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|In the 1978 Hennessy Cup, Seve Ballesteros famously carried his tee shot over the water on the 10th hole of The Belfry's Brabazon course. Care to try it? (Clive Agran/WorldGolf.com)|
SUTTON COLDFIELD, England - The Ryder Cup Matches could return to The Belfry in 2022 should the contest return to England, according to the resort's director of golf Gary Silcock.
In an exclusive interview with WorldGolf.com, Silcock explained that The Belfry would be interested in hosting the Ryder Cup again and that 2022 was the earliest possible date that it could happen.
As on the previous four occasions, the Ryder Cup would be staged on The Belfry's Brabazon course, the most famous of the three at The Belfry. Having hosted 25 top professional tournaments, its credentials are impeccable and, thanks to a sustained renovation and improvement program that has cost several million dollars, the Brabazon is now in better shape than ever.
Designed by two former Ryder Cup stars, Dave Thomas and Peter Alliss, the Brabazon's original selection as a Ryder Cup venue in 1985 was controversial. Many European supporters considered the course too "American" in style and consequently too familiar to the U.S. team. In the event, however, they need not have worried as Europe has won two and halved one of the four Belfry battles.
Ryder Cup history is woven into every green, bunker and fairway of this Midlands' course. In some places, such as the plaque on the 18th fairway from which Christy O'Connor struck a 2-iron in 1989 that sealed America's fate, it is officially commemorated. In others, it's just evident in the atmosphere that the trees have borne witness to some great golf. The fifth is where Paul Azinger drained a 50-foot chip-in 2002; the 14th saw Nick Faldo's hole-in-one in 1993; the 16th has fond memories for Phillip Price, who caused one of the great upsets by closing out Phil Mickelson here in 2002; and the triple-tiered 18th green has seen more than its share of arms thrown aloft, tears shed, and Champagne spilled.
The 18th is the quintessential risk/reward hole and provides the perfect matchplay finale. Provided your ball stays dry, the bolder you are off the tee, the easier or, rather, less difficult is the approach. Handicap golfers would be thrilled to clear the lake twice, let alone hit the green with their second. Most, if they're sensible, will play it as a par 5, be conservative off the tee and then lay up short of the water.
But golfers are not inclined to be sensible, especially when tackling one of the most famous holes in golf. Make a par and you could dine out on the story for a couple of years at least.
The same principle applies to the equally famous 10th. Although it is theoretically possible to reach the green off the tee, the huge carry over a lake is really not a viable option for the overwhelming majority of golfers. But that hasn't stopped us trying ever since Seve Ballesteros first achieved the feat in the Hennessy Cup back in 1978.
No doubt golf ball manufacturers would encourage us to 'have a go' but empirical evidence suggests that very few make it. The sensible - if dull - alternative is to hit a mid-iron up the left and then knock a wedge on. What the 10th dramatically illustrates is that a golf hole doesn't have to be long to be great.
While acknowledging the brilliance of the 10th and 18th, unkind critics have described the Brabazon as the greatest two-hole golf course in the world.
This criticism may have stung because quite a few of the other holes have recently been bolstered - principally the sixth, seventh, 11th and 14th - in a determined effort to make the course even more impressive.
The sixth, which was originally a fairly straightforward par five, is now an extremely challenging par four that, to reach the green in regulation, requires a long approach over another imposing lake. The alterations were made a couple of years ago and Silcock, in company with many others, believes the hole is now something special. If Rory McIlroy holes his approach here in 2022, that would seal its inclusion in the pantheon of great golf holes.
History and holes themselves do not a great golf course make. To be truly world class, a course has to be impeccably presented and this is where the Brabazon scores incredibly well.
All the money that has evidently been lavished on conditioning the course since The Belfry was bought by Sean Quinn for over $300 million in 2005 has been well spent. The fairways are flawless; the first cut of rough is perfectly level; the greens are wonderfully true and incredibly quick and the general appearance of the various other elements such as the lakes, streams and flowerbeds is simply superb.
If I have one criticism, it's not of the course but of the adjoining hotel, which is looking a little tired. Construction of a new 500-bedroom hotel has sadly been delayed by the recession but the revised schedule should see it opening in 2011. When that and the new clubhouse are complete, The Belfry will be ready and waiting for 2022. For more information, see www.thebelfry.com.
October 26, 2009
Although in his 60s, with a handicap of 15 and lifetime earnings comfortably below $100, Clive Agran nevertheless still believes he can win a major. Arguably England's most gifted golf writer, when not dreaming of glory he's scouring the globe simultaneously searching for lost balls and great golf courses. Follow Clive on Twitter at @cliveagran.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort in Solvang is a romantic, classic Western-style getaway amid the wine lovers' setting of California's central coast. And there's some great golf, too, with 36 holes of diverse play on site for both the public and resort guests.
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