A feast of golf
Sports-loving chef Marco Pierre White has long been a fan of golf and a follower of the Ryder Cup
One of Marco Pierre White’s pastimes is a good round of golf, so where better to test his skills than the four British and Irish courses that have played host to the Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Europe, and the one scheduled to do so (Gleneagles) in 2014.
Here’s our guide to them and where to stay after your round if you have the time:
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
Host to more Ryder Cups – four – than any other venue in the world, the Belfry’s Brabazon course has witnessed many dramatic moments in the biennial tournament’s famous history, including Europe’s first victory in 1985 and the rare tie in 1989. The celebrated, par-four 18th has often been the scene of that drama as European and American golfers alike have gambled with the water hazard that dominates the hole and failed. The par-72 Brabazon is one of three courses at the Belfry, the others being the PGA National and the Derby. The Belfry is also home to the Professional Golfers’ Association.
Where to stay
Where better than the 324-room Belfry hotel, right on the course’s doorstep? Not only does it boast plenty of places to eat and drink – with a French grill, an atrium, two bars and a café – it also has a nightclub, a newly-refurbished gym, swimming pool and spa.
Venue to the last Ryder Cup in 2010, Celtic Manor’s Twenty Ten course was the first in Wales to stage the match and the first to be purpose-built for the event, using nine holes from the old Wentwood Hills course and nine new ones. It is one of three courses at the resort, the others being the Roman Road and the Montgomerie, and measures 7,493 yards. With water hazards on half its holes and a tough closing stretch, its par of 71 is testing. The resort also includes a golf training academy, indoor putting studio, two health clubs, a shopping centre and a spa.
Where to stay
Take your pick, as the Celtic Manor resort boasts three hotels – the five-star, 330-room Resort Hotel right on the Twenty Ten course; the four-star, 19th century Manor House, which has 70 rooms; and the five-star, 200-year-old Newbridge-on-Usk inn, which has six rooms.
The K Club
The Kildare Hotel, Spa and Country Club (or K Club as it is better known) became the first Irish venue to hold the Ryder Cup in 2006, and was the scene of a record-equalling 18 ½-9 ½ victory for Europe – even though the Palmer Ryder Cup course, where the match was staged, was designed by American legend Arnold Palmer. He also designed the venue’s other course, the Palmer Smurfit. The par-72 Palmer Ryder Cup course features wide, flat bunkers, loads of water and great views of the hotel and 550-acre grounds, with the fourth, seventh, 16th and 17th the standout holes.
Where to stay
It has to be the on-site hotel, especially as it possesses a much-prized five AA red-star rating and was the first Irish hotel to achieve such an accolade. Built on the grounds of Straffan House, the hotel has 69 bedrooms, a resort spa and several restaurants, including the Byerley Turk, which has three AA rosettes.
Walton Heath’s Old Course was the European Ryder Cup team’s first home venue in 1981. Although Walton Heath is less than 20 miles from London, both the par-72 Old Course and the adjoining New Course are usually described as inland links, with heather a feature of the rough. Opened in 1904, Walton Heath numbers four British Prime Ministers among its past members and is the only English club to have had a reigning monarch as captain, Edward Prince of Wales having been crowned King during his 1935-6 captaincy.
Where to stay
The four-star Mercure Burford Bridge in Dorking is probably your best bet. Located seven miles from the Walton Heath club, the 57-room hotel has scenic gardens and beautiful views of the surrounding countryside, as well as a restaurant, lounge bar and a heated pool.
The 2014 Ryder Cup will take place on the PGA Centenary Course, which opened in 1993 and ironically has been created by American great Jack Nicklaus. The par-72 lay-out was described by Nicklaus as “the finest parcel of land in the world I have ever been given to work with” – and it’s easy to see why, as it encompasses the glen, the Ochil Hills and the summit of the pass below Ben Shee, which joins it to Glendevon.
Where to stay
Undoubtedly the five-star luxury hotel adjacent to its three courses. Set within 850 acres of Perthshire countryside, the 232-room ‘palace in the glens’ was named Best Golf Resort in the World and Best UK Luxury Resort Spa this year.
Golf gossip with Marco
Marco has often said that ‘If my first love is gastronomy, a close second is sport.’ A keen sportsman (fishing and game hunting are his ultimate passions) and sports fan (an Arsenal fan, with Leeds United as his second team), Marco discovered a love of golf in the most unusual way…
‘When I was 13 years old, I was looking for lost golf balls by the first tee at Sand Moor Golf Club in Leeds, when a pair of lady players walked by. One of them asked if I would caddy for her and, at the end of the round, she asked me if I’d like to caddy for her husband that Sunday.
‘The woman arrived that Sunday with Don Revie [Leeds United’s manager from 1961-1974] beside her. She turned out to be Elsie Revie, Don’s wife. Now Don in those days was a God in Leeds and I ended up caddying for him for quite a few rounds in exchange for pocket money. I only spoke when spoken to, but he was always very pleasant to me.
‘Elsie Revie’s playing friend, a Mrs Walker, also asked me if I’d go and caddy at Alwoodley Golf Club in Leeds, a beautiful course designed by the great Alistair MacKenzie. The club pro there was called Mr Duncan and one day he told me his dad invented the Ryder Cup. He said that his father didn’t have much money so he met Samuel Ryder, who sponsored the competition, and put his name to the trophy. I didn’t believe him but, only five years ago, I came across a George Duncan while trawling through a computer and he was Britain and Ireland’s first captain in the inaugural Ryder Cup.’
This article was first published in RYDER CUP The Definitive Guide September 2012.