The Ryder Cup is around the corner.
I’ve had the privilege of being able to attend two of the competitions.
The first time was at Valhalla in 2008. I had just returned from Iraq and a very good friend and Navy buddy who lives in Louisville secured a practice round ticket. And parking pass. And corporate/hospitality pass. (Thanks again Gene!).
I like to walk golf courses just to get a feel for what television can’t show in two dimensions. So I walked Valhalla to the extent I was allowed. I remember the long downhill dogleg right seventeenth hole that played havoc with so many players during the competition, and how uphill the eighteenth hole is (which doesn’t come across on tv).
But being at my first Ryder Cup was pretty cool!
I was on active duty north of Detroit in 2012, so I took off a couple of days to drive to Chicago, pick up Alice, and go to a practice round at Medinah.
The first thing I remember about going to Medinah was the clubhouse, which is the most unusual clubhouse I’ve ever seen.
The second was how hilly the course was, and how much of a bottleneck there is crossing the two bridges over the lake that splits the course. We walked the course, and had a really good feel for the downhill tee shots into the par-3s that really were the stage for the European comeback on Saturday afternoon and Sunday.
Here is What I Learned
- There are just as many people at a Ryder Cup as at any major championship.
- Many of them look like they were going to a costume party and took a wrong turn.
- During a practice round, the opposing team (Europeans if you’re an American) were very generous with autographs. The more they can win a few fans over, the better for them.
- Because there are so many fans, and so few players, getting an autograph is very difficult.
- Sitting in the stands on the first tee is worth it. It requires getting there early and waiting for groups to tee off, but watching the tee shots from behind is a great experience.
- Even in practice rounds, “Ole, ole, ole, ole” and “USA, USA” are heard on a regular basis.
- And the most important thing I learned is: There are, at most, 8 groups playing at any one time. Therefore, the majority of holes have no players on them. The majority of fans following any group is double or triple what it is during a regular tournament.
I realized this at Valhalla, and was reminded at Medinah. Trying to see or follow any grouping is almost impossible. There are too few players and too many fans. The best bet is to pick a spot and watch the groups come through. The first tee grandstands are ideal, but everyone thinks that too. If a 4 a.m. wake-up to grab a first tee grandstand seat isn’t on your agenda, I’d suggest somewhere around the 14th hole. Most matches make it that far, some will end there, so it’s possible you will see a match won or lost. The downside is, it also means you’ll be sitting there for a couple of hours at least before the first players reach your hole.
Otherwise, prepare as for any other tournament: Find out what they will let in, such as bottled water, and what they won’t, such as beer. If it’s a practice round, bring a Sharpie and whatever you want signed. I have a Valhalla hat signed by Steve Stricker, J.B. Holmes and Kenny Perry.
Bring sunscreen. Bring money for swag and refreshments. And bring your Uncle Sam hat!
Thanks for reading, and enjoy Shooting Your Age!