In his first public statement on the proposed £12m revamp of the Wentwood Hills golf course, Terry Matthews, chairman of The Celtic Manor Resort, says he is aiming to offer a layout that is ‘perfect’ for the unique requirements of the matches between the USA and Europe.
Mr Matthews has a long association with golf dating back more than 20 years to a chance meeting with the legendary course designer Robert Trent Jones Senior at a golf club in Florida. The two men became close friends, with the American returning to his Welsh roots to help create the golf courses at Celtic Manor. Mr Matthews opened the original 17 bedroom Celtic Manor hotel in 1982 with a vision of developing a major international golf, convention and leisure resort.
The first golf course, the par 69 Roman Road, was opened in 1995, followed a year later by the par 59 Coldra Woods.
The par 72 Wentwood Hills opened in May 1999 with an exhibition match between 1999 Ryder Cup captain Mark James and former US Masters champion Ian Woosnam. George O’Grady, the European Tour’s deputy executive director, said afterwards that ‘it was obvious that the course was going to be a jewel.’ The following year Wentwood Hills staged the inaugural Wales Open with 1995 Ryder Cup captain Seve Ballesteros describing it as ‘a fantastic course in a fabulous location’. The inaugural winner, Steen Tinning, said, ‘It is not only that the course is a good test, the place as a whole is beautiful’.
Despite these accolades the resort has submitted a planning application to create seven new holes, completely redesign two holes and build a new clubhouse. “Quite simply, we will spare nothing to bring the Ryder Cup to Wales for the first time,” said Mr Matthews. “We therefore need to offer a lay out that is perfect for an event in which huge crowds follow a small number of matches and the players have to play two rounds in a day.
“The proposed new holes in the Usk valley would dramatically reduce the overall change in elevation. The layout would start and finish at the new clubhouse on the side of the valley, which would include the refurbishing of a Grade II listed farmhouse.
“We have also proposed the creation of 60 acres of wetland, which will be of enormous benefit to wildlife, and a mile long cycle and jogging path giving people new access to this wonderful valley.”
Mr Matthews warmly praised the Welsh bid committee, led by the National Assembly for Wales, for ‘putting forward a terrific case’. “We are ahead of rival bids from Scotland and the north of England in almost every respect. The revamp of Wentwood Hills would make the Welsh cause irresistible.”
A decision on the planning application is expected in July and the venue for the 2009 Ryder Cup is due to be announced at this year’s matches in September.
Wales Ryder Cup bid www.walesrydercup2009.org