2018: The Dutch bid

If Holland wins the right to host the 2018 Ryder Cup the fans will be in for a unique experience. Matt Cooper explains.

In his acclaimed book about football in Holland, Brilliant Orange, the writer David Winner wrote: “Dutch space is different.”
It is a phrase that comes to mind when considering the Dutch bid to host the 2018 Ryder Cup because the standout feature of the tender is a course concept that is very different to anything the Ryder Cup – and tournament golf as a whole – has seen before.
Winner argued that Total Football (the revolutionary Dutch method of fluid football) was just like Dutch architecture and Dutch art in that it was derived from the nation’s distinctive understanding of space.
This uniqueness, he said, is a direct consequence of the artificial manufacturing of Dutch soil. “Large parts of the country,” he said, “were literally dragged out of the sea and dried using centuries-old techniques of dyke-building and drainage systems.”
Those words make a golfer’s ears prick up because we all know that the earliest – and still the purest – golf courses are on linksland: land once below the sea; land, in other words, very much like the Netherlands.
It is no surprise, therefore, that the country possesses some of Continental Europe’s finest links courses – indeed one aspect of the bid’s hoped-for legacy is to remind the world that these gems exist.
That’s a noble aim but, given Winner’s theory, it is neater that the bid’s host course is a new one, maintaining the country’s tradition of creating a new man-made answer for each new question.
The Dutch GC in Rotterdam already has one course but if it were elected to host the 2018 Ryder Cup a new one, currently being constructed, would be used. A stadium course it would aim to provide a spectating experience unlike anything witnessed before in tournament golf.
Being the conservative sport it is, what follows will shock many golfers, appal others and cause some to snort derisively. Yet some may read these words and be intrigued by a team who have made a genuine attempt to view the Ryder Cup from a different angle.
You might not agree with all of their ideas. You might also foresee problems with some aspects of it. But even if the bid is to fail (and, to be frank, it is currently deemed the outsider of the five bids by most observers) it would be a real shame if the original thinking behind it were not recognised in some way.
At the heart of the concept is the slightly extraordinary idea that grandstands will not be the exception around the course but the rule.
All of these grandstands would be covered and each stand would have unrestricted views of multiple holes. Moreover the grandstands would surround the boundaries of the course, genuinely creating a huge stadium.
The flat and compact course has been specifically designed (by European Golf Design in association with Colin Montgomerie) so that this bold new spectating aim can be achieved – large TV screens and I-pad applets would also enable fans to stay in touch with the action.
In line with their attempt to create a new vision of watching golf, the bid team hired a company that is expert in crowd management to generate the plan.
They identified that traditional methods of dealing with spectators at a golf tournament don’t fit the reality of 50,000 people following just four matches.
Their solution is a smart ticketing system which will give every spectator a pre-defined route to pre-reserved seats at different grandstands.
Here is an example itinerary of Day One: Fan X starts his or her day in a grandstand at the first hole, watching drives and approaches to the first green. This hole, like the ninth and 17th is deemed a “super atmospheric hole” and will be built up in a manner reminiscent of the famous 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale.
After venturing to the food stand he or she moves on to another grandstand that gives views of all of the par-three tenth hole, the approach shots and green of the 13th and all of the par-three 14th hole too.
After lunch, he or she moves to another stand which offers views of the tee shot and approaches at the second, approach shots and the green at the third, and tee shot on the fourth.
The day is completed with seats in a fourth stand offering views of the approach shot and putts at the 12th, approach shots and green at the 15th and all of the par-three 16th.
In addition to seeing this action close-up, action from around the course can be seen using binoculars or using the large Philips TV screens or free I-pads that each spectator will be offered.
Different tickets have different grandstand combinations and the fans would move around the course at separate times (ensuring that the 50,000 fans would not be moving around the course en masse).
I can hear the grumbling of some fans already, but even if you are one of them, the fact that someone has suggested an alternative way of watching golf ought to be of interest.
Talking about the rest of the bid, Daan Slooter, spokesman for the Ryder Cup Netherlands 2018, highlighted these points:

  • The Ryder Cup is the only event in sport with a European team; the bid views itself as a pan-European Ryder Cup with the Netherlands as a location.
  • Golf is the third fastest-growing sport in Holland. The Ryder Cup would continue the growth of a sport that might (the Scottish disagree!) have originated on Dutch soil.
  • Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and known as “the entrance of Europe”‘. The city has recently hosted the final of football’s Euro 2000, the start of the Tour de France and multiple sporting world championships. It subsequently has a strong and tested infrastructure for big events.
    In Brilliant Orange David Winner wrote: “The man-made character of Holland is reflected in all areas of life, from the way the Dutch deal with nature and the environment to the design of their cultural institutions and a concern for democratic consensus building.” It’s a real outside chance, but we might find ourselves adding another dimension to that statement: the “man-made character of Holland” would also permeate their hosting of a Ryder Cup.
    For more information to the bid website.

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