The Hacker: Ryder Cup venue is more friendly to the spectators than to players
Sunday 27 April 2008
There were two consolations to being buffeted by a north-east wind and soaked by the rain at Celtic Manor last Monday: first, I learned a new golfing word and second, I played on a course that will soon be famous.
The new word emerged from the lips of Dermot, an Irish golf writer who was one of my playing companions.
I had put the ball about 18 inches from the hole and as I approached it I confidently asked: "Is this a gimme?"
"No, it's a lemme," replied Dermot.
"What's a lemme?" I inquired.
"Lemme see you putt it,"he sneered.
Thankfully, he wasn't being serious and, as it turned out, neither was the golf.
We were taking part in a media day to publicise this year's Wales Open, to be held on the Twenty Ten course which has been designed to stage the Ryder Cup in 2010.
Unveiled last summer, the course has greatly impressed those who have seen it, but its big test will come at the end of May when the top professionals, led by the reigning Open champion, Padraig Harrington, tackle it for the first time.
My other playing companion was Celtic Manor's director of golf, Jim McKenzie, whose main concern at the moment is the cold weather we've been having recently. In common with every other course in the UK, they are in need of a spot of warm weather to promote growthand present the layout in top condition when the Wales Open starts on 29 May.
Jim, who plays off nine, performed very well considering he had one eye on the state of the course as we went around.
It was the second time I've played it, and even when the elements are not as brutal as they were on Monday, it is a formidable challenge. It measures almost 7,500 yards from the back tees, and I can't wait to see how the pros cope with some of the feature holes.
I actually managed to par the eighth against the wind, but on most of the holes I'd prefer to watch the experts.
The finishing four holes are cut into the slopes of the Usk Valley and present great vantage points for up to 50,000 spectators.
From some places you can watch the action on 14 holes, so it qualifies as one of the best watching courses in the world. If you prefer to follow the action on foot it is relatively easy to do so. There is only one crossing point on the entire course.
It is the first course to be designed specifically for hosting the Ryder Cup and the designer, Ross McMurray, shaped the finishing hole, a par five, with drama in mind.
It slopes down to an amphitheatre green protected by a wide moat, and only the bravest will attempt it in two. I came down the pretty way and took nine. The green is overlooked by a superbly positioned clubhouse which is used by members of the Twenty Ten Club. They pay a joining fee of £3,000 and an annual subscription of £3,000 for the pleasure of playing the course, which is open to the public on only one day a week.
If you had that sort of money you wouldn't begrudge a penny of it.
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