FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Newport, South Wales, Celtic Manor, Twenty Ten Course

Aug 1, 2011
2011 / August 2011
When the Ryder Cup came to Celtic Manor last fall, it marked a first for Wales, the mostly mountainous country on the southwest coast of the sceptered isle. Rugby may be the national pastime, but for several wet, windy days in early October, crowds descended on the capital, Newport, for golf’s greatest team tournament.

Celtic Manor’s Twenty Ten Course, a 7,493-yard, par-71 parklands layout, was custom-made for the event. Nine new holes designed by European Golf Design were combined with nine from the pre-existing Wentwood Hills championship course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. The result: a blend of British and American styles with thick rough, deep bunkers and plenty of water — or as its architects put it, “a bit of Augusta, a bit of Florida, and a lot of Wales.”

Though by far the most famous, the Twenty Ten is but one of three championship courses at Celtic Manor. There’s also the par-70 Roman Road course, which has long hosted the Wales Open on the European Tour, and the par-69 Montgomerie. Designed by last year’s Ryder Cup captain, Colin Montgomerie, the latter is a rollercoaster of a course and the most links-like of the three, with steep slopes, deep pot bunkers and stunning views of the valley below.

Celtic Manor is less than two hours from London, but it could hardly feel more distant from the city. Set in the lush Usk Valley, the 1,400-acre estate sprawls across rolling hills, vast green meadows, reed swamps and salt marshes — a pristine, well-preserved spread situated in what the U.K. government has appropriately designated an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”
The resort also features a 330-room, 5-star hotel; a smaller, historic 4-star; a luxurious health club and spa; a shopping complex; and six restaurants, among them the fabulous Newbridge on Usk, a 200-year-old country inn with fireplaces and wood floors, local ales on tap and six stylish suites.

And there are barrels of fun to be had in the surrounding area. For one, there’s the Penderyn Distillery, maker of one of the world’s finest and rarest single malt whiskeys. Located in the Brecon Beacons National Park, the distillery offers tours and tastings in a gleaming new visitors’ center. At the nearby Treetops Sporting Ground, visitors can try their hands at clay pigeon shooting on a leafy 38-acre estate.

When course architect Ross McMurray designed the Twenty Ten, he knew he needed not just a course but a stage worthy of an event as storied and significant as the Ryder Cup. The Cup’s 40,000 spectators have since moved on, but the drama of that final day — when the Americans made their run and Graeme McDowell clinched the win for Europe in the very last match — is still in the air.

Hole 1 (465 yards, par 4)

From the first tee, the Twenty Ten dares you to take your best shot. The fairway doglegs right to left, and a cluster of bunkers at the turn makes any attempt at the most direct approach a risky proposition. You can play it safe by staying to the right, but you leave yourself with a 200-yard approach over the traps guarding the green. While there isn’t any water, the fescue rough can swallow balls whole — as it did mine. I was lucky to start the day with a bogey.

Hole 3 (189 yards, par 3)
Precision is key on the first of five par 3s, which is also one of six signature holes. It’s a straight shot from the back tee — a carry of 160-plus yards over a teardrop pond — but a yawning bunker protects the front right of the green. Too short and you’re in the drink; too long and you’ll roll off the back of the green into a maddeningly dense thicket. I managed to stick it pin high with a 6-iron only to three-putt from 15 feet.

Hole 5 (433 yards, par 4)

The course’s second signature hole serves up a classic risk/reward. Big hitters can make the green in two, but wayward tee shots are likely to find one of the bunkers on either side of the fairway, a left-to-right dogleg. If you can thread that needle, you’ll be rewarded with a 100-yard wedge over the stream hidden in a narrow gully; the smart play is up the right side just shy of the bunker. I did just that and made my first par.

Hole 9 (666 yards, par 5)
Yes, you read that yardage right. This is a hellishly long hole — one of the longest on a championship course anywhere in the world — and while the pros can make it in two, mortals will have to keep swinging. The River Styx — I mean Usk — runs up the left, and large bunkers line the right. Fortunately, the fairway in between is flat, wide and relatively forgiving.

Hole 12 (458 yards, par 4)

Tiger holed a 133-yard eagle here — with a second shot over the lake — on the last day of the Ryder Cup. I was pleased to simply keep the ball in play. Danger lurks everywhere. The fairway is practically a peninsula, the green a distant patch across the pond. And the question is, to go over it or around? Tiger-like, I gambled and won — sort of. I cleared the water but landed in one of the two bunkers that straddle the green.

Hole 14 (485 yards, par 4)
Once again, water comes into play for both the drive and the approach shot as the fairway snakes between twin lakes and up to a narrow, elevated green. Long hitters can clear the water with a big drive, but a shorter shot to the left of the lake leaves you less than 150 yards from the pin, albeit with more water along the left side.

Hole 15 (377 yards, par 4)
Twenty Ten’s most memorable hole is a par 4 with a drivable but well-protected green. It tempts and teases from atop a hill on the far side of a ridge of trees. My tee shot carried the 270 yards of woodland, cleared the two bunkers at the entrance of the green and landed 10 feet from the pin only to roll down the back into a third trap.

Hole 18 (575 yards, par 5)

The course concludes in dramatic fashion with a long, downhill fairway that rises suddenly and steeply to a treacherous green in full view of the clubhouse. It’s reachable in two, but only for those whose tee shot avoids the bunkers on the left and the steep run-off on the right. The elevated green sits 20 feet above the water between two large traps. Stay left and long and you’ll be just fine.

The Celtic Manor Resort

Coldra Woods
Newport, South Wales NP18 1HQ
United Kingdom
tel 44 1633 413 000
www.celtic-manor.com

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