The Madrid bid
The Madrid bid for the 2018 Ryder Cup believes it has the perfect location for a course.
By Matt Cooper
Last Updated: 03/03/11 6:34pm
Course architect Robin Hiseman looks over the proposed site of the course for the 2018 Ryder Cup and says quietly, "It's perfect. So many of the holes are already there. Have a look."
We do and it is impossible to doubt his enthusiasm. The plot of land that the Spanish bid team have discovered fits the bill in so many ways: it is 20 minutes by train from the centre of Madrid, the course can be walked to from the arrival station and although it is ostensibly in the new town of Tres Cantos, once you are on the site the city and its suburbs feel a long way away.
Instead what you see is a plot of land that sweeps across the landscape with the snow-peaked Sierra Guadarrama mountains in the distance. As we stand on a plateau of land at the highest point of the site, Hiseman, of European Golf design, explains that where we are stood would be the patio outside the clubhouse.
"It is the best site I have ever found," says Hiseman. "It's just excellent, a natural golf course. There are several golf holes that are already evident, such as the second hole that we have named 'The Pulpit' due to its elevated tee position."
"That," he says, pointing down a valley to a flag that has been thrust in the land rather in the manner of a flag plunged into the surface of the moon, "would be the 18th green, with the fairway beyond. The 17th would run parallel in the opposite direction."
It is truly not that difficult to envisage much change to the landscape to create this course. One hundred years ago this was the sort of land golf course architects needed to make a golf course; today it is what they dream of.
"Less is more," continues Hiseman. "We don't have to do much to it. We would need to move less land to create this course than was moved to construct the 18th hole at Celtic Manor."
We move to our right and spy another flag in the far distance. It shows us where the 10th green would be. It is currently poking up in the middle of a huge flock of sheep which are moving up the "fairway" towards us, the tinkling of the bells on their collars echoes up the fairway back to us.
A shepherd walks towards us along a ridge that would provide a perfect view of the hole and, if the Madrid bid team have their way, he'll be joined by 50,000 others in seven years' time to watch the second Continental European Ryder Cup.
The more we see, the more convinced we are that the site is a gem. It might currently need 4x4 vehicles to navigate it but, if it is turned into a golf course, although it would be a hilly layout, it would be ideal for thousands of spectators.
European Golf Design were responsible for the Twenty-Ten course at Celtic Manor and that experience has helped plan the Tres Cantos site.
Hiseman knows that the natural banking will allows thousands of fans to watch lots of action while he also plans to make sure that they go no more than two holes before being able to get refreshment. In addition the back nine is plotted around a tented village that is ideally sited for fans to nip backwards and forwards to the action.
It is the least well kept secret in golf that money matters in the Ryder Cup and the positioning of the tented village is part of the plan: fans will travel through it to the course much in the manner of air travellers passing through Duty Free.
Equally part of the plan is the stadium-style par-three 16th hole which sits in a large natural bowl. Stands will supplement the slopes of Tres Cantos to create a huge amphitheatre.
Hiseman has consulted the record books to ascertain that the 16th hole is the most worthy of attention for fans: it is the one that is most likely to witness the conclusion to Ryder Cup matches. Hence the creation of a suitable mini-venue within a venue.
Joining us on our trip around the site - indeed driving our 4x4 - is the Spanish golfer, and supporter of the bid, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. He, too, is impressed by the piece of land.
"It is my first time seeing it and I like it," he says. "Like you, I can already see the holes. We can make what we want of this. It could be a beautiful, well-treed course but for a Ryder Cup we would need it to be open and it would be superb. The crowds would love it."
Other members of the bid team stress that the fact the course is yet to be built can be a strength - in that whatever the European Tour want to be built can be built.
Of course a successful bid needs more than a fine golf course and cunning plans to maximise revenue and Madrid is no less sure of the other aspects of their plan.
Key to their belief is the experience Spain - and Madrid - has in hosting sporting events; they have done it before and can guarantee doing it again.
They are also proud of the Madrid climate which rarely witnesses rain - an important factor given the delays Celtic Manor suffered.
The city of Madrid itself is also an obvious selling point - there are 30,000 rooms within half an hour of the course and the train is perfectly situated for the venue. If fans want to be athletic there is even a cycle track that goes directly from the city to the course!
As with other bid teams, Spain also hopes to leave a legacy for the sport in Spain. Angeles Alarco, CEO Madrid Tourism and part of the bid team, explains that the Tres Cantos course would be a public venue, that other public courses would be built in the wake of a successful bid and that these, in addition to the Spanish Golf Federation's home at Centro Nacional, would help on two counts.
Firstly it would make golf more accessible to all walks of society in Spain and secondly it would help Madrid attract golfers from abroad.
"At the moment we are unable to attract new golfers or tourists because most Madrid courses are private," she says. "It would help us change this for the better."
Of course the only previous Ryder Cup to take place in Continental Europe also took place in Spain. The Madrid team acknowledge this, but believe it should not count against their bid on this occasion.
"We are passionate," says Gonzaga Escauriaza, President of the Royal Spanish Golf Federation. "We honestly believe we cannot produce a finer bid. This site cannot be bettered. We cannot get it closer to the city. We cannot find so many rooms near to the course. We cannot offer a better course. Our golfers are currently so strong.
"We have a hero of the last Ryder Cup - Miguel Angel Jimenez - and the captain of the next Ryder Cup. We are strong supporters of the European Tour with seven events this year and many every year.
"How can we better this? I do not know."
Having seen the course, its proximity to the capital and witnessed the enthusiasm of the Madrid bid team, without doubt the Spanish have an excellent case.
And if Madrid is successful (the decision is announced by the European Tour in May) golf fans are in for a real treat.