Graeme McDowell produced a simply brilliant victory in The 2010 Celtic Manor Wales Open after an exhilarating final round. Following the event here’s what people had to say about the Twenty Ten Course.
MARC WARREN: The last few holes coming in are a natural amphitheatre and if you have 40,000 people along there it will be fantastic. But it is a great venue and the course is in great condition. You just can’t see why it won’t be a success here.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I think it stacks up tee to green as one of the best courses we play right now and I am not the only person who is saying that. I have read the reports from other top players and they feel the same way. Very, very few courses get as less criticism as this if you know what I mean. This is fabulous tee to green. The changes that have been done not just by myself but by EGD (European Golf Design) have been fantastic and have proved worthy. I think the pin locations are going to be similar to those that we play in October and I think the pin placements need a lot of thought, it is not just about length here, you need to be in the right side of the fairway for certain pin positions, it is a great set-up. I am biased in some ways but, as I said, I am not the only one saying this, a lot of the top players are saying exactly the same thing. This is a great test of golf and people are enjoying playing the course, they are enjoying the challenges of certain shots into tight pin locations and the challenge of hitting the fairway is number one because you can’t get near the pins if you’re off the fairway. It has proven itself over the last four days, yes.
GRAEME MCDOWELL: The golf course is magnificent. They really have a successful, successful golf course here. I love the way this golf course sets up. I drove the ball fantastic this week, and that’s what you’ve got to do around here. The fairways are reasonably generous targets in places about you if you missed them, there was some horrible, horrible rough out there, really thick, wiry type stuff. This golf course has all the length you want and I think they have a fabulous amount of tee options.
TERRY MATTHEWS: All of the players say they really like the course. It’s really hard to get everybody in agreement on things but there is pretty much an alignment of opinions. The European Tour have been all over it and its development has been very technical.
OLIVER WILSON: I felt that it was built to an American design, though situated in a Welsh valley where the ball doesn’t run so far as it does in the States. But now I am a complete convert and convinced it is going to produce a very exciting Ryder Cup. Do not get me wrong, it is still a very tough and strong course. But they have now got so many options with different tees and pin positions it can be adapted to suit the weather.
The Welsh Open might not normally set pulses racing amongst all but the most die-hard of golfing aficionados, but this year’s event in Newport, South Wales will attract a little more interest in golfing and indeed wider sporting circles.
For the third year in a row, the Open will be staged on the Twenty Ten course in Celtic Manor, the first course in history to be built specifically for the Ryder Cup, which takes place at the same venue from 1-3 October this year.
Completed in 2007, the splendid TwentyTen course, one of three at Celtic Manor, was designed by European Golf Design (EGD), a joint venture between the European Tour and International Management Group (IMG) established in 1992. Planning for the course started as far back as 1999, construction began in 2004 and was completed two years later.
Managing director of EGD Jeremy Slessor explained to JOE the dynamics of building a course specifically for a once-off event that will not only attract thousands of fans to the course but will be viewed on television by millions worldwide.
“It (the Ryder Cup) is like a normal tour event on steroids,” he says. “Space was a primary concern. Space for spectators, for the village, for hospitality, for the media, for bus terminals, for contractors compounds, for TV compounds, those sorts of things.
“The scale of it is so much bigger than a usual event and the other factor in terms of spectators is it’s not like a normal event where you’ve got golf around the entire golf course. Apart from Sunday, you’ve only got four games on the course at any one time so you’ve got 40-50,000 people fairly well concentrated in certain sections of the course. You need some extra space to give that volume of people the ability to move around the place.”
The result of the EGD design, combined with the input of engineers, ecologists, archaeologists and the European Tour Staging Department, is a par 71, 7,493 yard course in Wales’ Usk valley that offers spectacular views of the area towards nearby Caerleon, which was once the site of a Roman legionary fortress. Water is a threat on a significant number of holes and there are also plenty of trees on site to punish anyone wayward from the tee.
As well as building the course to be able to deal with the important logistical elements of staging an event like the Ryder Cup, the TwentyTen course has, according to Slessor, specific features built in that will suit the match play format of the competition.
“You can’t ignore the fact that the course is going to hold the Ryder Cup once, but certainly, there was thought given to how holes might play coming down the stretch. Therefore, on the last five or six holes there’s certainly a lot of risk and reward opportunity.
“If you take it on and hit a good shot, there’s a reward there but if you miss it, the penalty is fairly severe. The way the course will be set up for the Ryder Cup on many holes will be different to how it will be set up for the Welsh Open.”
European captain Colin Montgomerie has made clear his wishes that his players play the Welsh Open so that they can get a feel for the course ahead of the Ryder Cup, but so far has been hit by the withdrawals of stellar names such as Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Ireland duo Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy to name but a few.
Montgomerie will play the event himself, however, and should be familiar with the course given that he had a hands-on role in some of the modifications and refinements that have taken place at the Newport venue.
“Colin has been involved over the past year or so in terms of looking at where there were opportunities to make some subtle little refinements,” says Slessor.
“In a couple of places, he wanted it so that the penalty of – I won’t say hitting a bad shot – but not hitting the perfect shot, was increased. It was little tiny tweaks like that he was involved in instead of wanting to add five additional bunkers or taking a bunker away or anything like that.
“Then as a design team we’ve looked at those suggestions and certain things have actually been done and other bits we’ve decided in the end weren’t going to achieve very much so we’ve left it as it is.”
It’s clear that Slessor is proud of what the EGD team have achieved with the Twenty Ten course at Celtic Manor. Like a father asked to pick his favourite child, however, Slessor balked slightly when asked which hole in particular on the course stood out as one to watch:
“It’s quite tough to pick out a stand-out hole,” he says. “I think that each hole has got something to offer; we don’t design signature holes. That’s pointless, you take a huge amount of money and try and make one hole good and it’s to the detriment of the others.
“Each hole adds to the flow of the course, each hole has a slightly different challenge to it but I guess that as you get into the round, certainly with the Ryder Cup atmosphere, the pressure will start to build the closer you get to the Clubhouse because the opportunity for taking a gamble becomes greater.
“Certainly, on holes such as the 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th there are great opportunities to take a risk; if you pull it off you’re a hero and if you don’t, you’re a numpty.”
Only one question remains for Slessor, then. Will Colin Montgomerie be repeating the K-Club antics of Ian Woosnam in 2006 and downing pints of Guinness after lifting the prestigious trophy? Or will it be those pesky Americans running wildly onto the green to celebrate with a man waiting to putt, like Brookline in 1999?
“Europe will win,” he says. “I wouldn’t put my mortgage on it, but I’m quietly confident Europe will win.”
Considering that he’s been involved intimately with every nook, cranny and divot on the course, we’ll take Slessor at his word.
The 14th hole on the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor
With the Wales Open only six weeks away, and the Ryder Cup a little less than five months after that, the finishing touches have now being made to the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor Resort.
Last week some of the staff here at European Golf Design had the opportunity to visit Celtic Manor and see first hand what has been going on.
Over the winter Ross has been working closely with Jim McKenzie and his staff as the final few tweaks were made to some of the bunkers on the original holes to ensure that their style was consistent with those on the new holes. One of the most important aspects for us during the development of the Twenty Ten Course has been to ensure that there is a seamless progression between the nine new holes and the nine holes retained from the previous course. At the outset we were determined to make the bunkers on the new holes deeper and more penal with rolling grass faces blending into the flashed up sand to improve the visual aesthetics. As a result all the bunkers on the old holes have been remodelled in the same style by Jim’s team. Many have also been repositioned to improve their strategic value or reshaped to resolve other maintenance issues.
European Ryder Cup Team Captain Colin Montgomerie has also been involved. Following a course inspection last autumn Colin suggested some improvements to the par 5 11th hole and subsequently Ross and Jim have coordinated some major revisions to the green surrounds. The bunkers have been made more penal and the entrance into the green tightened. In addition a drop off on the left side of the green has been carved out which will kick any ball missing the target on that side down and away from the putting surface, towards the water. As a consequence this relatively short par 5 will now have a couple of much tougher pin positions and the approach to the green will need a great deal more thought.
Following other comments from Colin and feedback following the last Wales Open the opportunity has also been taken to adjust some fairway and rough outlines around the course to enhance the playing strategy.
With the completion of the Ryder Cup practice area and the opening of the bridge across the River Usk which will link it to the golf course, as well as the installation of numerous new tarmac roads and pathways to facilitate easier access for spectators and vehicles, the last 12 months have been another hugely busy period at Celtic Manor Resort. The Wales Open which starts on June 3rd will be a great opportunity for players and spectators alike to see what’s in store before the big event in October.
Invited by Celtic Manor to attend the Year To Go celebrations at the resort on Monday. The two Ryder Cup captains, Colin Montgomerie and Corey Pavin, played an exhibiton match on The Twenty Ten Course with Radio and TV presenter Chris Evans and Welsh opera singer Bryn Terfel. Played on a beautiful sunny day over 9 of the new holes designed by European Golf Design the match ended on the 18th green with an honourable half. Afterwards at the Gala Dinner the guests were treated to a question and answer session with the captains and entertainment from Bryn Trefel, and singer John Owen James as well as MC Chris Evans.
Thoughts on the day;
1 – The Captains – Both came across impressively during the day. Admittedly it was all pretty light hearted stuff but their mutual respect and competitiveness was clearly evident.
2 – Chris Evans – Don’t take on Chris Evans in a game of golf , You’ll be beaten. A 15 handicapper going on 5. Oh, and a superb MC.
3 – That Bryn can sing….Wow. Never been particularly interested in that style of singing before but to hear it live is a real experience.
4 – John Owen Jones… a star in the making. Thought he was the resident comedian…and then he sang! Great performer.
5 – Rhodri Morgan, The First Minister for Wales – A politician and a born entertainer. I laughed ‘till I cried!
6 – Gareth Edwards – You can only admire his passion and pride for Wales hosting the Ryder Cup, and on The Twenty Ten Course where he is Honorary Captain.
7 – The Ryder Cup – It’s difficult for anyone to understand the sheer scale of organization that’s required to host the Ryder Cup and you have to admire those responsible for its coordination.
8 – The Celtic Manor Resort – There’s no denying it will be a superb host for both teams.
9 – Sir Terry Mathews – a man who, if he’s told “it can’t be done”, proves it can!
10 – Sun block – Who’d have thought I would regret not bringing the factor 20 to Wales – in October!
To Celtic Manor Resort (CMR) and the official opening of the Twenty Ten Course prior to the Wales Open. Chairman of CMR Sir Terry Mathews, First Minister for Wales the Rt Hon Rhodri Morgan and European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady perform the opening functions although ominously their words are almost drowned out by the sound of torrential rain falling on the roof of the media centre. Later I take time to talk to Tournament Director Mike Stewart about the course set up. The course is playing long and Mike thinks we’ll move some of the tees forward which is fine by me. The course has been designed to have this kind of flexibility. The view from the players seems pretty encouraging from the limited play they’ve been able to have so far. After a month’s rainfall in the past four days, go to bed praying that the drainage system works!
Thursday 29th May
Fantastic – the rain has stopped. Less fantastic – we are delayed because of fog! The drainage has worked though and soon the players are out and I spend the morning watching how various holes play. Glad to see that many of them are going for the green on the par 5 18th with their second shot, despite the carry over water in front of the green. In the afternoon I spend some time with Russell Phillips of CMR, John Jermine, Chairman of Ryder Cup Wales and a film crew from BBC Wales. We walk several holes and discuss various aspects of the designs for the course, particularly the spectator viewing areas and the work that was carried out to protect and enhance natural habitats as well as the archaeological heritage of the site. Take the opportunity to speak to some of the players after they come off the golf course. All the players I managed to catch up with following their rounds are very positive about the golf course, despite the soft conditions. To bed with the sound of rain beating against the window again.
Friday 30th May
Thank goodness – it’s dry. I go down to the practice area to see how the spatial relationships work between the practice greens, the driving range and player and spectator movement. From there, the players have a very short walk to the 1st tee. Come the Ryder Cup most of the practice area will be used for the tented village. An additional practice ground is being constructed on the other side of the river to be connected by a bridge. Wander into the media centre to see some of the journalists. They’ve got a great location right next to the 18th green, as have many of the hospitality units on the other side of the fairway on the specially constructed platforms which create a natural amphitheatre. We watch as Danny Willetts, playing his first professional tournament, plays his second shot. He needs to make an eagle to make the cut and goes for the green. He only just makes the carry but the soft ground conditions just stop his ball from rolling all the way back into the water. His chip is well struck, climbs the steep slope, runs across the green and into the hole. Never looked like missing. Danny will be back for the weekend. I’m off home.