The Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in 2019 will play a central role in maintaining the Perthshire resort’s heritage as a golf centre and it’s reputation as Scotland’s premier playground, believes general manager Bernard Murphy.
Murphy and a team led by director of golf Gary Silcock spent the weekend at Des Moines Golf and Country Club seeing how the Iowa authorities dealt with hosting the Solheim, but Gleneagles needs few tips on how to host a world class golfing event after the great success of the 2014 Ryder Cup.
“It’s still been a valuable week here,” said Murphy. “We did go to Medinah before the Ryder Cup and you pick up so much, build relationships, speak to the clubs that have had it before, get some contacts there.
“It’s basically to make sure you don’t do anything you don’t need to do, and that you don’t miss anything you do need to do. It’s our intention to do as we did with the Ryder Cup, make it just a fantastic spectator experience, and lift the profile of ourselves and the game.”
When Gleneagles initially bid for the Ryder Cup, it was about the same size in scale that the Solheim is now, although the men’s version of the Europe vs USA matches had grown to unimagined levels once it actually got to Perthshire.
“The Ryder Cup in scale was different but by the time this comes to us it won’t be too far away from that size,” continued Murphy. “We’re really trying not to be wasteful. We’re looking at the site with the government and with IMG to get the balance right, we don’t want to damage the atmosphere by spreading it out too much, but equally we don’t want to squash it into a place where it doesn’t belong.
“Car parking at the Ryder Cup, that was expensive and a big logistical thing for some of the authorities in Scotland. Perhaps we can prune that in a little bit, have more onsite and still be sensible about it.”
Diageo owned Gleneagles when the Ryder Cup was there, but new owners Ennismore were behind the Solheim bid, pointed out Murphy.
“We invested very heavily in parts of the courses for the Ryder Cup, but the new owners have a big big appetite about capturing what Gleneagles was built for; as a great big playground,” he said.
“We’re getting back to our heritage and making sure everything sits and fits exactly how it should. Golf is a big part of that heritage, the courses were here before the hotel of course.
“Under Gary we’ve taken the courses back to the original James Braid designs. It’s the same in the hotel, we’ve re-established the famous American bar and there’s the new brasserie on site as well, it’s all about getting back that heritage.”
More events, like the annual tournaments that were a feature of the Gleneagles calendar from the 1980s up until the Ryder Cup, are certainly possible, he continued.
“Absolutely we would have another tournament in time,” said Murphy. “The current owners who supported us getting the Solheim and I think that’s an indication going forward that we’d very much like to have great golf tournaments in the future, on any one of the courses, actually, it doesn’t have to be the PGA Centenary.”
“The King’s and Queen’s have both been upgraded with new drainage, and the PGA Centenary has bedded in and is a better playing experience than it was in 2014.
“I’m delighted that our membership has grown, both individual and corporate and as we all know that’s against the backdrop of it not being the case elsewhere. People are voting with their feet and joining us because they recognise the experience across all three courses.”
The benefit of Gleneagles is the team staying on site, and one particular accessory from the 2014 European team room has been retained.
“The feedback we got from the American team and European team in 2014 was that everything they needed was here, they could just enjoy the place with their wives and families,” he added.
“And we still have the blue and yellow fish tank from the European team room, it’s in our project director’s office right now, but we may see it make a second appearance.”