It is a long established maxim that it really doesn't matter which course the Ryder Cup is held on as we aren't there to enjoy a good course - it's all about the drama created by the players. Indeed, the European Tour took this to the extreme by taking the event to a farmer's field in the Belfry in 1985.
However, it is quite noticeable just how poor the course line-up has been over the years. Using my 'Ultimate top 100 list' (the definitive poll of polls of the top courses) no top 10 course has ever been used, with only Muirfield in the Top 20. The US has a bunch of courses which rank in the 40s - 60s but Europe has pretty much given up now on hosting the event on a great course (read my review of the 2014 Gleneagles track to get an idea of what to expect there!).
Host courses by world ranking -
13 Muirfield (1973)
22 Pinehurst No 2 (1951)
36 Royal Birkdale (1965, 1969)
44 Muirfield Village (1987)
45 The Country Club - Brookline (1999)
46 Kiawah Island (1991)
54 Oakland Hills (2004)
65 Royal Lytham St Annes (1961, 1977)
67 Oak Hill (1995)
81 Valderrama (1997)
84 Walton Heath (1981)
It would be fair to say that the future doesn't look much brighter for architecture lovers. The French edition is going to the Golf National in 2018 which has some nice amphitheatres for fans to get a good view but some fairly average holes in there too. The US are using Whistling Straits and Bethpage in 2020 and 2024 respectively which will definitely be a notch up on the yet to be renovated Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome. Yes, that one.
In contrast the Walker Cup has absolutely knocked it out of the park when it comes to the quality of courses. There is no strong commercial element to the event and crowds are obviously just a fraction of the Ryder Cup but boy, they have really taken this event to some amazing tracks, and continue to do so. Have a look at this -
1 Cypress Point (1981)
2 Pine Valley (1936, 1985)
3 Royal County Down (2007)
4 The Old Course (1923, 1926, 1934, 1938, 1947, 1955, 1971, 1975)
5 Shinnecock Hills (1977)
9 National Golf Links of America (1922, 2013)
13 Muirfield (1959, 1979)
14 Merion (2009)
18 Turnberry - Ailsa (1963)
21 Winged Foot (1949)
22 Sunningdale (1987)
24 Royal St Georges (1930, 1969)
27 Chicago (1928, 2005)
43 Portmarnock (1991)
45 The Country Club - Brookline (1932, 1973)
55 Royal Aberdeen (2011)
65 Royal Lytham St Annes (2015)
66 Royal Porthcawl (1995)
77 Garden City (1924)
88 Royal Liverpool (1983)
93 Quaker Ridge (1997)
The next three venues are Los Angeles (41), Royal Liverpool (88) and Seminole (26). If I could have a free hand at selecting the next four venues for the Walker Cup then how about Royal Dornoch and Swinley Forest for the UK and Ireland and Sand Hills and Friar's Head for the US?
When it comes to quality of courses I think we can safely say The Walker Cup wins by a clear margin but with money talking the way it does, don't expect any changes to the Ryder Cup selection criteria soon!