley, Pennsylvania
Hosted the Ryder Cup: 1975
Arnold Palmer was co-owner here and captained the US side to
a comfortable victory on home turf in 1975. I guess you could class it as one
of the most iconic Ryder Cup venues for that reason alone!
It’s a parkland course with soft fairways, thick rough and extremely fast greens, which the European side found difficult, contributing to our defeat.
Despite Arnold captaining the American side, I remember the match being pretty poorly attended—mainly because of the course’s remoteness and exclusivity. Nevertheless, I still found it a great experience personally, and it was nice to see where Arnold grew up.
Royal Lytham & St Annes
Hosted the Ryder Cup: 1961, 1977
Royal Lytham & St Annes is another beautiful seaside course
and one of the great Ryder Cup venues of yesteryear.
The strategically-placed bunkers off the tee make it a difficult
driving course. The front 9 heads away from the clubhouse, and the back 9 heads
back, so depending on the wind, one half will always be a good test. Unusually,
the opening hole is a difficult long par 3.
Interestingly, the 1977 Ryder Cup here was the last time a Britain and Ireland-only team competed for the title. It switched to Team Europe from 1979 onwards, on Jack Nicklaus’ recommendation.
PGA National Golf Club, Palm Beach Florida
Hosted the Ryder Cup: 1983
The 1983 tournament in Florida was my last playing Ryder Cup
after featuring in eight consecutive tournaments—I had a good innings, as they say!
Tony Jacklin captained the European side, and Jack Nicklaus captained the US that year.
This famous course has hosted several big tournaments.
Besides the Ryder Cup, it has hosted 19 consecutive PGA Seniors, as well as the
PGA Championships in 1987.
You could say it’s a ‘typical’ Floridian golf course; fairly wide soft fairways, difficult Bermuda grass rough, plenty of water hazards and speedy greens. There’s always a strong wind, too, which makes playing conditions tricky. We lost narrowly by a point that year, but the match proved to be a turning point in the future fortunes of the European team.
Hosted the Ryder Cup: 1985, 1989, 1993, 2002
Lastly, we have the Belfry—easily my favourite Ryder Cup course and venue. It ticks all the boxes to host a successful, exciting event. The stadium design is ideal for spectators.
The course itself teases the players on the front 9, with only a few difficult water holes—but it grows more difficult as the round progresses, starting with the signature 10th hole, of course, where Seve memorably hit the island green with his tee shot in 1985.
It climaxes with one of the most demanding finishing holes in golf—a difficult tee shot over water and a long second shot to a tiered green. Who could possibly forget Christy O’Connor’s 2-iron over water at the last to beat Fred Couples and secure a drawn match in 1989!?
A successful Ryder Cup needs a strong infrastructure, and
The Belfry is second to none in that respect. Dave Thomas designed the course specifically
to host the Ryder Cup.
As we all know, Tony Jacklin’s inspired captaincy in 1985 produced the first European Ryder Cup win since Lindrick in 1957—nearly 30 years—with Sam Torrance holing the winning putt against Andy North, triggering wild celebrations in Warwickshire.
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