Thirty years have passed since the Ryder Cup was held at Kiawah Island.

If those players treading the Ocean Course’s fairways at this week’s US PGA Championship look hard enough, they may still find some old scars and shrapnel in its turf from a 1991 transatlantic tussle of infamous rancour.

Known as the ‘War by the Shore’, the 29th Ryder Cup was a tense, highly-charged exchange that could’ve opened with an artillery salvo instead of a session of foursomes.

In their comprehensive, meticulously researched chronicle of golf’s greatest team contest, Pete Burns and Ed Hodge’s ‘Behind The Ryder Cup’ documents the history of the biennial battle and the stories of those involved. There was probably enough material from the rowdy 1991 clash alone to fill the vaults at the National Archives.

“1991 was a turning point for the Ryder Cup and not in a good way,” said the European captain at the time, Bernard Gallacher.

European golf was in a great period of pomp. Sandy Lyle, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam had all conquered in major championships while the Ryder Cup had been in the clutches of the energised Europeans since 1985.

Dave Stockton’s Americans, meanwhile, were roused by a new sense of patriotic fervour after the conclusion of the first Gulf War. It would manifest itself in a frenzy of jingoism that just about required a UN peacekeeping force.

“Corey Pavin had the idea of wearing camouflage caps that had the Marines logo on it,” said Gallacher. “Corey was trying to honour the people fighting in the war but it came over as if they were making it into a war. We felt that wasn’t appropriate.”

Lanny Wadkins had his own thoughts on the general hoopla. “A little antagonism is not a bad thing,” he said. “If you don’t want to beat the crap out of someone let’s not go out there.”

Throw in a showreel of Ryder Cup highlights at the pre-match gala which only featured footage of the USA and a ‘Wake the Enemy’ campaign by a partisan local radio station and the whole atmosphere was as potentially explosive as a smouldering cigarette butt in a munitions factory.

The exposed, windswept, Ocean Course provided a barren, unforgiving stage for this outbreak of hostilities. “It was rough and wild and rugged,” said Nick Faldo of the course, not that gala dinner. “A few guys left there with some scars in their golf games.”

Over three days of intense, gruelling and compelling competition, controversy stalked the fairways.

In a niggly, heated opening foursomes involving Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal and Paul Azinger and Chip Beck, the US pairing had been left agitated by a questionable drop taken by the Europeans before the fiery Seve accused Azinger of playing with the wrong compression of ball as the match moved to the 10th.

An official was called in, there was much finger-wagging debate but the referee ruled in favour of the US. The palaver, though, had rattled the Americans. “I was livid,” said Azinger.

Ballesteros and Olazabal had been three down at that stage but roared back to win on the back nine. “Chip and I were so shaken by the incident on the 10th tee we three-putted the next green and our game went downhill from there,” added Azinger.

The engrossing ebb and flow continued throughout the entire contest. Going into the final day singles, the match was level at 8-8. Steve Pate, who had been injured in a car crash just days before the match, was, somewhat contentiously, withdrawn by the US meaning Europe had to bench their chosen ‘name in the envelope’ which was the unfortunate David Gilford. “He was absolutely gutted, I’ve never seen a man so broken,” said Tony Jacklin.

As affairs unravelled amid intolerable tension, it all came down to the final hole of the final match between Bernhard Langer and Hale Irwin. Langer had a six-footer to win his match and ensure a 14-14 tie that would’ve retained the cup for Europe. “I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t swallow,” recalled Irwin. Langer missed and the US erupted in jubilation.

“I got into the locker room and it was a scene that I’ll never forget,” said Colin Montgomerie, who was a Ryder Cup rookie in 1991. “Seve and Langer were crying, embracing each other. Olazabal was in tears. Woosnam wanted to hit everybody.”

Kiawah Island this week may be a tad more tranquil.