The Rookie Tour of the top 5 ranked course in Wales began with Celtic Manor’s Twenty Ten Course. The 1 and only Welsh course that has hosted a Ryder Cup.
As soon as you turn off the road to head towards to the club house it feels different, with a reasonable descent down into the valley the practice facilities appear, then all of a sudden the club house to your right and an array of bunkers down the 1st and 2nd holes.
I could not fault the arrival, especially being met at the bag drop by the concierge who tagged our bags, booked us in and gave us the tour then, explained what would happen on the lead up to our tee time.
We were escorted to our lockers- we were in the American side of the dressing room. I had Zach Johnstons locker, but a few feet away was the locker that golfing legend Tiger Woods used. There was something extremely special about being in that locker room, something that is very hard to describe – you have to experience yourself to understand.
40 minutes before our tee time we were picked up and driven down to the practice area and 1st tee, again an experience like no other. Like most of you I’m used to just walking up to the 1st and off I go, not being driven and having free range and practice balls for the facilities!
The practice facilities we great, a driving range with no real distance limitations, a big putting green and then chipping area with bunkers for practice. Again this is the 1st time I’ve experienced practice facilities like that, and I could not fault them. In fact It was a little daunting feeling I had to have a go on everything!
It’s long at a whopping 6,539 yards off the Yellows. One of the most noticeable things for me was distance perception, I’ve already mentioned that it’s a long course, but the bunkers, water hazards and the greens all felt really close when in fact they were far from it. It was a constant battle with myself to not use my eyes for distance but my ShotScope V2.
Lucky for me the fairways were pretty forgiving and a lot of the hazards and the greens were usually in sight from the tee. Just to reiterate this course really did test my distance perception.
This was my 1st experience with a really well designed course, I don’t mean any disrespect to the course I have played. What I mean by this, are the hazards off the tee and positioned for the small, medium and long hitters. Once you get to the 1st set of bunkers you are then either facing more fairway bunkers on the par 5’s, and/or green side bunkers that protect the green and force you to attack the flag from one side of the green usually the side your not on or want to be playing towards.
For me I loved the challenge of managing my shots around the course as it really put my mind to work. Something I should be doing in my normal golf game, but that’s another post for another day.
Needless to say I ended up in 7 bunkers, something I’m not used to – not as much as my old man.
The flow of the course between the 1st hole up to the 14th fit seamlessly together. The course starts with bunker filled fairways for par 4’s and 5’s, before taking on the 1st par 3 over water. The course continues to introduce water into the holes and then brings water onto both sides of the hole which again brings an awesome challenge of accuracy and course management. Big egos can and will be punished.
Then comes the 15th, the longest walk I’ve ever had between a green and tee. Over a bridge away from the rest of the course, I really felt a disconnect during the walk. Stepping onto the 15th, you stare at a bunker on a 90 degree dog leg right, with some big old trees all the way from the tee box to the right hand corner of the hole. I was a little perplexed by this as it really disrupted the flow up until this point.
As a compensation for the ‘ugly’ looking hole as soon as I got to the dog leg I was faced with a pretty impressive looking green and a tricky 2nd shot.
An elevated green with a small water fall and stream underneath and surrounded by bunkers!
For me the disconnect carried on for the last 4 holes as well. You climb to a par 4, which overlooks the rest of the course, before reaching a par 3 which has some of the hotel’s accommodation nearby. Then finally a descending par 5 to a grandstand finish in front of the club house. As the 2010 is not the busiest of courses we only had 3 people watching.
Overall the experience, the design and how well the course was kept was truly an awesome experience, however for me 15th through to 18th made the finish a little lack luster. The holes present their own challenges. For some, they might like that they change the layout for the final stretch after getting into some form of rhythm avoiding water, but for me it didn’t have the appeal.
Through the next 5 course reviews I’ll be using the same scoring system, I will however hold back the over all course rating until the last one where I will announce the order of the top 5 courses in my opinion.
Welcome/Hospitality: 10 out of 10
Practice facilities: 7 out of 10
Course condition: 8 out of 10
Greens: 7 out of 10
Flow of course: 6 out 10
Course Ranking in Wales (as per golf monthly at time of booking): 5
Favorite hole – 12th. A good tee shot puts you in position to go over the water but also offers a bail out to the left. A smallish green protected by bunkers makes it a tough challenging hole and yes of course I took on the water and just over shot the back of the green. It has the 2nd smallest green on the course, and is stroke index 4. Overall it’s just a great hole to play.
The Next Course Review is Royal St Davids, until then Happy Golfing