Golf: Cold end to Belfry alligators: Reptile plan for Ryder Cup abandoned

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IT was a nice try but, ultimately, The Belfry, the venue for the Ryder Cup match between Europe and the United States in September, has had to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Alligators may be at home in Birmingham, Alabama, but not in Birmingham, West Midlands.

The Belfry, which first staged the Ryder Cup in 1985, has numerous lakes and watering holes on its championship Brabazon course, and Mike Maloney, the manager, hit on the idea of introducing alligators into the environment after watching the match two years ago at Kiawah Island in South Carolina.

'For the visit of the Americans we wanted to make every effort to make them feel at home,' Maloney said.

The alligators, about four feet in length, were transported to The Belfry from Drayton Manor Zoo, but, alas, they did not take to the water hazards. 'We had to get clearance from all sorts of authorities,' Maloney said, 'but when we got the alligators on to the course we discovered that they would not survive.

'It is simply too cold for them. Apparently after about 12 hours they would go into a coma and subsequently die. Even in the summer they would not be able to survive.' After shedding what could have been crocodile tears, the alligators were returned to the warmth of Drayton Manor's reptile house.

Yesterday Dave Thomas, the course's designer, unveiled his improvements, which are part of a pounds 2.5m investment programme at The Belfry complex.

A fifth of that sum is being spent on building mounds to give a capacity crowd of 30,000 spectators a better view and at the same time give a better definition to the course. Up to 4,000 lorry loads of earth, which had been excavated from a site near the National Exhibition Centre, have been moved to The Belfry. A reservoir, which can hold 11m gallons of water, has been built and the Brabazon can be irrigated between now and September even if there is a permanent drought.

'It was circumstances rather than choice that made The Belfry a Ryder Cup venue,' Thomas said, 'and it has always suffered because of where it is. It's not a particularly good piece of golfing country and the land is very unsympathetic. We have had to make it visually more attractive and put in some character that was never there. It is maturing and in 10 years' time it will be one of the best inland courses in the country.'