Unlike the British Open -- or the Open Championship as it's known outside the U.S. -- the Ryder Cup has only been around since 1927 and has only been relevant really in the last quarter century or so. But like the Open, the matches have been contested at historic and significant golf venues, mostly in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Unlike most of the U.S. Ryder Cup sites, however, pretty much all the European Ryder Cup locations are accessible to the public in one form or another. In many cases, it's wise to contact the club ahead of time, and many require a minimum handicap (sometimes as low as 18) and limit the days or even hours that unaccompanied guests can play, but you can play them with a little effort.
Starting with the 2014 Ryder Cup, here is a look at the European Ryder Cup sites since 1929 and how to play them.
2014: Gleneagles (Perthshire, Scotland)
Incredibly the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles marks the first time that the home of golf (Scotland) has played host to the Ryder Cup since 15-time Open course Muirfield did in 1973, when the United States was in the midst of a 26-year run of keeping the Cup.
This is also the first time Gleneagles has hosted the Ryder Cup and in what seems to be a recent trend, it comes on a course that's more American than European, though the Gleneagles Hotel and resort have been around for 90 years.
There are three golf courses at Gleneagles, but the Ryder Cup will be played on the PGA Centenary Course, which was designed by Jack Nicklaus, who said it was "the finest parcel of land in the world I have ever been given to work with." That's saying a lot since Nicklaus has designed courses on some of the most beautiful places on earth (think Punta Mita in Mexico or Hualalai in Hawaii, for example). It's definitely not a links course, but it's also a myth that Euros play the majority of their golf on links courses anyway, so the U.S. team really doesn't gain an advantage in that respect. The PGA Centenary Course is expensive to play. Right after the Ryder Cup, they were asking $1,400 for a one-night stay and play. And yes, you're required to stay at the hotel.
2010: Celtic Manor (City of Newport, Wales)
The only Ryder Cup contested in Wales, but the 17th in Britain, the Europeans won for the fourth consecutive time at home when reigning Wales Open champion Graeme McDowell defeated Hunter Mahan in the final singles match of the event for a 14 1/2-13 1/2 victory. The matches were played on the Twenty Ten Course, the first layout ever specifically designed for a Ryder Cup and one of three courses at the Celtic Manor Resort. At nearly 7,500 yards long, the Twenty Ten is anything but traditional, and it takes advantage of the valley and hillsides outside of Cardiff. For now, it's also much more affordable and accessible than Gleneagles with rates starting as low as around $160.
2006: The K Club (County Kildare, Ireland)
The Palmer Course at The K Club was the site of the second straight dominant performance by the European team, an 18 1/2-9 1/2 victory that matched its win two years earlier on U.S. soil at the very private Oakland Hills Country Club just outside Detroit. Played on a very American-style layout designed by Arnold Palmer (one of two Palmer courses at the resort), this parkland course borders the River Liffey just outside of Dublin. Trees surround the course, and water comes into play on several holes. Ryder Cup Experience packages begin around $360.
2002, 1993, 1989, 1985: The Belfry (Sutton Coldfield, England)
From 1985-2002, the European Ryder Cup location was The Belfry just outside of Birmingham, England, with the exception of 1997, when it was held Valderrama Golf Club in Spain. The reason? The Belfry is home to the Professional Golfers Association of Great Britain and Ireland, one of the two entities (the other being the PGA of America) that stage the Ryder Cup. The resort has three courses -- The Brabazon Course, which has hosted more Ryder Cups than any other venue -- PGA National (sound familiar?) and The Derby. The 1985 Ryder Cup was the first of four contested there and probably the most significant since it would mark the first time since 1957 that the Europeans or Great Britain and Ireland gained possession of the Cup. Also significant is the fact that this was last Ryder Cup played in Europe that was not televised live in the United States. Four years later, for all to see, the Europeans won again at The Belfry, a victory that was sealed by Irishman Christy O'Connor's 2-iron. Ryder Cup stay-and-play experiences on The Brabazon Course start at less than $300.
1997: Valderrama Golf Club (Cadiz, Spain)
Although the 1997 matches, won by the Europeans 14 1/2-13 1/2, were plagued by rain and a strike by local police, Valderrama Golf Club is very significant in Ryder Cup history. It was the first time the matches were held on continental Europe, and the course put the Andalucia part of Spain on the worldwide golfing map. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., this once daily-fee parkland facility was bought and greatly enhanced by late Spanish golf legend Jaime Ortiz-Patino, who turned it into a superb, exclusive private club. One hole, the risk-reward and reachable par-5 17th, was particularly dramatic during the Ryder Cup. Like its Great Britain counterparts, public tee times are offered, although it's just for a couple of hours a day and quite expensive. Expect to pay around $500 to play it.
1981: Walton Heath Golf Club (Surrey, England)
Just south of London, Walton Heath Golf Club has two terrific classic courses designed by Herbert Fowler. In 1981 the Ryder Cup was actually scheduled to be played at The PGA's Belfry, but opposition arose because the course there wasn't deemed mature enough (only four years old), so it was eventually moved to a composite of Walton Heath's New Course (not so new, as it opened in 1907) and the Old Course (1904). In the end, it was an ugly affair for the Europeans. Not only did they lose 18 1/2-9 1/2, but Seve Ballesteros was voted off the team after an ongoing dispute over appearance money. It also marked the last of six Ryder Cup appearances for Jack Nicklaus, who won all four of his matches. Unaccompanied guests are welcome most days, starting around $200 for green fees.
1929-1977: Eight more Great Britain venues
Before 1979, the Ryder Cup was contested between the United States and pros from Great Britain and Ireland. The results were so embarrassingly lopsided (Americans owned a 16-1-1 record from 1935 to 1977) that something had to be done to spark interest in the Ryder Cup, which quite frankly had been reduced to a silly season event. Starting with the matches at The Greenbrier in 1979, the rest of Europe was added, and tide started to turn for the Europeans, who have gone 9-4-1 since 1985.
But even though the Ryder Cup was a low-key event before then, it was still conducted at some historic and worthwhile venues, although many of them are better known for other tournaments, like The Open, than the Ryder Cup.
For example, you might be surprised to learn that Royal Lytham and St. Annes (England), where Erie Els hoisted the claret jug in 2012, not only played host to the 1977 Ryder Cup, but the 1961 Ryder Cup as well. And you can play there, too, for about $250 (which includes lunch) on Mondays or Thursdays.
East Lothian's Muirfield, which isn't far from the Old Course in Scotland, had a Ryder Cup in 1973. Designed by Old Tom Morris, visitors with a handicap of 18 or less can play the course that hosted its first Open in 1892 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England, not only staged the Open nine times -- the last one won by Padraig Harrington in 2008 -- but also twice had the Ryder Cup (1965 and 1969). You're looking at around $200 or more to play this stunning coast resort course.
Another course to play host to multiple Ryder Cups is Southport (England) & Ainsdale Golf Club (1933, '37). Yep, you can play that one, too, and for a lot less than most Ryder Cup venues, starting at around $100.
Moortown Golf Club was the first British site (Leeds) for the Matches in 1929, and the Europeans won that one, 7-5, to tie the series at one apiece. More significant, however, is that the same architect who did Augusta National and so many other great U.S. courses, Alister MacKenzie, designed Moortown as well. Best of all, guests can play there for well less than $100 depending on the time of year and day of the week.
And finally, there are three more English golf courses with Ryder Cup histories that you can play. Lindrick Golf Club in Yorkshire was the site of a rare and lopsided GBI victory (7 1/2-4 1/2) in 1957; Wentworth Golf Club had it in 1953; and Ganton Golf Club in Scarborough was the site in 1949.