Celtic Manor chiefs not resting on their laurels

AS Europe’s professional golfers get ready to tee it up at Celtic Manor in this weekend’s Wales Open, there will be more than a passing interest in how work is progressing on the par 72 Wentwood Hills course in readiness for the 2010 Ryder Cup.

Set on 1,400 acres of rolling Welsh parkland close to the Severn Estuary, the Celtic Manor resort boasts three championship courses Wentwood Hills, Roman Road and Coldra Woods that have already earned rave reviews.

Its designer, Robert Trent Jones Jnr, has described the par 72 Wentwood Hills 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".

Seve Ballesteros said Wentwood Hills is "a fantastic course in a fabulous location" and "one of the most beautiful courses I have played".

But Celtic Manor chiefs are not sitting on their laurels and are in the midst of developing Wentwood Hills, which only opened in May 1999, to meet the specific demands of the Ryder Cup.

Seven new holes and two redesigned holes are to be added to existing holes five to 13 to create what they hope will be a matchplay-perfect layout.

The new holes on flatter land in the Usk valley will dramatically reduce the overall change in elevation, while the start and finish will be at a new clubhouse overlooking the valley, where it is intended the hillsides will provide a panoramic natural amphitheatre for thousands to view the entire course.

The first phase of redevelopment is nearing completion with the seeding of a new 'link' hole.

Work to build the 180-yard, par 3 hole to ensure the course has a full 18 holes in play throughout the £12m redesign programme has finished on schedule.

Earthworks are due to begin this year to create a bank along the River Usk to act both as a 'buffer zone' to protect wildlife and as a flood defence between the river and golf course.

The revamped course is due to be ready for the 2006 Wales Open, giving players the chance to experience the tournament well ahead of the Ryder Cup's first visit to Wales.

"The temporary hole between the first green and second tee means 18 holes will always be available and there'll be no disruption to golfers over the next three years," Celtic Manor director of golf and courses management Jim McKenzie said.

"The new holes are on new land, so when we're constructing them it won't affect the operation at all. This alternative hole will only come into play when we're changing the existing holes."

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