The resort at Celtic Manor was conceived and developed by Sir Terence Matthews. In the late 1970s, Matthews bought a near derelict manor house and turned it into a small hotel. The hotel became popular and successful, winning the Egon Ronay Best Hotel in Wales award five years on the trot. Matthews’s long-term vision was a golfing complex; and after three years in the planning and making, the Roman Road course, designed by Robert Trent-Jones Senior, opened for play in 1995.
The main Roman East-West road crosses the course, hence the name. However the routing of the holes has ensured that the Roman archaeology has been preserved. In fact, the whole design is totally in tune with its surroundings. The natural contours of the land and the mature trees are at one with the golf course.
It stretches to a testing 6,600 yards from the back tees, but it’s likely that you will be asked to play from the yellow tees which brings the yardage down to a modest 6,000 yards (5,300 yards from the ladies’ tees). From the forward tees you might dismiss the course as short, but it certainly doesn’t play like a short course. Quite the contrary.
We are not buggy lovers, but we advise you to consider taking one because the walks between greens and tees are quite lengthy and the undulating layout makes for tough walking.
There are many memorable holes on the Roman Road, especially the long par three 8th, played through a tunnel of trees and the short par four 14th, a right to left dogleg. The second shot needs to carry a lake, which protects the green.
Trent Jones Senior has created an American-style course that will appeal to golfers of all abilities for the holes are captivating and challenging. Combine Celtic Manor's Roman Road with the new Twenty Ten course (2010 Ryder Cup course) for a really memorable golf day.
This is a much better course than I had expected, and pretty decent value. It is resort golf, a bit soulless, but perhaps due to the grim weather, we were virtually alone on the course. Considering the recent terrible storms in South Wales, the course was in really good condition.
I think that the order of play has been changed since some of the earlier reviews.
In general, the course is set up to be pretty forgiving from the tee. You can be quite wayward without any punishment worse than some gentle rough.
In my view the star hole is the 13th, a dog leg par 4 which requires a pretty daunting mid-iron second, from a downhill lie, across a water hazard lined with dense scrubby bushes, to a very elevated green.
The 5 par 3s are quite tough, two at about 175 yards and three at about 210 yards. In a way they sum up the course - a decent design, a good test, but lacking in character.
The Roman Road was pretty much what I was expecting. There were several enormous bunkers on both the fairways and around the greens. The putting surfaces were huge with some bold contouring and apart from a couple of tighter tree-lined holes you were pretty much free to wield your driver with semi-rough your likely punishment for a wayward shot. That said, many of the holes did favour one side of the fairway to make your approach from and the placement of the bunkers added an undercurrent of strategy.
The course was manicured perfectly with excellent tees, closely mown fairways and true greens. The ball seemed to sit up on top of the grass if you missed a green making chipping and pitching a lot easier than at some courses where the ball can nestle down.
At just under 6,500 yards the Roman Road course isn't a monster but it does require long hitting at times.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
For our group this was the weakest of the 3 courses at the hotel, felt crammed into the available land with some back and forth around the hotel. Some nice holes requiring shots over trees, but the Montgomerie is definitely better.