There’s nothing better than really getting stuck into watching some sport, except perhaps watching it somewhere truly breathtaking. Many sports tournaments take place in pretty dull locations and sure, your concentration should perhaps be on the action, but occasionally it’s nice to let your focus wander. If you fancy a beautiful vista to stare out over between rounds, or a staggering building to take in during half time, then these are the places you should be visiting for your next bit of sports spectating. It’s one thing to road trip your way through beautiful surroundings, but it’s a special experience truly immersing yourself by watching a sports event in them.
Watch The Masters at The Augusta National Golf Club, Georgia, USA
The Augusta National Golf Club is home to the US Masters and is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque golf courses in the world. There couldn’t be anywhere prettier for the pros to come and battle it out to see who will take home the trophy this April. The club is one of the most exclusive (and therefore most expensive) clubs in the world – it’s profits are rumoured to be monumental – but it doesn’t disclose its income so perhaps we’ll never know. With the rates for membership though, it certainly wouldn’t be a stretch to assume they’re making a great deal of money!
The Masters is the only major tournament that is held at the same course each year and it’s not hard to see why they chose The Augusta. Designed in 1932 by Jones and Alister MacKenzie, the greens of the course were of the upmost importance, with huge irrigation and drainage networks being placed before any other work could begin. Landscaping could then take place and the designers went to town; although, since then, some of the most stringent rules, such as the pond water being dyed blue, have been relaxed, the course is still impeccable. Azaleas and dogwoods create a beautiful natural softness, whilst speakers gently whistle out bird song.
Watch Ice Skaters at the Liège-l’Escaut Ice Rink, Belgium
Completed in December 2012, this is one of the newest spectacular sports sites on the list, but it really is a wonder. Many ice rinks are formulaic in design, with little to separate one from another, except maybe a differing ice hockey flag, or plastic seats in orange instead of blue – not for the Liège-l’Escaut ice rink though. L’Escaut Architecture designed the enormous building to resemble a big, beautiful whale, slightly unusual for a land locked country, but no less extraordinary for it. The outside is covered in literally hundreds of thousands of aluminium scales which, as well as looking pretty, actually help to keep the building cool by reflecting light.
Working alongside this clever design feature is one of the rink’s many eco credentials. The building has a heat redirection system, so it remains cool by re-channeling some of the heat generated inside it to the shopping centre next door. The shopping centre stays warm and the ice stays, well, freezing – perfect! Whilst ingenious elements like this aren’t visible, they certainly add to the air of wonder that this building creates. If you happen to be in the area then it’s more than worth going to visit this behemoth of a building, even if only to view from the outside.
Watch The North Shore Surf Competition at Oahu Beach, Hawaii
The only totally natural sports site on the list, Oahu Beach in Hawaii is home to the North Shore Surf Competition. Choosing the most picturesque surfing spot was never going to be easy, but the soft white sands and aquamarine, rolling waves of Oahu Beach made the job a little easier. Palm trees divide civilisation from the sea and the whole scene is almost too picture postcard to be true.
If you want to see the real professionals taking some big waves then head to the legendary Banzai Pipeline; on this little stretch, waves are frequently 20 feet tall and terrifyingly fast. The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing holds one of it’s events here and it attracts insane talent from all around the globe. The Vans World Cup of Surfing takes place on Sunset Beach, where the waves break pretty early, so bring some binoculars. Sunset Beach has some really tricky surfing conditions, so this part of the competition is only for the fearless; with that said, it makes for incredible spectating, so bring a parasol and get pitched early!
Watch Three Day Eventing at Burghley House, England
If Elizabethan glamour is your idea of a perfect day’s sport, then there’s nowhere that’s going to scratch that itch quite like the Burghley Horse Trials. The trials are widely considered the one of the world’s greatest 5* equestrian events, as classified by the FEI. The action takes place over four full days, where horses and riders perform in dressage, show jumping and the most highly anticipated cross country stages. The cross country course in Burghley Park is truly staggering, with some old favourite jumps remaining static all year round and others being dreamt up by course designers at the very top of their game.
Any horse-mad person will be absolutely in their element watching the events, or browsing through the 600 stalls which pitch up for the competition. However, if you are content with a half an hour of horses and fancy something a little different to concentrate on, then take a look around the house and gardens. Burghley is one of the largest, grandest houses of the Elizabethan Age and its architecture has been immaculately preserved. Although the house itself doesn’t open during the event, it’s arguably best viewed from outside in the gardens. Speaking of which, the gardens, which were designed by no other than Capability Brown, can easily keep anyone amused for a whole day, with formal gardens to the rear of the house and beautifully landscaped parkland all around. If you’re lucky you might see the herd of fallow deer who call Burghley Park their home and if not, then treat yourself to a glass of champagne in the Orangery and really soak up the opulence.