TOUR WATCH: 29 May-1 June: Celtic Manor Wales Open


Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

After a few years being held on the Roman Road course at Celtic Manor, this year's Wales Open will be the golfing public's first chance to see the new Twenty Ten course, built at great expense specifically to hold the Ryder Cup.

While Roman Road, at scarcely more than 6,700 yards, was rather too short for professional golf – and came close, two years ago, to giving up a round of 59 when Philip Archer lipped out a birdie putt on the eighteenth hole – the new course, at 7,493 yards, par 71, is most unlikely to yield such low scores.

Architect Ross McMurray has used nine of the holes from the old Wentwood Hills course and built a whole new finishing sequence along the hillside above the Usk valley. From the fourteenth onwards, the players will be faced with a series of high risk, high reward shot options, with the potential for big scoring swings. The fourteenth, the last hole on the valley floor, has water threatening both tee and approach shots, and the long hitter who takes on the full length of the lake with the driver will be rewarded with a short and straightforward pitch to the green. The attractive fifteenth again presents a choice: can the golfer hit a long, straight tee shot carrying 270 yards steeply uphill to the green benched in the hill?. The hole resembles a hillside version of the famous fourteenth at Loch Lomond, but is probably much more dangerous.

The long downhill eighteenth hole presents a dramatic finish. At 613 yards, it barely seems reachable, but the top players will no doubt want to have a go. McMurray has dammed the stream coming down the valley side to create a substantial water hazard in front but well below the level of the green. The slope between water and green will doubtless be mown tight, and any shot that fails to get right onto the putting surface, or hits the front section of the green with too much backspin, will make a slow, painful descent into the hazard – a penal finish, but one specially designed for closing hole drama!