The Celtic Manor Resort is not just a golf resort, there is so much to do here for the whole family but my visit was all about experiencing the Twenty Ten course.
We are looked after right from the start, a shuttle bus takes us and our clubs to the Twenty Ten clubhouse where, while our clubs are taken to the practice ground, we are given a full tour of the facilities. Half an hour before we a due to tee off we are taken down to the practice area next to the first tee where you can practice all areas of your game before being called by the starter.
To calm your nerves I would suggest playing down the right of the first, well away from the cluster of bunkers on the left but go too far right and you leave a slightly trickier approach to the green. I didn’t get the best of drives away, ending up short of the bunkers on the left, leaving me with a long way to go and no view of the green. I hit a better second shot which stopped about 80 yards short of the green but I then topped my wedge way past, almost on to the second tee area, I ended up opening my round with a seven!
The second requires a drive between the two bunkers and then accurate positioning to avoid all the sand with your second shot as even long hitters will find this a tough one to reach in two. I found some heavy rough with my second shot so had to hack out short of the huge bunker before the green, posting another seven, not too bad on this tough hole. The chance to get a few shots back on my playing companions came at the first short hole, anything left is going to be wet and they both hit a draw off the tee into the water. Trying to make sure I didn’t do the same I over compensated and found the heavy rough to the right of the green side bunker, lets just say nobody made par on this hole.
You have had a good drive if you reach the bunkers either side of the fourth fairway and I would advise taking one more club than you think for your approach as it looks very easy for the ball to roll back off of this green. The fifth is a cracking hole, you have three options from the tee. Go for accuracy and drive between the bunkers leaving a mid-iron over the water, play short of the bunkers to leave a long iron maybe into the fringe and hope for a run onto the green or go long to carry the bunker complex leaving a much shorter approach. I hit a good drive between the bunkers but a poor second shot ruined this hole for me.
Water runs the whole length of the sixth hole giving you a simple choice, the closer you get to the water the shorter your approach will be. The safest option is to probably aim for the bunkers on the left, I tried this but hit a bit of a slice, doing the same thing with my second attempt. I enjoyed playing the hole but my score suggests I had a nightmare, an ugly 8. There is no water on the short seventh but the green side bunkers still pose a threat. A wayward tee shot put me left of the bunker and I attempted a ‘Mickelson’ flop shot over it. I executed it very well but did not get enough length and ended up in the bunker.
Holes eight and nine continue where the opening two holes left off, following the path of the River Usk. The raised fairway bunkers provide a tough obstacle, reaching the green from those sand traps requires an impressive strike so steer clear of them. The key to the ninth hole is to miss the sand from the tee otherwise this becomes a very long hole. An accurate lay-up is also required to avoid the smaller bunkers further along the fairway while the approach to the green is the closest you will get to the river so avoid going left at all costs, I had a putt for a par here but came up a long way short.
The tenth gives a good chance of a birdie if you can avoid the four green side bunkers, if anything make sure you take enough club as being just off the back of the green is better than being in the sand. I made the first par of my round here, which kind of tells you how bad the first nine went. A huge lake lies in wait along the left side of the fairway of the eleventh, aim over the bunkers with your drive, you should clear them. Hug the right side of the fairway with your second shot and keep your approach right as well as a deep hollow awaits anything rolling off left. I had a chance of starting the back nine with two consecutive par’s but my putting was letting me down and I posted a 6.
The twelfth is a cracking par 4 with two lakes to avoid, there is a bail out area that curves around the left of the second lake if you think you cannot carry the water. There is more water to avoid on the thirteenth where I hit one of my best iron shots of the round, straight at the pin but just a bit short on length leaving a long putt for a birdie which I failed to convert but the back nine was going much better than the front.
I really liked the fourteenth, water is in play for both your drive and your approach, long hitters can attack the green head on where the more conservative golfer will for the middle of the fairway leaving an awkward angle to the putting surface over water and rocks. I went for safety first up the middle of the fairway leaving a long second shot and hit a cracking 5-iron approach to the green. My poor putting continued however and I took three more shots to get down. Most players will try to go for the short route on the fifteenth as the rough on the other side of the tree line is not very severe and you have to hit quite a decent drive to get far enough up the fairway for a view of the green. Personally I think they should let the rough grow a little so the urge to cut the corner is reduced.
Your journey back towards the clubhouse starts with the sixteenth a long and demanding par 4 that for most will play like a par 5, if you come off the green with a four here give yourself a pat on the back. A pulled drive to the left ruined my chances of a par here but a 6 still felt good. The final short hole is heavily defended by bunkers on the right and anything that drifts left is in danger of hitting the path. The wind had picked up a little when we reached this hole making club selection tricky, do you go for one more club or two?
A drive over the brow of the hill leaves you with a dramatic downhill finish to your round where you can pause to take in the view of the whole course and the magnificent clubhouse. Only the very brave long hitters will attempt to go for the green in two, the rest of us mere mortals will choose the right club to leave a short iron over the water. Make sure you get far enough up the green with your approach as anything right on the front or just short will roll back into the water.
I should have finished with a par but found the left rough with my second shot and pushed my approach right of the green, I made a good recovery and managed to two putt though so I was not too disappointed.
A round at the Ryder Cup Twenty Ten course is a great experience and to finish it all off you get a commemorative marker inscribed with your initials and date played. I really do recommend you play here me and my companions thoroughly enjoyed it.