Hazeltine National Golf Club prepares for the sport’s most exciting event. How they primed this exclusive course to host our friends from across the pond.
Minnesotans are anxiously awaiting our turn in the global spotlight when the 41st Ryder Cup descends upon Hazeltine National Golf Club this fall. The city, the state and the prestigious golf club have been rigorously preparing since 2009’s PGA Championship was held here. The event looks to host more than 250,000 people (nearly 5x the population of Eden Prairie) over a six-day period from September 27 – October 2. Domestic and International visitors will arrive with team spirit, costumes, flags, banners and the like to cheer on their country in this highly-festive event showcasing tradition and ceremony along with whimsy, humor, celebration and team pride. In addition, more than 1,200 credentialed media will be onsite to cover the events of the Ryder Cup. The event is estimated to bring in $125 million to the Twin Cities, including $5 million in sales tax revenues for the State.
Ryder Cup History
The Ryder Cup is a bi-annual match-play golf competition between the United States and Europe, and is widely considered the largest golf event in the world. It is hosted in alternating years between the United States and Europe. The first Ryder Cup took place in 1927, and was strictly played between the United States and Great Britain. In 1979, the rules changed making all continental European players eligible to participate.
It takes place at the culmination of the PGA golf season and is an honor for each of the 12 players to represent his team. Professional golfers can secure a place on the Ryder Cup team through cumulative points earned throughout the regular season, or as one of four selected by the American or European team captains. The United States has won 24 Ryder Cup events, and Great Britain/Europe has won 10, and there are two ties. However, the European team has won the last three Ryder Cups, so the American team is looking for a big win in 2016.
The 2018 Ryder Cup will be hosted in Paris, France; the 2020 match returns to the Midwest at Kohler, Wisconsin.
Match Play Defined
The Ryder Cup has a vastly different flavor than other PGA tour tournaments throughout the year. The Ryder Cup is a team-focused event and encourages friendly competition between teams. Players compete for match and team points rather than individual or stroke points. The tournament includes several matches between the two teams. There are a total of 28 matches and points to be won, and the team with the most cumulative points at the end wins. Players participate in various forms of match play, including Foursomes, Fourball, and Singles formats. Europe needs 14 points to retain the trophy and the American team needs 14.5 points to win it back.
Teammates alternate tee shots. After each tee shot, teammates alternate shots until the hole is completed. The team that wins the most holes wins the match and one point.
Each member of the two-man team plays his own ball. The team whose player has the lowest score wins that hole and the team that wins the match receives one point.
All 24 players compete in head-to-head matches. The best score for each hole wins that hole, and the player who wins the match earns one point for his team.
Ryder Cup Captains
Davis Love III
Title: American Ryder Cup team
Title: Europe Ryder Cup team
Role: The primary role of team captains is selection of the golfers who will play in the tournament. Each captain selects four golfers for their Ryder Cup team. The remaining eight players for each team are awarded based on high scores during regular season PGA tournament play.
Captains pre-play the Ryder Cup course regularly and provide feedback to the host course, as well as bring back insights on course conditions to their respective teams. There are also four Vice Captains for each team. American vice captains are local legend Tom Lehman, as well as Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk.
Davis Love III will select three of his four players after the BMW Championship on September 11. His final selection will be made after the Tour Championship on September 25.
Minnesota is uniquely positioned to host such an important event because of its vast and well-known love of golf. The state has one of the most active and dedicated golf communities in the country, which is critical to the success of a global event of this magnitude. In addition to strong golf community, there are vibrant and active corporate and volunteer bases from which to draw. Even during economic hardships, the sport of golf remains robust and resilient in the State of Minnesota. The roster of Fortune 500 companies and other local businesses support the sport with sponsorships, donations, charitable participation and volunteer involvement. A hospitable golf community and a dedicated golf club membership are important factors in the selection of Ryder Cup host venues.
Hazeltine National Golf Club ranks among Golf Magazine’s Top 15 courses nationally – and it’s not by accident. It’s the result of devoted members and a steadfast leadership team that are committed to upholding the key mission of the club as set forth by the founders, “to build and maintain a golf course suitable for the conduct of national championships.”
Hazeltine was the home of the 1991 U.S. Open, 2002 and 2009 PGA Championships, among many other premiere events throughout its history. As the 2016 Ryder Cup host, Hazeltine will earn additional bragging rights – it will become one of only two golf clubs in the country to have hosted every premiere championship tournament offered by the USGA and PGA of America.
How does Hazeltine prepare for such an impressive event? It’s years in the making and it began back in 2002 after the club hosted the PGA Championship with resounding success, according to Ryder Cup General Chair, Patrick Hunt.
Hunt has been a Hazeltine member for more than 20 years and has served on various committees during his tenure – including General Chair of the 2009 PGA Championship. He was instrumental in securing $15 million for major club improvements – including a brand new clubhouse, upgraded greens and irrigation system, new bunkers, and a revamped practice facility – all taking place since 2009 in preparation to host the 2016 Ryder Cup.
Preparations can be traced back even further – to 1991, when Hazeltine purchased additional acreage around the course, knowing they would need more space to accommodate future national and international events. The additional land gave Hazeltine the space required for parking, hospitality, and broadcasting resources – requirements for hosting such tournaments.
Execution of the Hazeltine vision by its members can be seen day in and day out through the diligent and ardent caretaking of every corner of their course. The course is regularly maintained as a preeminent golf facility, but does require some special care in preparation for the Ryder Cup. These efforts are managed by Chris Tritabaugh, Golf Course Superintendent.
Tritabaugh’s team consists of 50 people each day preparing the course throughout the summer, but that number jumps to 100 people between Labor Day and Sept 27 when the course is closed. During those three weeks, about 10,000 man hours of grounds keeping labor will be employed to fine tune and ready the course and his team for execution. Prep work includes healing and repairing the course from summer play, proper irrigation, and extensive mowing. On September 27, Tritabaugh wants the course to be pristine enough to look like it’s never been played – that’s the bar he’s set for his team. “No stone will go unturned,” he says. “We want to go from great to exceptional.”
One of the most noticeable improvements is the new, white sand in the bunkers. 26,000 tons of this unique sand came from Ohio. It’s composed of sand and crushed quartz stone, and contains a mix of particle sizes and shapes. This specific blend makes bunker play more user-friendly as it’s easier to walk on, stand in and hit from, and has become the new standard bunker material for tournament play.
Working closely with the PGA, Tritabaugh also ensures other key components of the event that take place on the course itself, such as hospitality, broadcasting, and security, do not interfere with actual game play or the condition of the course. Installation of temporary fencing, building of hospitality tents, telecommunications cable wiring, and utilization of city utilities are important factors when constructing spaces on and around the course.
Building A Small City
When you welcome 250,000 visitors over the course of a week, you are essentially building a small city that will entertain, feed, direct, secure and communicate with those guests. No easy task. Throughout the summer, the course averaged approximately 1,200 contractors on-site each day to bring this “city” to life. Work includes building 30 food and beverage stations throughout the course, over 90 hospitality chalets and villages, multiple grandstand areas, and a large media center. It takes five months to build the on-site experience, and two months to deconstruct when the Ryder Cup is complete.
These responsibilities fall primarily under Ryder Cup Director Jeff Hintz’s responsibility. Hired by the PGA, he’s been stationed at Hazeltine since December 2014 with a small staff that works in synch with the host club to ensure PGA mandates and guidelines are implemented properly. Managing the general spectator experience also falls under his purview, which includes overseeing hospitality and ticket sales, volunteer operations, marketing, ceremonies and special events, as well as community relations.
The team also has to plan for logistical situations and issues that may arise during the Ryder Cup – namely weather. An on-site weather team will provide regular updates to Hintz each day, along with pre-planning for contingencies and alternate arrangements that can be deployed on a moment’s notice. His team works closely with local, state and federal authorities to prepare for medical situations, emergency communications and security plans. This includes collaborating with the FBI, Secret Service, Joint Terrorism Task Force, and Department of Homeland Security. The high-visibility event attended by celebrities, politicians, dignitaries and other high profile personalities brings another level of preparedness required to ensure a safe and positive experience.
In the age of communication, keeping people connected with fast and easy access to information is essential. This year, two versions of a new mobile app will be available, along with free Wi-Fi, for spectators to utilize with real-time game data, general event information, and tools for navigating the course. An estimated 50,000 people per day will be using the Wi-Fi network to connect to the game and to each other. It’s estimated that this Wi-Fi network could be the fourth largest in the state during the tournament period.
The Ryder Cup and spectator experience extends beyond the Hazeltine borders as half a billion households worldwide have access to the matches on GOLF channel and NBC stations. Being able to execute a visually interesting broadcast experience is also part of the equation. The Opening Ceremony and Trophy Presentation, granting media access, and player interviews are all part of bringing the event into people’s homes and generating excitement for the Ryder Cup and for the game of golf. The Opening Ceremony takes place on Thursday afternoon, and will include popular entertainers, says Hintz.
Despite the rigorous preparation, exacting standards and high visibility of the event, Hintz, Hunt and Tritabaugh are unanimously confident in the club’s ability to deliver a flawless experience. They feel great about the teams employed, the collaboration among various entities, the thorough planning process, and the ability to problem-solve and mobilize on the fly as needed. The biggest bogie will be the weather, but they’re prepared for that too.
Open To The Public
Hazeltine will be open to the public prior to the Ryder Cup for fans to visit the 45,000 square foot Ryder Cup merchandise shop – no ticket required. Guests can visit September 23 – 26 between 10am – 6pm daily.
Complimentary grounds access is available for military personnel and one guest Tuesday, Sept 27 – Thursday, Sept 29. Identification is required. Ticketed spectators may also bring one junior (age 17 or younger) free of charge those same days.