ryder cup 2021

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After the Masters and PGA Championship were postponed due to the ongoing uncertainty with the coronavirus outbreak, speculation is rife that the Ryder Cup will be delayed a year to make room for the rescheduled majors. Should that happen? Two of the writers at National Club Golfer disagree…

‘Do we really want to see the Ryder Cup squeezed between two majors?’

I had a horrible feeling at the start of 2020 that we might be a bit “golfed out” come the Ryder Cup, writes Alex Perry. Between March and July we were going to have the Players, the Masters, the PGA Championship, the US Open, the Open AND the Olympics before we even started thinking about September’s Ryder Cup.

How times have changed. Now we’re in this strange period of unknown. When will the Masters be played? When will the PGA Championship be played? Something’s got to give.

Let’s speculate and say this all blows over and the US Open and Open are played in their usual June and July slots, then the Olympics happens, then the FedEx Cup Play-offs. Perhaps the PGA Championship is played in the September “off season” and the Masters in early October.

No one wants to see the majors cancelled, that would be a terrible shame. And do you really want to see a Ryder Cup squeezed into all of that?

Moving it to 2021 is the sensible option. It will no longer clash with the Olympics and it takes the competition back to its rightful place in odd-numbered years – it was postponed in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks.

But the decision needs to be soon, so we don’t have a repeat of 2001 where the qualifiers’ spots were held and several players were out of form by the time it was played.

The Ryder Cup is incredible and is the second best sporting occasion I’ve ever attended – Torquay United 2-0 Cambridge in the 2009 Conference Play-offs final, since you ask – and it will, as always, be worth the wait.

‘It’s important for golf that the Ryder Cup remains on the calendar’

It’s often claimed that the Ryder Cup is the third biggest sporting event on any calendar behind the Olympics and football’s World Cup, writes Mark Townsend. Wherever you pitch it it’s clearly the biggest event on any golfing year and, as long as there are no health issues, it should be played this year.

We’ll likely miss a huge chunk of the season and the emphasis will be to get the four majors and the Ryder Cup played. For all manner of reasons the regular events are a big miss from the calendar but we need the big ones and now more than ever.

This is when anyone who otherwise have no interest in the game sit down in front of the TV and get into golf. This is a big way of getting people into the game. It’s not four rounds of strokeplay where, even for the most avid fan, things can seem a little never-ending.

The Ryder Cup is three days of Europe vs the United States and, if anything, it goes far too quickly. The interest never drops and golf, for 72 hours at least, appears as exciting as anything else out there.

If it is played then they’ll come to a logical decision on how to pick the teams. Maybe a handful of players will feel hard done by but this is the most unique of situations and just to get it on at Whistling Straits would be the lift that all of us are going to need.

Whenever the Ryder Cup happens it will be magical, let’s hope we get to see it later this year.

Who do you agree with? Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

coronavirus golf courses

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We’re in ‘lockdown’. Our clubs and courses are shut and who knows when we’re going to be able to get out and play golf again. Following the prime minister’s announcement on Monday night ordering us all to stay at home, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have since clarified that greenkeepers can work ‘for security and essential maintenance’.

What does that look like? At the moment, no one really knows. It might be that the usual maintenance levels we’re all used to seeing reduce dramatically.

It could be as little as only cutting greens once a week. Perhaps the powers that be could decide to prohibit all maintenance if the crisis continues.

If that were the case, then we would see some serious changes to our courses should the restrictions carry on well into the spring.

But how drastic could they be, and what might greenkeepers and golfers face when life finally starts to return to normal?

Stuart Green, a former greenkeeper and head of member learning at the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA), speaks to our partner National Club Golfer about what the future holds for golf.

Grass will grow

Let’s start with an obvious one. If you don’t cut grass, it grows. But how much? That will largely depend on what kind of spring we have.

“At the moment it’s March and many parts of the country are still getting frosts overnight,” Stuart explains. “That’s suppressing the growth rate. But with longer days comes more sunlight and the plant reacts to that and begins photosynthesising more, giving it the strength to grow.

“We’ve just come out of an incredibly mild and wet winter, which saw turf continue to grow throughout January and February. That heavy rainfall that we saw not so long ago has still left a lot of moisture in the ground, so the turf is going to be soaking that up and combined with the warmer temperatures, growth is only going to get faster and faster.

“What are we going to see? Based on the last few years of weather data, we’ve had very cold, dry springs, which has slowed growth down.

“But if we have a ‘normal’ kind of spring, where we get into April and we’ve got sunshine and showers, we’ve got all this moisture in the ground and we are going to see some significant growth.

“There are ways of slowing growth down, such as plant growth regulators, but these require a greenkeeper to be on site to apply them.

“If that’s not the case and greenkeepers aren’t able to undertake a reasonable standard of maintenance, you can expect three to four inches of grass, or maybe even more, by the time we are able to return to the course in a few months’ time.

“I do know that if no greenkeepers are allowed to go out and cut grass on a semi-regular basis, it’s not going to be a pretty sight when they eventually come to mow it.”

You can’t just get rid of that grass overnight

Let’s say it’s a number of weeks before the restrictions are eased, the good weather continues and greenkeepers come back in May to a golf course that’s seen some serious grass growth.

The first thought would be to just get the mowers out and mow it back down to height it was previously, right?

“You’ve got to take that height of cut down slowly,” Green explains. “You can’t go in and immediately chop it straight back down to 4mm or 5mm.

“The one thing greenkeepers are always advised to do is never to cut more than a third of a plant off at any one time. When you’re mowing, you’re putting the turf under stress and as a living organism, it will have adapted to the conditions.

“Previously, it will have been used to close mowing, but if left untended will become used to growing longer. To hack it immediately back could shock the grass and you’d ultimately cause even bigger problems.

“The solution is a steady process of bringing the height of cut down. At first, greenkeepers will need to cut the greens with strimmers or rotary deck mowers. Then, eventually you’ll be able to introduce greens mowers, but it’s a process that’s going to take a couple of weeks to achieve.”

Even when the grass is at a more manageable level, Green says plenty more work would be required to achieve the kind of playing surfaces we’ve been used to seeing on a daily basis.

He added: “The greenkeepers will have to do a lot of topdressing, verti-cutting and aerating, because the soil profile will have changed as the grass gets longer. Invasive species will begin to intrude onto the greens and even when you start mowing, they will grow at a different speed to the rest, which leads to clumping and a bumpy surface.

“Longer grass also means more organic matter and this becomes a layer of thatch and other unwanted material in the upper layer of the soil. This thatch holds moisture so your greens don’t drain as quickly and it also prevents roots from growing to a reasonable depth so the ground can become unstable or certainly less healthy than you would anticipate.

“Higher thatch levels mean the greens won’t play as firm and true as you would perhaps expect, so there’s going to be a lot of work to put things right.

“Topdressing and aeration will be hugely important, so don’t be surprised if you see greenkeepers punching holes into the greens for months to come once this situation subsides.”

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With the Government advising the UK to avoid gatherings and social activities, you must be wondering how coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) could affect your golf insurance.

Lots of our policyholders have been asking what they’re covered for, so we’ve put together this FAQ page to address your concerns.

Does The Golfers Club cover club subscription reimbursements?

Unfortunately, we can’t cover the cost of your remaining golf subscription due to a nationwide pandemic such as coronavirus. However, if you have an accident whilst playing golf and are unable to play due to a serious injury, we will reimburse the cost of your remaining golf club subscription up to £1,500.

Does The Golfers Club cover tee time cancellations?

This is not covered under the terms of our insurance. If your tee time has been cancelled, our advice is to contact the course you had booked regarding a potential reimbursement.

If your tee time has been cancelled for a holiday or golfing break, you will need to consult with your travel insurance providers on next steps. Travel insurance normally covers UK trips as well as those abroad.

As a rule of thumb, most courses will accept cancellations without charge up to 72 hours before the booked tee time, but this may vary from course to course.

If you still have any questions, you can call our UK based Customer Service team on 0800 158 5550 between the hours of 9am – 5.30pm Monday to Friday.

However, please note, we are currently experiencing a high number of calls and there may be delays in getting through to us. If your enquiry is urgent, you can also email us at admin@thegolfersclub.co.uk.

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After working with Donald Steel for 15 years, Tom Mackenzie and Martin Ebert set up their own design company in 2005 and they now advise on seven of the 10 courses on the Open rota. They have been providing architectural advice to Royal Portrush on both the Dunluce and Valley courses since 2001 when they worked with Steel, while Ebert has overseen the recent changes that include the addition of two new holes, the 7th and 8th, in place of the old 17th and 18th.

So who better than Ebert to ask about this year’s Open venue? National Club Golfer did just that…

Of the seven Open courses – Troon, Lytham, Turnberry, Portrush, St George’s, Carnoustie and Hoylake – that you advise, on where would you most like to be a member purely for the course side of it?

I think I would have to split my membership between Portrush and Turnberry. This year’s venue has so many fun and interesting shots and so many great vistas. The combination of the two is very special.

How would you sum up the changes you’ve made to Portrush?

We always look at the history and aerial photos first of all and there hasn’t been a huge difference in bunker style, unlike Turnberry which was a great find to see how intricate the shapes were in the old days.

At Portrush there wasn’t much difference in the bunkers but they were definitely rougher edged so we made suggestions to go back to that. However, the club preferred to keep the bunkers where they have evolved with their high sand faces, which we were quite happy with as it shows we do different things and aren’t known for adopting the same style everywhere.

However, overall, while the focus will be on the two new holes, there have been a lot of other improvements such as the movement of the 2nd green, the reshaping of the 3rd and 10th greens, the movement of the 12th tees and numerous other smaller tweaks.

Turnberry was rebuilt over a winter. What was the Portrush timescale like?

We started on the Valley Course in August 2014 as we had to make three new holes there to replace the two that were being lost, plus the par-3 18th which did not fit into the revised layout. We started in the summer and put down hollow cores on the new Valley fairways to establish for the following year and then started work on the Dunluce over that winter. We had more time with the two new holes on the Dunluce as we didn’t need to relinquish the old 17th and 18th in any rush.

The club kept those new holes closed for a whole growing season but could have opened them at the end of 2015. Instead, they kept them back until the summer of the following year.

At the start you put together a 72-page proposal for the changes. How close did you end up to that with the finished article?

Pretty close. Generally that happens if we plan a project well enough. There has been the odd bunker that hasn’t gone in – there is one bunker to the left of the new 7th instead of two and one was left out on the 5th.

There are 59 bunkers on the reconfigured course and there were 59 before. We lost a lot on the old 17th and 18th. The low number shows just how good the land form is and it’s the lowest by a long way on the Open courses.

Were the last two holes always a consideration for change?

We actually produced a plan for the old 18th, not for any commission, but when working on other things. This was inspired by a big job at Enniscrone where we livened up their 18th with dune work along both sides of the hole and behind the green and where we put in a new green, so we made a similar proposal for Portrush. So it was a good job that didn’t happen as we would have had to flatten it all again!

The old 17th wasn’t particularly bad. The Big Nellie bunker framed the tee shot from the back tee but it was a bit bland for the second part of the hole. The last was a tough hole but it needed changing from a health and safety point of view with the road close by on the right-hand side.

What would be your three toughest holes?

Obviously it depends on the weather but almost certainly the 11th, which was played as a par 5 in Irish Open but will be a par 4 for The Open. It is such a difficult tee shot between the dunes.

The 18th will be no pushover if it is playing into the wind and could leave a long shot in. The 14th has a new back tee and, with that green perched up there (pictured) and the cavernous bunker on the left, it could play very tough.

How do you keep the members, visitors and R&A all happy?

Before there was any thought of the Open going back to Portrush, the club allowed back tees to be put in but the members didn’t want any more bunkers. Once the Open was a possibility, everything was on the table but we have tried to put bunkers in places affecting elite players off the back tees so they shouldn’t affect the shorter hitters and there has been no tightening of fairways.

The two new holes are arguably more testing than the old 17th and 18th so that has increased the difficulty level.

The members have been great in accepting the disruption and being supportive of the changes. Darren Clarke was involved occasionally during the process and he hit some tee shots at the new 8th, to confirm our design plan of having two fairway bunkers on the right. He has said he’s happy with most of the changes although he is not keen on the blind fairway bunker to the left of the 17th.

Are you pleased with the two new holes?

The two new holes have settled in well and are already part of the landscape. When designing the 7th green, I wanted the player coming up the valley to see at least see some part of the green and was keen to encourage people to take the second shot on and not leave upwards of 150 yards in. So, if the players try to get within 50 or so yards of the green, which comes with some risk, they will have a better chance of finding the right portion of the green.

The 1st green has almost four quadrants to it and so we’ve done something similar to that with the 7th in trying to keep the green in character with what Harry Colt might have done.

Do you have a set yardage in your head when making changes?

No, it’s more a question of looking at each hole and seeing what it needs and achieving a good balance of hole lengths overall. My feeling was that coming in, the 14th was a very short par 4 for the best players, so we added 50-60 yards and that has made a big difference. Otherwise, the finish would have been a short 4, another short 4, Calamity, Purgatory, which could be almost driveable, and then 18. So lengthening 14 was important to ramp up the difficulty on the home stretch.

Posted by & filed under Miscellaneous.

What happens when two club golfers try to take on a selection of legendary shots at Royal Portrush?

Dan Murphy and Mark Townsend from our partner National Club Golfer do exactly that so that you can appreciate the scale of the challenge that awaits the game’s very best players during the 148th Open Championship.

Playing off handicaps of three and eight respectively, our men attempted to take on tasks that are frankly beyond their skillset such as:

  • Playing a delicate 60-yard pitch from a tight lie to a pin hidden behind the shoulder of a sand dune at the 4th, Fred Daly’s
  • Trying to drive the green, some 350 yards away, across the dogleg at the par-4 5th, White Rocks
  • Tackling the long second shot on the new par-5 7th, Curran Point, into the prevailing wind
  • Taking aim at the distant green, 235 yards away across a chasm into the wind, on the par-3 16th, Calamity Corner
  • Trying to save par at Calamity Corner having found Locke’s Hollow from the tee

Watch how they get on attempting these legendary shots at Royal Portrush…