Double, trouble: thanks to the 10th and 18th holes, the Belfry’s fourth Ryder Cup will again be a two-act play
The Belfry has been called many ungenerous names over the years, but agreement on one thing is always unanimous: The back nine is bookended with two of the greatest holes in golf. If The Belfry were an opera, Nos. 10 and 18 would be where the fat diva hits her highest notes.
It’s not that the rest of the holes are bad–after a quarter century of maturation and a $3.5 million renovation two years ago, a lot of them are actually quite good–but 10 and 18 are in a league of their own, a couple of par 4s that are modern-day Colosseums, where Ryder Cup crowds gather to cheer, to groan, and generally to witness the spectacle of slaughter.
The 311-yard 10th is a fine example of something every golf course should have: a tantalizing, do-or-die par 4 that is drivable for long hitters but that delivers a stern rebuke to anyone who dares to try it with anything less than a perfect shot. The safe play is a middle iron off the tee, followed by a wedge over a pond and a few tree limbs to a kidney bean-shaped green. Most Ryder Cuppers will go for it–the hole is a par 3 for Tiger Woods, who could probably get home with a 2-iron–but plenty will end up being thrown to the lions.
The 18th is also a par 4, but at 473 formidable yards, with water to be carried twice and a triple-tier green, it’s an altogether different proposition. Big hitters can aim left off the tee, firing over the trees and the widest part of Moxhull Pond. If they find dry land, they’ll have a straightforward middle- to short-iron approach; bail out to the right and it’s a long way home. Who will raise their arms to the heavens on that green, as Sam Torrance did in 1985, a gesture that heralded the start of a golden season of European golf; or as Christy O’Connor Jr. did in 1989, following an unlikely singles victory over Fred Couples; or as Davis Love III did in 1993 after sinking the Cup-winning putt?
Other questions about The Belfry as a Ryder Cup venue: why, why, why and why? How did a former potato field in the English heartland come to be the site of four of the past five European Ryder Cups? The first two, in 1985 and ’89, were contractual obligations–two Ryder Cups in exchange for office space for the British PGA on The Belfry grounds. The third one, in 1993, was the result of a bitter dispute between the British PGA and its Ryder Cup partner, the PGA European Tour (Lord Derby, the PGA president for the previous three decades, had the deciding vote–he picked The Belfry and promptly resigned). As for the fourth one, the British PGA once again picked its home course for 2001 for what was to have been a commemoration of its 100th anniversary.
The 2006 Cup will be played in Ireland (the K-Club), followed by Wales (Celtic Manor) in 2010 and Scotland (Gleneagles) in 2014. After that, expect to see the Cup take an extended grand tour to places with better food and better weather as nations like Italy, Germany, France and Sweden get their due. This Ryder Cup may thus be the last for The Belfry. Long live The Belfry!
2002 Ryder Cup THE BELFRY (BRABAZON CSE.), SUTTON COLDFIELD, ENGLAND,
Hole 1 2 3 4 5
Yardage 411 379 538 442 408
Par 4 4 5 4 4
Hole 6 7 8 9 Out
Yardage 395 177 428 433 3,611
Par 4 3 4 4 36
Hole 10 11 12 13 14
Yardage 311 419 208 384 190
Par 4 4 3 4 3
Hole 15 16 17 18 In
Yardage 545 413 564 473 3,507
Par 5 4 5 4 36
Hole Out Total
Yardage 3,611 7,118
Par 36 72
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“The Belfry is an incredibly ordinary course that happens to have two of the greatest match-play holes in the world, Nos. 10 and 18. But what’s unbelievable is how many matches come down to the 18th. Maybe its the course’s design or sequence, but guys have a way of coming back, and that makes for exciting finishes.”
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