Jim McKenzie, Celtic Manor Resort director of golf courses and estate management, has prepared a firm, fair and dramatic test on the Twenty Ten Course for the 2010 Ryder Cup, 1- 3 October in Newport, South Wales.
“We feel really excited about the venue as a whole,” McKenzie told Reuters on 16 September. “We have put together an extraordinary amount of options so you could go out and play a different golf course each of the three days, or in each of the five sessions. We’ve got seven classic match play holes that can be played in a number of different ways, depending on whether it’s foursomes, fourballs, singles, and whether you find yourself a couple (of holes) up or a couple down.”
The Twenty Ten Course was created specifically for the 38th biennial match between the U.S. and Europe. It was designed to cater to all the elements needed to stage a major sports event, including areas for tented villages, dedicated platforms for hospitality units, space for all the media and television requirements, good spectator viewing points, and practical and safe public access. It combines nine new holes designed by European Golf Design with nine holes from the original Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Wentwood Hills Course which have been extensively remodeled.
McKenzie was able to match the nine new greens to the existing nine bentgrass/Poa annua greens absorbed from the Wentwood Hills Course by transplanting the turf from the greens of the nine remaining Wentwood Hills Course holes not incorporated in the Twenty Ten Course.
“We’ve not just got the same grass mix,” McKenzie told GCSAA’s magazine, Golf Course Management. “They’re actually the same greens.”
Jim McKenzie is from Helensburgh, Scotland and he has been overseeing Celtic Manor’s golf courses for 19 years having previously been head greenkeeper at Wentworth’s West Course. He has hosted the 1999 European Amateur and the 2000 PGA Cup Matches at Celtic Manor, in addition to the European Tour’s Wales Open every year since 2000.
“The Wales Open is a stroke-play event, 156 players in June, and the Ryder Cup is a match-play event, 24 players in October, so while the golf course will be pretty much the same, it’s the environmental, weather conditions that make will make the difference,” McKenzie told Sky Sports on 16 September. “Obviously playing fourballs in the morning, although it will be cut and prepared, you’ll probably find the rough is a little bit juicier, there’ll be a dew on the ground, the air will be heavier so there’s no question we’ll see the golf course react differently during the Ryder Cup.”
McKenzie has the bentgrass/fescue rough on the par-71, 7,378-yard Twenty Ten Course 3 1/2 inches (90mm) tall and the bentgrass/Poa annua greens rolling 11 feet on the Stimpmeter.
His staff of 53 will be supplemented by 70 additional volunteers during tournament week. According to Celtic-Manor.com, McKenzie has deepened a number of bunkers with larger faces and scooped out a large swale to the left of the 11th green, as suggested by European Captain Colin Montgomerie, increasing the chance of shots misdirected that way finding the lake or leaving a tricky tight lie from which to get up and down.
“I have had the pleasure of knowing Jim for over 20 years and he is one of the most diligent and hard working course superintendents I have met,” said David Garland, director of tour operations for the European Tour. “Jim has overseen all aspects of the construction, development and conditioning of the Twenty Ten Course, all with an eye on the upcoming Ryder Cup.”
The last three holes have been cut into the lower slopes of the valley and will provide a challenging and dramatic conclusion, particularly at the 18th where players must decide whether to carry a pond in front of the green with their second shot or lay up and leave a tricky pitch from a downhill lie over water to a raised green.
Vast platforms for corporate hospitality were constructed running virtually the entire length of the final three holes, while the slopes below these platforms offer superb viewing for thousands of spectators not only of these holes, but across the whole of the golf course.
Because of its setting within the Usk Valley Celtic Manor is particularly sensitive and a tremendous amount of work was done to reduce the impact of the Twenty Ten Course on the environment.
Detailed surveys of the ecology of the site were carried out and as a result various elements such as planting corridors and protection buffer zones were included within the landscape design. By using careful management regimes the aim is to encourage greater bio-diversity within the golf course. Particular emphasis has been placed on increasing habitat creation by incorporating a variety of vegetation types, as well as streams, wetlands and planted areas.
Celtic Manor Resort www.celtic-manor.com
Ryder Cup www.rydercup.com/2010/