SCOTLAND’S success in showcasing the Ryder Cup and highlighting its massive financial benefit could work against the event returning to the home of golf as soon as has been expressed by one the country’s top tourism officials.
While delighted with both the staging of this year’s match at Gleneagles and the fact VisitScotland chief executive Mike Cantlay would like to see it return in either 2026 or 2030, Ryder Cup Europe director Richard Hills has warned that a “competitive” bidding process among Continental European countries might stop that from happening.
Six countries – Austria, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Turkey – are currently in the running to stage the 2022 match, which, with France already having been awarded the 2018 event, is the next one up for grabs on this side of the Atlantic.
Having just selected the PGA Catalunya Resort in Girona as its candidate, the Spanish bid looks a good one, though it, of course, has already staged the biennial bout before – at Valderrama in 1997, when Seve Ballesteros led the Europeans on home soil.
There are strong arguments for the event to be held in Germany sometime soon based on it having been one of the European Tour’s strongest tournament centres over a lengthy spell, as well as the notable achievements of both Bernhard Langer and Martin Kaymer on the global stage.
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With Italy and Turkey also serious contenders – Austria and Portugal, too, based on the fact they’ve stayed in for 2022 whereas Denmark recently dropped out of the reckoning – Ryder Cup Europe officials could have a fairly long list of countries to work through before it can even contemplate a return to Scotland.
“We are delighted that Mike Cantlay, his team and Scotland as a whole must have enjoyed the experience of hosting the Ryder Cup this year,” said Hills. “It was a pleasure to work with them for what, at the end of the day, was some 13 years and we were immensely proud of what Scotland achieved.
“I think it would be fair to say that in the last three Ryder Cups in Europe [The K Club in 2006, Celtic Manor in 2010 and Gleneagles this year] both parties enjoyed the experience. In Wales, for example, they were pretty much starting at zero from a golf tourism position but their tourism numbers are still very good on the back of the Ryder Cup. That was illustrated in the very successful staging of the British Seniors this year at Porthcawl. It was an outstanding success.
“We are very pleased that we still have a competitive bidding process for the Ryder Cup in Europe. People are acknowledging the benefits of staging an event like that based on the data that has been accrued both in Ireland and Wales. I’m sure it will also be very positive based on what was achieved in Scotland. As for the Ryder Cup returning to Scotland in either 2026 or 2030, we will see what happens but, from the level of support Scotland has received, who knows?
“Taking the Ryder Cup around Europe was something that [former European Tour chief executive] Ken Schofield mentioned during his time in office and has since been repeated by [his successor] George O’Grady. Providing the right offers are there, we will endeavour to do that and we are in the middle of the bidding process at the moment for 2022. We are inspecting all the venues and if everything runs to schedule we will hopefully be in a position to announce the winning bid in October-November next year. That would give a sensible lead time for programmes to kick in.”
In Scotland, one of the programmes that will be part of its Ryder Cup legacy is Clubgolf, a national junior initiative and a project that Hills has heaped praise upon and would like to see embraced by other bid-winning countries.
He is also excited about France trying to introduce golf to its inner cities and believes European golf as a whole can benefit from the Ryder Cup bidding process for a long time to come.
“We are encouraging countries to add something each time,” he said. “Clubgolf is something the Scots have already given to the French while the French have an ambition to build inner-city short golf facilities – pitch-and-putt courses, loops of three holes and driving ranges.
“There’s no prescriptive plan for that but their aim is to bring golf to the inner cities in a short form. That was one of the standouts within the French bid.
“The ambition is to get 100 of these facilities up and running around France and I think they are up to No 68 already with four years to go, so that is impressive.
“They are sharing that concept with federations around Europe and the underscore on this is the fact that Ryder Cup is now working in areas other than the match itself.”
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