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War at the Shore II

I've seen enough: Get the Ryder Cup back to Kiawah, ASAP

May 20, 2021

Simon Bruty

You know that feeling you get when you turn on a golf tournament, watch it for maybe 10-15 seconds, and realize you're staring at a course that's on another level? It's a miniature version of that buzz you got the first time you walked out of the concourse at an MLB stadium and saw the blazing green of the field: Holy ****. There aren't many golf courses that do this for me anymore, but the ones that do? They do it every time. It's even better than a drug; these effects don't diminish over time.

Intellectually, I may have already known that Kiawah Island was a stunner—I remember 2012—but until I saw it again this morning, I had forgotten that sensation of slight awe, even through the medium of television, at the natural beauty and intuitive architecture of the place. A course like this makes everything feel more epic.

Another feeling I can't avoid: Regret. Regret that I wasn't enough of a golf fan back in 1991, at age eight, to care about the Ryder Cup the one time it was held here. Rory's win at the 2012 PGA Championship was interesting in its way as a spectacle of dominance, but at a venue like this, you want a tight race at the end. That's my wish for the 2021 tournament, and it was the reality of the 1991 Ryder Cup, which was arguably (or maybe inarguably??) the most dramatic Cup ever held.

There have been a lot of great deep dives into that weekend recently, and Curt Sampson's The War By the Shore is a great read if you want to delve into the history and the drama, but I always go back to how it ended: Bernhard Langer missing a six-foot putt that would have retained the Cup for Europe. Something about that harsh finale seems to fit with the majesty of Kiawah—the indifference of nature, the unconquerable beauty and terror of it all. Revisiting that moment, you feel bad for Langer, but it also makes sense. It feels correct.

So here we are again at Kiawah, I'm blown away watching the action on my laptop, more excited than I've been for a major in some time, and it spurs an obvious thought: Let's get the Ryder Cup back to Kiawah. Right now, we're booked through to 2029, with Bethpage Black and Hazeltine next on the American after the Whistling Straits Cup this fall. I believe Whistling Straits will be a great theater for the Cup, and Bethpage Black is another terrific choice, but Hazeltine? Good for the American team, maybe, but in my opinion not a course worthy of the Ryder Cup.

So let's get this thing back to the Ocean Course for 2031! Not only is it dead gorgeous, but it's brutal in the wind, and when you combine that with the tension and history of the Ryder Cup, it's failproof. It's clearly within the PGA of America's ability to make it happen, and the one hesitation might be the relative isolation of the Ocean Course, which potentially precludes the massive crowds you associate with modern Ryder cups. To which I would say, squeeze in as many as you can, take the revenue hit, and let the spectacle of Kiawah further entrench the event in the hearts and minds of golf fans everywhere. You can't put a true monetary value on a course like this.

For now, I'll appreciate what we have, and glue myself to the screen for the next four days. But since the magnitude of the '91 Cup was lost on me, I can't help dreaming of a return to the low country for the greatest event of all. Make it happen: Same shore, new war.