It sounds like the kind of gag local comedian Peter Kay might trot out during one of his stand-up routines but, trust us, it’s not.
Serious plans are afoot to bring the Ryder Cup to Bolton – perhaps as early as 2031.
Manchester-based developers Peel L&P have tabled plans to build a brand new £200m, 800-acre development on the outskirts of the Lancashire town with a view to hosting the biggest team competition in golf.
Hulton Park will comprise a championship course as well as an on-site hotel as part of a wider development that will also include 1,000 new homes.
It has already passed the first stage of planning, with the UK government granting the project approval subject to it being awarded the right to stage either the 2031 or 2035 Ryder Cup. It is understood (although not yet confirmed) that it is one of three English sites in the running, along with four-time host venue The Belfry and The London Club.
Rumours of a Bolton bid first surfaced in 2016 when it was reported that Peel L&P – the developers of the Trafford Centre in Manchester – were targeting the rights to the 2026 match.
In 2019, Adare Manor in Ireland was named as the host for that particular edition – since pushed back to 2027 because of the COVID-19 pandemic – but the 2031 and 2035 matches remain up for grabs. A decision on the host venue for at least one of those matches is expected early in 2022.
Hulton Park is a hugely historic site. The land on which the new golf development would be built was owned for more than 1,000 years by the Hulton family, a member of whom was responsible for the Peterloo Massacre in 1819.
Just under a century later, in 1910, it was the site of the so-called ‘Pretoria Pit Disaster’, a mining accident that claimed the lives of 334 men and boys.
As the 20th century went on, the grounds fell into disrepair and the Hulton family dynasty came to an end with the death of Sir Geoffrey Hulton, who had no heir, in 1993. Peel L&P acquired the site in 2010 with view to restoring it to its former glory. Creating a destination fit for a Ryder Cup appears to be a key part of that ambition.
In course designer Ross McMurray, they have borrowed the services of a man well versed in delivering destinations primed to stage the biggest event in golf.
A past-president of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects, he has previously worked on the development of Celtic Manor and Le Golf National, the host venues for the 2010 and 2018 matches respectively.
“We think it’s the backdrop to create something really special,” explained 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 £1.6billion at UK level, with the lion’s share to Bolton and Greater Manchester over 20 to 30 years.
“There’s a big initial impact with 1,000 jobs created, too. We’d hope people who live here will be proud to have one of the world’s great golf courses on their doorstep.”
Local PGA pro Pete Styles added: “People who say, ‘Why Bolton?’ don’t understand the North West and the appetite for major sporting events here. England is desperate to have the Ryder Cup back. It would be fantastic for the country and the North.”