- The Ryder Cup Experience – what’s it like to go to the ‘greatest show in golf’?
- Read our fan’s eye view of the 2014 Ryder Cup
Looking ahead to the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, Rome, we revisit our time at Gleneagles for ‘Glory in the Glens.’ We were also at Golf Le National for ‘Perfection in Paris’ but like many European golf fans, were absent from the ‘mauling in Michigan/ Whooping at Whistling.’
*This article was originally written in 2014, but provides a window into one of the world’s greatest sporting events.
Travelling back from Gleneagles on the train I’ve time to reflect on Scotland’s Ryder Cup – the greatest show in golf – and how it handled itself as host.
It’s no exaggeration to say that The Ryder Cup has become a global phenomenon. It’s the world’s third biggest sporting event and the one golf tournament that tempts non golfers to watch the sport. With so many stories, sub-plots, facts and figures to share that it’s difficult to know how to start.
From official merchandise watches priced £103,600 to golf fans dressed as bananaman – to goliath hospitality pavilions and more celebrity than London’s Nobu restaurant – The Ryder Cup was intoxication on steroids for the golf junkie.
While McGinley’s victorious European Team woke on Monday with champagne bubbles still bursting on their tongues, Tom Watson and his American Team flew home downbeat wondering how they could lose eight of the last ten Ryder Cups.
The press pack in the monstrously sized media centre teased out controversies to go alongside the chips, putts and booming drives on courses. Phil Mickelson jibed Rory and Graeme about their court case, and ‘litigate-gate’ was born.
When the Americans were thrashed in the final day singles and 16.5 to 11.5 overall, open mutiny erupted and Phil threw a “lefty hook” leaving Tom Watson mangled under the media bus.
Phil talked about why everything Paul Azinger did in 2008 was better and why it didn’t make sense not to copy it. His fellow conspirator Hunter Mahan nodded next to him.
Ryder Cup 2014 Review
The tale of the tape – Europe pummeled the USA – especially in foursomes, winning by seven points to one.
The final day came and went. Many fans were left craving a closer contest and stronger spectacle, that aside, here’s our summary of The Ryder Cup Experience – from transport links to the price of drinks.
The Ryder Cup build up
It seemed to go on for ever. From the Captain’s picks and the “Luke or not to Luke” decision which ended up with Scottish journeymen Stephen Gallacher being named in McGinley’s 12, not a day went by in August or September without mention of Ryder Cup.
Scotland and the organisers maintained a constant train of publicity, from the Captain’s riding on grand old steam trains one year from the event to the trophy touring Scottish golf clubs and Royal Bank of Scotland minting commemorative coins and launching Ryder Cup five pound notes.
By the time the week arrived we were all begging for a ball to be hit.
The organisers made brave choices regarding transport and access to Gleneagles PGA Centenary Course. Situated in Perthshire, Gleneagles is not remote nor is it accessible.
New road and rail links were unveiled ahead of the event and Gleneagles train station refurbished at a cost of £3.5m.
Three park and ride sites, East, West and North were created to provide buses for fans to travel in.
Tickets for the train to Gleneagles sold out well in advance and demand for park and ride tickets was extremely high.
The bravest decision was not to allow pedestrian access to the course. You had to take the train or the bus and there were no pass-outs during the day, once on site you stayed on site – much to the disappointment of local businesses, café owners and shops in nearby Auchterarder. With one day to go before travelling to Gleneagles I trapped a nerve in my neck and couldn’t drive.
At the last minute, I booked a train to Edinburgh, connecting to Perth and took a taxi to Blairgowrie without any problems.
On the way out of Gleneagles there were no snarling queues common at Open Championships and in under an hour you were free of congestion and on your way. We can’t comment on the train as we didn’t use it but the queues seemed to disperse quickly.
Global Golfer ranks the transport infrastructure – 8/10.
The Course – Gleneagles PGA Centenary Course
When the world thinks Scotland and golf, it thinks links. The PGA Centenary Course was not a Scottish golf course in the true sense. It is laid out on Scottish moorland at the foot of Perthshire’s Ochil hills but both its designer (Jack Nicklaus) and design are American.
It was a big surprise that Team USA didn’t fare better because the course was more PGA Tour than Open links.
Despite its Americanness, the course was presented immaculately and according to local experts – including Colin Montgomerie – was in its best condition ever. You can read about some of the ground-breaking technology and investment that went into preparing it in our review of the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles.
The course has been heavily criticised in the past with some commentators joking that “it’s only the fourth best course in Auchterarder,” where there are four golf courses – and certainly purists prefer the James Braid designed King’s and Queen’s courses at Gleneagles.
In all fairness, it was possibly the most suited to modern tournament golf of the three at Gleneagles but when you think about the golfing riches Scotland has to offer this layout is easy to forget.
Global Golfer rates Gleneagles PGA Centenary Course – 7/10
The Team Uniforms
Without question Europe won the Ryder Cup fashion match up. Team USA was outfitted by Ralph Lauren Polo, despite this the American Captain Tom Watson and his vice’s looked ridiculous – like ageing astronauts in white space suits.
The US knitwear looked like Christmas jumpers three months too early. Even Europe’s second day white jumper and blue trousers looked the epitome of style next to the gaudy US gear.
Europe also had the best rain gear, a stylish white, gold and royal blue number by ProQuip.
How easy was it to watch Golf
With an estimated 45,000 spectators packed inside Gleneagles on each of the three days, it was always going to be challenging to catch the action live. Watching golf requires three essentials – a radio, binoculars and strong legs.
The most desirable seat at Ryder Cups is always the first tee and to guarantee a spot in the grandstand you’d have to get there before 5.30am, like the now famous Guardians of the Ryder Cup who lead the crowd in chorus with songs like “Bjorn beats the USA,” and Kaymer, Kaymer, Kaymer Chameleon – he putts and drives, he putts and drives.”
The organisers had positioned large screens showing the SKY Sports coverage on mute around the course and you were never far from a scoreboard or TV screen. SKY had even made it possible for non-subscribers to register for a temporary free SKY GO ticket, allowing them to watch the coverage on mobile or tablet while moving around the course.
The vast hospitality tents were rigged up with flat screen TVs around the bars and restaurants.
It takes a hardy soul to follow their favourite players all day long, jostling for position and craning your neck to get a momentary view but when you hear the strike and catch the ball in flight it’s all worth it.
When all is said and done the best places to watch are the range, the grandstand at the 1st and the hospitality tent. If you don’t want to miss a shot then TV is the best option but for atmosphere you can’t beat the real thing.
Scotland’s Ryder Cup atmosphere
Scotland’s football fans ‘The Tartan Army,’ are revered the world over as well behaved and spirited. Its golf fans were no different.
For three days golf may forget itself and act like it’s football with crowds yelling ‘Ole, Ole, Ole’ and ‘Europe, Europe, Europe,’ but at Gleneagles it was always done with good humour and respect – as these videos show!
One or two spectators crossed the line, most unpleasantly on Singles Sunday when one fan shouted “Have you practiced your putting Patrick”? goading Reed for missing a crucial short putt in his Saturday foursomes match.
Reed responded by ‘ssshhhhiiinnggg’ the Scots crowd and beating Henrik Stenson 1up.
The Tented Village – Ryder Cup Merchandise
Expensive and chaotic. Despite high prices and huge queues golf fans clamoured for merchandise and several brands, including European Ryder Cup team rain suit supplier ProQuip, reported selling out – not once but twice.
There was everything from teddy bears to £103,600 watches, £5 notes selling for £20 and a jacket costing £500. If you couldn’t bear the throng of the tent, better to shop online at: www.rydercup.com
Food and Drink
£5 for a pint of Red Stripe lager is steep but the Guinness was good. Our foodie highlight was the Jamie Oliver burgers at the Angus Grill. The hospitality tents were emitting wafts of Salmon, Langoustine and Lobster and there was nee a haggis in sight.
The finish to The 2014 Ryder Cup was a bit of an anti-climax on the course with Europe finishing comfortable 16.5 to 11.5 winners and Team USA left to wonder if they’ll ever rediscover the winning habit.
Cue the ugly scenes in the USA press conference when Mickelson seemed to turn on Tom Watson, who by the close looked older than his 65 years.
Some of the golf played was simply incredible, particularly by Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. They carded a Ryder Cup record 12-under par betterball in the Saturday fourballs. In the singles Rory McIlroy had seven birdies and an eagle in beating Rickie Fowler 5&4.
Off course, Scotland’s Ryder Cup was a huge success and Mother Nature delivered three days of fair weather to tempt the world to come and visit its lochs, glens and golf courses.
The Ryder Cup continues to grow and grow, and Gleneagles was singularly excellent as a host, even though the paying public were kept far from the opulence of the hotel itself.
The temporary white city that sprang up instead was a more than luxurious alternative for fans craving beer, burgers, birdies and bright new official 2014 Ryder Cup branded clothing.
Final Say – Scotland’s Ryder Cup – 8/10
Where you there? Do you agree? What was your Ryder Cup experience like?