Celtic Manor Resort played host to the 2010 Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Europe. Team Captains were Corey Pavin (US) and Colin Montgomerie (Europe). The first Ryder Cup to be hosted in Wales was also staged on a golf course designed specifically for the event, which was unfortunately blighted by bad weather that twice resulted in the suspension of play and finally concluded on the Monday. Europe had a 3-point lead going into the singles matches, but Team USA rallied, taking the tournament to the anchor match between Graeme McDowell and Hunter Mahan. McDowell thought he had already faced his sternest character test after winning his first Major at the US Open Championship earlier that year, but he was wrong. "I have never felt as nervous in my life," McDowell later admitted after defeating Mahan 3 & 1 to regain the Cup for Europe. Europe 14 ½ - USA 13 ½. The Ryder Cup was played at Valhalla in 2008 and at Medinah in 2012.
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 no doubt he thought the piece de resistance was the Wentwood Hills course, which opened for play in September 1999, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jnr but we doubt that even in his wildest dreams could he ever have imagined that Celtic Manor would host a Ryder Cup.
A bit of Augusta, a bit of Florida and a lot of Wales, was how they referred to Wentwood Hills and they were absolutely right. There was a coalition of British and American features, which Trent Jones Jnr described as “a true championship course that combines a hilly landscape with the more traditional links-like features of an estuary. There's great variety here”. But all that was before Celtic Manor became the chosen venue for the 2010 Ryder Cup when a decision was made to create a new course for staging golf’s greatest team event.
In July 2007, the first course to be built specifically for the Ryder Cup opened its tees for play. The course, aptly called “Twenty Ten”, is the result of collaboration between the European PGA, golf course architects and tour pros; the objective was to create a unique Ryder Cup venue.
The new Twenty Ten course measures a beefy 7,493 yards with par set at 71. It features nine dramatic new holes that have been routed through the Usk Valley, as well as nine holes from the former Wentwood Hills course that have been extensively re-fashioned. The new design ensures not only that each hole is an exacting test but also that there is an amphitheatre for great spectator viewing.
The Celtic Manor Wales Open, staged on the Roman Road course until 2007. saw the event switch to the Twenty Ten course in 2008 with Scott Strange victorious. The 2009 tournament saw Denmark’s Jeppe Huldahl upstage a stellar field to land the 2009 title and its £300,000 first prize. Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell won the 2010 event. Speaking to the BBC in June 2010, Celtic Manor owner Sir Terry Matthews cast doubt on the future of the Wales Open… click here for more. However, Saab stepped in to sponsor the Wales Open in 2011 (won by Alexander Norén) and ISPS Handa took the reins over in 2012.
With water hazards on half of its holes and no fewer than six signature holes, Twenty Ten represents a serious test and also plenty of risk-and-reward challenges. Variety is a keyword of Twenty Ten, where a number of holes on the outward nine have a links-like feel before you enter the lake-lined middle section prior to reaching the elevated closing stretch of four holes which witnessed plenty of memorable Ryder Cup drama.
Wentwood Hills was a formidable championship layout but Twenty Ten is perhaps even more frightening, especially if your game is off tune. If you are a lover of all things traditional, then Celtic Manor is probably not for you. But if you are seeking thrills and an exciting and tough challenge, then Twenty Ten will fit the bill perfectly.