The Ryder Cup at Gleaneagles – Samuel Ryder, an English seed merchant, rightfully gets credit for founding the Ryder Cup in a moment of inspiration after watching an exhilarating match between British and American golfers at Wentworth in 1926. But that’s only half the story.

This was a return match, the first competition between leading trans-Atlantic golfers of the day having been played at Gleneagles in Scotland in 1921. That is why this month’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, now Europe against the United States, is seen as a jubilant homecoming, and Scotland has geared up to put on a show that celebrates both the world’s biggest golf event, and its taking place in the home of golf. (It is in fact a double homecoming for Scotland as Muirfield hosted the Ryder Cup in 1973).

Gleneagles is a perfect setting, part of a vast estate owned by a distillery group making Johnnie Walker whisky, located amid Perthshire hills of breathtaking beauty where Scottish kings chose to live and hunt, and within an hour’s drive from Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews.

In modern times, Gleneagles has been one of these special places in the world, like St Moritz for skiing, which sportsmen and women drove to in their Bentleys for golf, fishing and shooting, and dined well to boot – Gleneagles has a restaurant with two Michelin stars.

With golf increasingly a mainstream sport, lovers of the great game have been drawn to its classic King’s and Queen’s courses, both designed by James Braid, and the PGA Centenary, which Jack Nicklaus updated in 1993. Nicklaus said at the time that it was the best parcel of land he had ever had to work with.

His brief was that it had to be unique in its challenge, a golf course that at its fullest stretch tested the greatest players, while, in the immortal phrase of Bobby Jones, “offering problems a man may attempt according to his ability… (is) never hopeless for the lesser player nor failing to concern and interest the expert.”

What lies there is a magnificent course maintained to the highest standards, but the final tweaking could make all the difference. For example Davis Love, captain of the US team at the last Ryder Cup at Medinah, cut back on the rough thinking it would be to the advantage of his big hitters, but it was not to be…

Words David Wishart – Photo The Trump, Turnberry
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