Befitting its name, the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor Resort will host the 2010 Ryder Cup
You might think that the dismal situation with the U.S. dollar, the airline mess, the fact that Autumn in England can be teeming with left-over summer heat and tourists, and the horrifying notion that Uncle Robin and his 4th bride live in Liverpool would make crossing the pond at this time a very bad idea.
But not so fast. This might be the very best idea youve ever had. Why? Wales.
A small land about the size of Massachusetts, Wales has more than 200 golf courses and is a rich repository of culture, history, spectacular craggy scenery and castles. Better yet, even though the closest you may get to this years Ryder Cup in Louisville will be on your couch in front of your TV, in two years the Ryder Cup will be held in Wales at Celtic Manor.
Then we suggest you get a jump on the crowds to come in 2010 and spend a few days driving on the wrong side of the road, playing some of Wales great courses, drinking hearty ale and wind up with a round at one of Celtic Manors three courses while you can still get on.
On the way you can visit some of the countrys countless castles, stay in centuries-old inns and hotels, dine on regional specialties like Welsh black beef, Welshcakes, laverbread (a type of seaweed processed into a pureed spinach-like consistency) and saltmarsh lamb.
Heres the plan:
From Liverpool, travel through North Wales, then swing south along the west coast, midway turning east to re-cross the country. Then head south to Celtic Manor Resort in Newport where youll culminate your trip with a round on the Ryder Cup venue before heading to London for your flight home.
Conwy Golf Club
A qualifying course for the 2006 Open at Royal Liverpool, this links course is set between mountains, river and sea. It was the recent venue for the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors and claims a history going back to 1869.
Nefyn & District Golf Club
A stunning seaside course in Pwllheli, Nefyn is rated by Ian Woosnam as a favorite and no wonder. He holds the club record of 67. Ten holes run along the sea while the amazing par 5, 12th hole has a blind drive, a blind second shot, a public thoroughfare, a crater-sized pothole and a public house.
Royal St Davids Golf Club
From the ramparts of the hilltop Harlech Castle built by Edward I in the 13th century, you get a great view of Royal St. Davids links course. You play in and out of grass-topped dunes between the sea and castle, all the while catching views of the majestic stone walls. And what a pedigree. In 1934, King George V was Patron and the Prince of Wales was Captain of Royal St. Davids.
Aberdovey Golf Club
Set in the beautiful Snowdonia National Park which is worth seeing even if you dont play golf, youll find this aged golf links with lineage back to 1886. It sits at the mouth of the Dovey Estuary between the Cambrian Mountains and the dunes of Aberdovey Beach.
Celtic Manor Resort
One of Wales newest resorts, Celtic Manor will host the 2010 Ryder Cup. With three unique courses and a gorgeous multi-million-dollar clubhouse and floodlit golf academy plus a 400-bed Five-Star hotel and health spa, Celtic Manor appeals to those looking for a golf resort experience.
Unlike Wales traditional links courses like Pennard, a wonderful track so old the cows and horses have right-of-way ' its not unusual to see wild horses galloping across the fairways ' Celtic Manors three tracks are newly minted. The Roman Road, The Montgomerie and The Twenty Ten course were designed to handle tournaments and demanding resort guests.
The Twenty Ten Course opening last year and playing a robust 7,493 yards, was purpose-built for the Ryder Cup with a steep hillside rising above the three closing holes to offer spectators views of the closing action.
The Roman Road, which opened in 1995 was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and is named after the many Roman roads that criss-cross the landscape while the The Montgomerie crafted by Colin Montgomerie has dramatic tee shots over valleys and breathtaking downhill shots.
Things to see & do
Castles: There are literally hundreds of castles, Roman ruins and Celtic forts to visit including Harlech Castle, the gray-stoned Conway Castle and the massive Caernarfon Castle, the best-known medieval castle in the country and venue for the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in 1969.
The Red Fort Ruthin Castle dating from 1277, offers medieval banquets ' the kind where you eat Tom Jones-style with your fingers ' and things like tunnels, underground dungeons, whipping pit and drowning pool. And you can overnight here too.
Lovespoons: While in Wales be sure to buy your honey a lovespoon. The tradition of giving your sweetheart a carved wooden spoon is a Welsh custom going back hundreds of years.
Drives: The drive through Snowdonia National Park has a stark beauty with lots of huge rocks, plunging ravines and wild open vistas of the mountains while the drive from Royal St. Davids to Aberdovey takes you along Wales rugged and magnificent coast.
Trains: Wales is known for its great little trains like the famous Blaenau Fjestinniog Railway and the Snowdon Mountain Railway, which chugs to the summit of Snowdon.
Villages: Betws-y-Coed south of Conwy is surrounded by mountains and dense woodlands, your quintessential Welsh village. Also stop in the Italianate coastal village of Portmeirion, the creation of architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and the coastal hamlet of Pwllheli, so pretty it has been preserved by the National Trust.
Places to Stay
Gwesty Portmeirion Hotel: Opened by Clough Williams-Ellis in 1926, this resort village is a living fantasy with spires rising above the sub-tropical woodlands. Certainly the design and furnishings define the term eclectic. Try the brasserie-style restaurant at Castell Deudraeth. www.portmeirion.com
Bodysgallen Hotel, Llandudn: Wonderful gardens surround this grand country house hotel revealing spectacular views of Snowdonia. Very elegant digs. www.bodysgallen.com
Castle Hotel, Conwy: Youre in castle country, why not stay in a castle, in this case a 15th century coaching inn in the heart of the walled town of Conwy. Good hospitality, good golf, great bar. www.castlewales.co.uk
Celtic Manor Resort: One of Wales newest golf resorts, besides a variety of accommodations in the 330-room Resort Hotel and the traditional 19th century Manor House, there is The Forum Health Club and Spa and a hydrotherapy pool along with a variety of places to eat and drink like The Patio restaurant, the Cellar Bar, Residents Lounge, The Olive Tree and Merlins Bar. www.celtic-manor.com
Maes-y-Neuadd: This 14th century stone country house just north of Harlech and Royal St. Davids, is surrounded by walled gardens and sweeping lawns. The inn has 16 rooms, all differently furnished. Expect superb breakfasts and dinners created from fresh produce and local fish and meat. Relax with a brew in the cozy bar with its ancient inglenook and recesses full of interesting curios. www.neuadd.com
And remember if someone greets you with, bore da smile and return, And good morning to you. The lyrical Welsh language is enthusiastically embraced by those who value their heritage.
Katharine Dyson is an award-winning freelance travel, lifestyle, golf and guidebook author based in the northeast.