In Wales — renowned for links courses fringed by windswept dunes bordering the sea — Celtic Manor’s parkland Twenty Ten Course boasts iconic status as the tough turf of the 38th Ryder Cup, dangling thrills galore for golfers testing their mettle in the paths of star players.
Nestled on the floor of South Wales’ scenic Usk Valley, the Twenty Ten — a par-71 course measuring 7,493 yards off the back tees — was purposely designed and built to host a Ryder Cup. Credit a spontaneous brainwave by Canadian entrepreneur Terry Matthews for the inspiration. While establishing a European headquarters for Mitel Networks, he spotted a vast tract of land bordering the M4 Freeway in Newport and figured it would be a “dynamite location” for a resort with golf courses.
Opened in 2007, the architectural layout of Twenty Ten involved revamping nine holes originally designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., and adding nine holes crafted by European Golf Design — all done in tandem with environmentalists to protect the delicate Usk Valley ecology, as well as archaeologists to avoid and preserve ancient Roman ruins found in the area.
Seen from the hills of the adjacent Montgomerie Course (one of Celtic Manor’s trio of courses), Twenty Ten is a picturesque tapestry of emerald and blue, the blue being penalizing water on half the holes. Decidedly configured with meandering fairways, undulating greens, wickedly positioned bunkers, greenside swales and knee-high fescue, the course is guaranteed to tempt you with risks for rewards, never mind jog your ego. With four tee boxes, players of various skill levels have flexibility to set up a satisfying game. Playing off the back tees is your chance to beat the Ryder Cup pros.
Whatever the score, success is your bragging right for playing the land of the dragons. Whoever said golf was an easy stroll in the park had yet to play Twenty Ten. A sweet thought to consider while lingering at the clubhouse terrace, sipping a Guinness or Black Velvet while watching players finish the Ryder Cup course.
Hole 1 | 465 yards, par 4
The opening hole — a long par 4 with a cluster of bunkers cinching the elbow at the dogleg left — alerts you: This is a thinking player’s game of risk and reward; there’s no fooling around. Even if you land safely on the fairway right, you must still clear two gaping traps guarding the undulating green. Then hope your ball stays put for a putt.
Hole 3 | 189 yards, par 3
Stunning yet seductive, the first of Twenty Ten’s five par 3s tempts a swift swing. But don’t be swayed; there’s a reason it ranks as one of the course’s six signature holes. With scant room for error, target marksmanship counts. After propelling your ball some 160 yards over a glistening pond fringed with flowering shrubs, you must avoid the teasing bunker flanking the green and hope the ball stops on its velvety surface.
Hole 5 | 457 yards, par 4
Rated as the “second” signature hole, the fifth presents a conundrum with several hazards determined to taunt you. You may envision a birdie from the tee, but it’s not so simple. Bunkers clutch both sides at the dogleg bend, eager to snare your ball; and a stream that runs like a pretty blue ribbon down the right of the fairway veers deceptively in front of the green. A strategic drive may ensure a smart approach to the green. But don’t despair if the birdie escapes — facing thick rough and a protective trap, even pro players scored a bogey or more.
Hole 6 | 452 yards, par 4
Daunting at first glance, the view off the tee is a vast lake, its fescue-fringed curve hugged by a narrow fairway that rolls toward a lofty green. High mounds and deep bunkers line the fairway’s left, defying you to evade them as you hit over the water. To reap rewards for a long drive, it’s best to visualize the shot, ignore the lake and think positive. Lest you sink the ball in the blue, chant the golfer’s mantra: It’s just a game. It’s just a game.
Hole 14 | 485 yards, par 4
Talent bucks temptation on the signature 14th, where the tight fairway weaving between two long lakes requires an honest assessment of your skill. Confident long hitters may carry the lake on the right, leaving a clear chip to the green. Conservative types may be smart to lay up on the unobstructed fairway for a shot across the water. Meanwhile, unless you’re competing, this is one of those glorious holes where it’s worth risking a stroke just for fun.
Hole 15 | 377 yards, par 4
Destined to leave you exhilarated, baffled or both, the tricky 15th has hole-in-one potential, depending on your skill and gumption. Before teeing off, it helps to preview the green, nearly hidden behind a copse of towering trees. Protected by three deep bunkers, the elevated green slopes to a rocky stream lined with fescue. Gutsy players able to carry 270 yards over trees may survive cutting the corner yet find their ball swallowed in sand. Others will find it safer to play through the fairway and hit up to the green.
Hole 17 | 211 yards, par 3
My favorite hole — maybe because my tee shot literally grazed the hole, albeit leaving a long putt for a par — the elevated 17th green demands a precise tee shot, as it is defended with thick grass and deep bunkers. I couldn’t resist smiling while the rest of my foursome agonized in the rough, searching for their balls.
Hole 18 | 575 yards, par 5
Thrilling to the finish, the 18th teases players’ hopes with an eagle ending. A true test of skill, it is designed for a long approach shot where you must make a calculated gamble: Risk a targeted shot over the pond to the elevated green, or lay up to a downhill lie short of the pond from where you must shoot to the green. Either way, a miss-hit will plant your ball in a bunker or send it rolling down the 30-yard slope to the water.
Coldra Woods, The Usk Valley
Newport, South Wales
tel 44 1633 413 000
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