The Ryder Cup comes to… Bolton! There is a new Northern kid on the block with £200m plan to transform an 800-acre estate in the foothills of the Pennines into world class venue
- There is a new Northern kid on the block hoping to host golf’s top tournament
- Hulton Hall, an 800-acre estate in Bolton, is in contention to host the Ryder Cup
- There is a £200m plan in place for the location in Bolton to become a golf course
- In May or June, planners will learn whether their dream can become a reality
- The ambitious plan has faced strong opposition from a group of local residents
Bolton. To those of a certain age, it will be forever known as the home of Nat Lofthouse. Younger generations might think of Peter Kay. The Ryder Cup? You must be joking.
Only they are not. In April, the three UK venues bidding to host golf’s famous transatlantic tiff in 2031 or 2035 will be announced. The Belfry, in Warwickshire, and the London Club — who are understood to be in the frame — will, in all likelihood, be up against a new, northern kid on the block.
If all goes according to the £200million plan, the Miracle at Medinah and the Battle of Brookline may well be joined by the Hammering at Hulton Hall.
It is not as daft as it sounds.
There is a new Northern kid on the block hoping to win the hosting rights for the Ryder Cup
There is a £200m plan in place for Hulton Hall in Bolton, to be converted into a golf course
Peel L&P, the Manchester-based development giant, are ready to spend vast sums transforming an 800-acre, historic estate on Bolton’s rural border with Wigan.
They have already drafted in renowned designer Ross McMurray to draw up plans for an 18-hole championship course, along with a hotel and cabins for players, like at Augusta.
Planning permission has been obtained, but, following opposition from some locals, new proposals will go before the town hall in January. The Government have given the scheme — which includes 1,000 new houses — the green light, as long as the Ryder Cup bid is successful.
In short, by May or June’s decision day, what sounds like a dream may become a reality.
A trip to the site quickly reveals the idea as far from outlandish. Behind long walls and an innocuous gate, a rolling expanse of mature woodland appears ready made for a course.
‘The aim is to host what we’d call the People’s Ryder Cup,’ says PGA professional Pete Styles, who runs an academy at the nearby Peel-owned Trafford Centre and who has been closely involved in the project.
‘We’d be looking at 75,000 people a day (around 45,000 attended each day of last month’s US romp at Whistling Straits). This golf course can house an awful lot of people.
‘It has the connectivity, it’s close to international airports and it will have the hotel beds in and around, with Manchester down the road. As long as Ryder Cup Europe have the appetite we think we can get to 100,000 a day, but we want to make sure it’s still a good viewers’ experience.’
McMurray, who worked on previous venues Celtic Manor and Le Golf National in Paris, has been given a blank canvas and the result appears to be a stunning 18 holes. There is plenty of water and an abundance of signature holes on the back nine, overlooked by a giant amphitheatre from where the thousands of fans can take in the action.
There is also no shortage of history. The land was owned for more than 1,000 years by the Hulton family, a member of whom was responsible for the Peterloo Massacre when he sent the army in to arrest one of the speakers. Tragedy lies elsewhere. Across the site is the scene of the 1910 Pretoria Pit Disaster, when an underground explosion took the lives of 344 men and boys. It is already a storied plot, and the next chapter may not be far away.
Construction of the course would take three to four years and could house 100,000 fans
‘We think it’s the backdrop to create something really special,’ says Peel director of land and communities Richard Knight. ‘Not only would we open up 800 acres to the public, but we think there would be a total economic impact of £1.6billion at UK level with the lion’s share in Bolton and Greater Manchester over 20 to 30 years. There’s a big initial impact with 1,000 jobs created.’
Construction would take three to four years. A major championship would have to be hosted before the likes of Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm head into town.
They are excited, and they have every reason to be. PGA pro-turned-YouTuber Rick Shiels was brought up less than a mile from Hulton Hall and is wholehearted in his backing. ‘I’m really excited,’ he says.
‘The North West is crying out for a quality course away from the coast. This is a place that doesn’t get used and to be able to host one of the world’s biggest sporting events would be incredible.’
Shiels, who knows a thing or two about the planet’s best courses, is impressed by what he has seen.
Sportsmail’s Mike Keegan manages to slice one out of bounds at the Hulton Hall estate
A campaigner from a local resident group says that there is strong opposition to the plans
‘Some of the signature holes look out of this world,’ he says. ‘When you have the opportunity to design a Ryder Cup course bespoke you can really go to town and make it a spectacle, and Ross has done that. You can think about where the dramatic holes are going to be, where the excitement is going to end and make sure those places are surrounded by amphitheatres. You want the fans at the key moments.’
Not everyone shares Shiels’s enthusiasm. Hulton Estate Area Residents Together (HEART) have raised objections over traffic issues, the impact on local services and development on green belt land.
HEART campaigner Sandra Hesketh said: ‘We strongly object. There is no demand for a new golf course — the existing ones are struggling.
‘Developers cannot keep destroying farms to build lucrative housing estates. We need our farms more than ever with Brexit. Demolishing the ancient Hulton Park Estate would be a major contribution to the loss of habitat and wild life. We should be helping to save our planet.’
Knight hopes they will one day be won over.
‘We’d hope people who live here will be proud to have one of the world’s great golf courses on their doorstep,’ he says.
‘People who say, “Why Bolton?” don’t understand the North West and the appetite for major sporting events here,’ says Styles. ‘England is desperate to have the Ryder Cup back. It would be fantastic for the country and the North.’
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