Starters Hut - Gleneagles



Crossing Scottland - Day 9

By Blaine Newnham

PERTHSHIRE, Scotland - As the march across Scotland winds to a close it was pleasant to be at Gleneagles, the magnificent resort an hour from Edinburgh and site of next year's Ryder Cup.

Not as much fun as playing the great links courses, but pleasant.

Eight hundred acres, three golf courses, a huge, historic hotel, Gleneagles is a match for any golf resort in the world. Similar, certainly, to Europe's last Ryder Cup venue, Celtic Manor in Wales.

Construction of the hotel - by the Scottish railway - was halted during World War I and finished in the early 1920s, celebrated by golf's first international match and a forerunner to the Ryder Cup.

The Brits won over the Americans who came across the Atlantic on a sister ship to the Lusitania to play at Gleneagles. The Ryder Cup itself would start six years later in Massassachutes.

"Pretty as a picture," said American Walter Hagen at the time.

And to give you a sense of how secluded and exclusive the hotel is, it was the site of the 2005 G8 meeting of world leaders.

It makes only business sense I guess, but the Euros haven't played the Ryder Cup on a links course - their home field - since 1973 when the matches were staged at Muirfield, site of this summer's Open Championship.

And, to top it off, the course they'll use for next year's matches - the PGA Centenary Course - was designed in the 1990s by Jack Nicklaus. The other two courses - the King's and the Queen's - were designed by the redoubtable James Braid, who played for Britain in the first matches here.

When the Ryder Cup finally came to Ireland it was played on the K Club, an Arnold Palmer design that surely wasn't links golf.

So it is in a time of money.

The original courses here have bunkering and design that is like the great links courses. The Centenary course by Nicklaus is surprising playable but while it offers great spectator locations is unmistakably American with water and white-sand bunkers you can actually see from the tee.

But that's not to demean Gleneagles. It is a beautiful, bucolic scene away from the motorways and the winds of the coastal courses.

We particularly enjoyed the Queens's Course, a little shorter than the King's course, but well positioned among the glens. In some ways, you get the bunkers and fairway bumps and occasional blind shots of a links course without the fast firm surfaces. At lease we didn't this week as Scotland continues to suffer from a cold, wet spring.

Right now, the Nicklaus course is undergoing drainage improvement projects, nothing something you need worry about with the links courses.

As you might expect, there is plenty of Ryder Cup talk around here. The logical choice to captain the Euros at Gleneagles was Scot Colin Montgomerie, but instead Irishman Paul McGinley was selected. McGinley has never lost in the Ryder Cup.

"Not sure how Monty would have been at inspiring people," said one Scottish caddie.

Since players from continental Europe were invited to play with the British and Irish, the Euros hold a 9-7 edge over the Americans and have won five of the past six.

Even if they've been played in places that look like America.


Revised: 06/05/2013 - Article Viewed 18,993 Times

Written By: Blaine Newnham

Blaine Newnham Thirty five years as a sports columnist - last 23 in Seattle - during which he witnessed five Olympic Games as well as Tiger Woods four consecutive major championship victories. He covered Willie Mays when he played for the San Francisco Giants, Steve Prefontaine when he ran for Oregon, Ken Griffey Jr. when he debuted for the Seattle Mariners. He walked 18 holes with Ben Hogan at the 1966 U.S. Open, and saw Larry Mize chip in to beat Greg Norman at the Masters. He has written two books, including Golf Basics for Barnes and Noble and played everywhere from Ballybunion to Bandon Dunes, his most recent trip in May, a nine-rounds-in-seven-days gambol from Dublin to Northern Ireland and back. He and his wife, Joanna, live in Indianola, Wa.

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