Ryder Cup Then & Now
The Ryder Cup is one of the standout events on the golfing calendar and probably the most eagerly anticipated by the fans. The competition is over 90 years old now, having first been staged in the US in 1927. Rob Treanor looks back at how that first competition stacks up against the 2018 event.
The first official Ryder Cup took place in 1927 At Worcester Country Club, USA. The US team faced up against opponents from Great Britain only, making it a different spectacle from today. This and subsequent competitions were dominated for a period by a rampaging US team who well and truly had the upper hand. That opening competition was won 9.5 to 2.5 in favour of the US team, a result which many hope will be drastically different in 2018.
Travelling Back In History
Times were different in 1927 and the Donald Ross designed course at Worcester CC would have very much suited the American team. With little run on fairways, the American players would have been much more accustomed to the style of golf this course lends itself to. The land the course is laid out on is very open parkland, meaning even wayward shots can be found, though the luscious green grass would have made solid contact a problem.
Donald Ross favoured greens which are elevated from the approaching fairway and many of these feature severe undulations. He created many plateaus throughout the fairways at Worcester CC which offer the ideal approach shot into the green. Positioning from these preferred lies still required a calculation based on the elevation change and which tier of the green the pin is sited, making knowing carry distances of utmost importance. Contrast this with the running shots the Europeans would have been used to playing on links courses and it is easy to see why the US team performed so well at this opening event.
Equipment at the time was far less explosive than the weaponry on offer to the modern golfer.
The course stands at 6,711 yards which at first glance would be considered short by today’s standards. Given the dramatic elevation changes in many parts of the course and the distance achieved by the “woods” the players would have used from the tee, this would have been an exceptionally tough test for those early trailblazers!
The course is very well defended by a set of five, fine par 3s which, as the members will attest to; make or break a round here. The first of these is a case in point; which is a 235 yard monster at the fourth. Even making the green here isn’t cause to relax, as the vicious undulations can easily result in a putt running off the short turf and away off the side of a ledge. This is a great hole to play given the possibility for drama which is exactly what the Ryder Cup is all about. Walter Hagen had previously made light work of it in the 1925 US Open when he achieved a hole in one!
One of the shorter three shot holes is the 13th which at 197 yards off the tips is slightly more forgiving. There are just the three tiers to take aim at and the devilish green features some extreme undulations meaning that even if the opening blow does find the short grass, it may well be spat right back out to the bottom of the hill 30 yards short!
Parallels With 2018
Water features on many of the opening holes at Worcester CC before golfers cross a working freight train track to play 9 – 16. The lake which guards the 483 yard fifth hole offers a risk/reward decision similar to what the 2018 competitors will face in abundance at Le Golf National. Water is the main defence by design in Paris at this thoroughly modern, brute of a course. Worcester CC offers a more distinguished and charming challenge which is no easier to navigate, though it is more subtle in its approach.
The finishing hole is superb and would have presented an excellent spectacle for the watching crowds. A 348 yard par 4 which plays very much uphill to the commanding clubhouse, make it an imposing and demanding finish. The tee shot should ideally be played to a plateau on the fairway from where a further uphill shot will need to carry bunkers which protect the front of the double tiered green. This is very easily said but much harder to do under the pressure of the watching crowds! The opportunity for drama at this hole is enormous, a link it shares with the 2018 event in Paris where many of the thrills and spills will be water based.
Worcester Country Club Today
Worcester Country Club may well feature on centre stage again soon; as it bids to hold the Solheim Cup. This would mark a fitting set of events at the club which is one of the few to have hosted both men’s and women’s US Opens. This modern outlook of equality is balanced with some traditions which the club has held on to beautifully. Though the flagsticks and rakes for bunkers are brand new for 2018, their wooden construction and style hark back to the early 1900s giving a historic feel to the setting.
There are some unusual quirks to the place which also hark back to a different era. Smoking is permitted in the locker rooms for example and the attendant will gladly shine your brogues whilst you tackle the course. This is a club of tradition, gentlemanly spirit and a code of honour, offering escapism from today’s hectic schedules.
Back To The Future
Whilst Le Golf National is the “tough guy” of golf courses, at least the event is on European soil. The European team also have players with good pedigree at recent French Opens. The precision required from the tee should also play in the European’s favour and whilst turning the US over 9.5 to 2.5 in a reversal of that first event may be a little too much to ask for, let’s hope “Les Bleus” can edge a victory and bring the cup home where it belongs!
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