The 2010 Ryder Cup Matches will go down as an event that began with rainfall of biblical proportions and ended with a dramatic finish that came down to the final pairing.
Certainly memorable for a variety of reasons, two years later, Wales officials are proclaiming the event a great success. The aim of Terry Matthews, the wealthy Welshman who was the driving force behind securing the event at his Celtic Manor Resort, was to put the largest, international sporting spotlight on Wales ever.
Thus far, the multi-pronged, all-hands-on-deck approach by the country since the announcement in 2001 appears to be paying off. Consider this: in 2002, Visit Wales says the country hosted 30,000 visiting golfers, which helped drive 7 million pounds into the economy. Following the 2010 Ryder Cup, that number soared to 200,000 golfers and 40 million pounds. That includes 76,000 American visitors to Wales in 2011.
'We've gone from the challenges of making people aware [of Wales],' said Rob Holt, Director of Marketing for Visit Wales. 'To the point where we're challenging to keep people. It's a great new challenge to have.'
U.S.-based tour operator Perry Golf says they've seen a slight bump in Wales interest since the matches. Gordon Dalgleish, co-founder and president of the company, says that while it's rarely the first place golfers want to visit in the British Isles (that still goes to Scotland and Ireland) repeat visitors would be well served to make the visit.
'From a price point it's very attractive,' he said. 'It's in-line with the northwest of Ireland. Wales is a slightly different culture, has some great scenery and the quality of golf is every bit as good.'
Dalgleish said its popular for golf tours to include the Open Championship links on England's nearby Lancashire coast with north Wales.
'The one challenge is they don't have the same caddie culture (as Scotland and Ireland),' said Dalgleish. 'For some Americans, that's a bit of a negative.'
Tourism aside, Wales used the Ryder Cup to springboard local interest in golf. 2 million pounds were invested in local, accessible golf opportunities from 2007-2010. This included 38 new, public-access golf facilities and Wales is happy to report they've all done well and helped increase the amount of golfers in the country, which bucks the trend of declining interest in many parts of the world and a struggling economy in Europe.
'One would have expected a couple of these facilities would be struggling,' said Holt. 'But they are all still up and running and getting more people into the game of golf.'
And while the Ryder Cup posed some logistical challenges due to the rain and Monday finish, officials were pleased with how the logistics were handled and are thirsty for more big events. Wales helped host the 2012 Olympic games in London by staging soccer matches in Cardiff. In 2014, the country will host its first major golf tournament, the 2014 Senior Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl, which the R & A has agreed to bring to Porthcawl twice more before 2025.
Four undeniably unique golf courses in Wales
Having visited Wales several times myself, the following courses are as unique as golf in the British Isles can be:
Pennard Golf Club: An extremely raw, ever-scenic links set high on a cliff top in southwest Wales. Horses, sheep and cattle roam the course freely and the fairways have nary a flat spot.
Royal Porthcawl Golf Club: For the touring golfer, it's as enjoyable of a course as any on the British Open rota; a historic and tremendous blend of true links playability and seaside scenery on every hole.
Nefyn & District Golf Club: An imperfect, and at times comically bizarre cliffside course design on one of the game's most jaw-dropping, peninsula settings high above the ocean.
Southerndown Golf Club: The sheep roam freely and abundantly on this lofty, rolling spot of countryside overlooking the southern coast.
Wales also has some very unique accommodations. One of the most interesting places I've ever stayed is Portmeirion Village, a small, storybook seaside village in north wales near Portmadog and close to Nefyn & District.