Bolton’s controversial Ryder Cup project is back on (for now)

A public inquiry has rejected Bolton Council’s dismissal of the Hulton Park plans as the on-off saga rumbles on

The prospect of hosting the 2031 Ryder Cup in Lancashire has taken a step closer after a public inquiry decided that revised plans for the Hulton Park Estate should not have been rejected by Bolton Council’s planning committee in February.

Peel L&P, the developer behind the project which they say will generate £1.6 billion for the economy, has received the backing of a number of organisations in the Greater Manchester area, including Bolton Wanderers Football Club and the University of Bolton.

But the council crushed any plans for proposals at Hulton Park earlier in the year when they voted 15-1 against building a golf course on the 800-acre site, saying it would “devastate a large area of land” before describing it as “window dressing and a vanity project”.

But despite protestations from the local community, Peel’s director of planning and strategy, Richard Knight, said the result of the inquiry “demonstrates our plans are in the best interests of Bolton and the local people” and that “now is the time for Bolton to get behind the bid and support the development coming to the town to help secure a prosperous and exciting future”.

Hulton Park remains one of only two English venues shortlisted by UK Sport and Ryder Cup Europe to host the Ryder Cup in nine years’ time – the other is believed to be the London Club in Kent, while there is also an unnamed European course also in the running.

NCG says…

Golf’s on-off saga that makes Ross and Rachel look like a traditional love story is back on.

It’s funny how differently we work on this side of the Atlantic when it comes to choosing our Ryder Cup courses. In the States, they already have their host venues up to 2037, while over here we prefer to give just a few years’ notice.

So far we have 2023 and 2027 – at Marco Simone in Italy and Adare Manor in Ireland respectively – in the bag, and if we want a first Ryder Cup in England since 2002, when The Belfry hosted for the fourth time, then it looks like it’s between the so-far non-existent Hulton Park or the very-existent London Club.

“The vision,” Peel promise us alongside a £1.6 billion uplift to the economy, “is to create a world-class sport and healthy living destination capable of hosting the Ryder Cup alongside a golfing academy, new primary school, new community facilities and a mix of housing to suit different needs and community facilities.”

Hulton Park

The problem is the locals – and the council – are, quite understanably, opposed.

From a purely golf-related – and selfish – perspective, the argument is simply that we want a Ryder Cup in England again.

Yes, I know, England has hosted 15 of the 21 Ryder Cups on this side of the Pond – and five of the 10 in the tournament’s current guise of Team Europe vs Team USA – but by the time 2031 rolls around it be pushing 30 years since Sam Torrance’s men edged their rivals over the Brabazon.

In the meantime, our tour of the continent will have taken us to Ireland (twice), Wales, Scotland, France and Italy.

It’s just too long.

But what’s vital is that Hulton Park is a project that is both sustainable and accepted by all – which, at this stage, feels like a stretch.

Apropos, there are a lot of countries in Europe and it has to be spread out among them. And, while true, are we taking it to the right places?

One could argue that France didn’t deserve to host in 2018 on the basis they’ve contributed just three players for a grand total of 3.5 points – two and a half of those from Victor Dubuisson – since 1979.

And even Costantino Rocca’s six-from-three and Francesco Molinari’s phenomenal clean sweep in 2018 isn’t enough to convince me we should be heading to Rome next year.

Why are Sweden, with 19 appearances from 10 players, never in the conversation? Or Northern Ireland, with their 23 from eight?

I’m digressing from my point – which I realise is making me sound like a Brexit-obsessed Little Englander – but as a country we have contributed 76 players who have made how many appearances? Well, let’s just say I stopped counting at 200.

With the days of the Ryder Cup going to the likes of Walton Heath and Ganton a distant memory, it seems Ryder Cup specialist arenas – love them of loathe them – are the future.

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