1: WELSH RARE-MISS
written by CARL DANBURY, JR.
photography courtesy of CELTIC MANOR
Similar to missing a straight 2-foot, uphill birdie putt, having to cancel an opportunity to visit Celtic Manor Resort in Wales, about six months prior to where the 2010 Ryder Cup matches were to be held still haunts me.
While Wales might be fourth on the list of U.K. territories that American golfers and tourists seek behind Scotland, Ireland and England, its heritage as a Roman Empire outpost, along with its topography, makes it an alluring destination.
Celtic Manor, set among 2,000 acres of parkland, was the brainchild of telecommunications entrepreneur Sir Terry Matthews, Wales’s first billionaire, who purchased the original estate — formerly the maternity hospital in which he was born — in 1980. He refurbished the property and opened the Celtic Manor Hotel as a 17-bedroom establishment shortly thereafter.
Its capacity expanded to 70 bedrooms in the early 1990s when Matthews encouraged the late golf-course architect Robert Trent Jones, whose family roots extended to the northern Welsh town of Aberystwyth, to help construct two golf courses. After a property visit with Jones, the pair agreed to begin building the original Roman Road course at Celtic Manor. The course opened in 1995.
Four years later, the Wentwood Hills course was added, providing splendorous sight lines and immense challenges for professionals when it hosted The Celtic Manor Wales Open from 2000-4. The strenuous topography of its closing holes, however, was unpopular with some players. Designer Ross McMurray created a new layout that would eventually capture the fancies of both players and fans alike.
The 2010 Ryder Cup matches, played on the newly named and created Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor, was a boon for the resort, as well as for Welsh golf, which already boasted such terrific historical golf courses like Royal Porthcawl, Nefyn & District Golf Club and Royal St. David’s among nearly 200 more.
Celtic Manor Resort now offers the 330-bedroom Resort Hotel, the 19th-century Manor House with 70 bedrooms and the Newbridge on Usk, a separate country inn with six bedrooms. Just added to the property are 10 luxury Hunter Lodges that enjoy superb views over the lakes of the Twenty Ten Course, amenity-laden executive lodges and an abundance of new leisure facilities including adventure golf, treetop ropes and laser clay shooting.
Nearby, history buffs will be agog by the free museums offered in southern Wales, including the National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon, which allows visitors to explore life as it was in a far-flung outpost of the mighty Roman Empire. In 75 A.D., the Romans built a fortress at Caerleon that would guard the region for more than 200 years. St Fagans National History Museum is one of Europe’s leading open–air museums and Wales’s most popular heritage attraction, boasting one of the country’s finest Elizabethan manor houses, Fagan’s Castle and gardens. Sporting enthusiasts might enjoy a trip to Swansea for a Premier League football match, a rugby union match at Millennium Stadium or a cricket match at SWALEC Stadium. Both venues are in Cardiff.
I’ll need no second invitation. The new clubs are in. The new bags can be packed quickly. The old passion for all things Celtic still boils within. celtic-manor.com