The Celtic Manor is a 5 Star resort set on the mountains near Newport. The first impressions I got on arrival were that you’d have to be incredibly fit to make your way around, as it is absolutely huge. Don’t let the steep incline put you off though, the helpful concierge will assist your parking up in the underground car park. The lobby area was full of light and we were greeted not just by smiling staff but two Welsh dragons wrapped around the pillars. The Celtic Manor Resort’s three golf courses, including its newest, the 2010 Ryder Cup host Twenty Ten Course, are stages for the world’s top pros every year. But the recreational, vacationing golfer will likely enjoy the new Montgomerie Course more than the Twenty Ten, which was designed with the Ryder Cup Matches in mind more than the mid-handicapper. The Montgomerie is the product of a redesign, using nine holes from the former Wentworth course. Despite being redesigned by PGA Tour pro Colin Montgomerie, this is no tour venue. It’s too short at just 6,369 yards and a par 69, and is too hilly to move spectators around comfortably. In fact, its land is so undulating that golfers are encouraged to take a buggy. But this dramatic, roller-coaster land makes it one of the more exciting rounds you play in the British Isles. Seemingly no shot is played to the same elevation as the last, and there are some spectacular downhill shots certain to give you an adrenaline rush.The first of which comes on the third hole. After two flatter opening holes, this par-5 is an epic. The tee shot teases you a little, demanding a slightly uphill shot framed by a line of pines with an opening you have to aim through. The second shot is what knocks your socks off. It tumbles downhill steeply to the green from about 300 yards out, and is panoramically framed by the stunning and lush Usk Valley.From the green, you look back up the fairway and wonder how exactly you made it all the way down here, and hundreds of feet below are the low-lying holes of the new Twenty Ten course next door, which doesn’t boast an adrenaline-pumping hole like this one. Though Montgomerie’s on the short side in terms of yardage, it still features plenty of sneaky-long holes, especially since the shorter of the par 4s generally play uphill. Drivers and 3-woods are the norm off the tee, although steep pot bunkers litter the fairway, a result of Monty’s redesign – he intended for all the bunkers here to serve as a half-shot penalty. The only significant water hazard comes into play on the 10th – a strategic, downhill par 4 that demands a lay-up in front of a pond, followed by a delicate pitch shot to a shallow, firm green. In fact, most of the greens, which are in their first year of growth, are still very firm and should soften up a good deal in the next year. The final two holes leave you with a great lasting impression and a chance at a few birdies. The 17th is drivable for longer hitters at only about 280 yards. The 18th features an elevated tee shot that lets you blast it over some trees below to cut off the dogleg left as much as you wish, leaving you with as little as a pitch into the elevated green. Mid-handicappers especially may enjoy the shorter, exciting Montgomerie course more than the newer Twenty Ten course in a lot of ways. It’s more than 1000 yards shorter, and its land is more dramatic. It’s too sloping for championship golf, but just right for plenty of exciting shots.The hole variety here is tremendous – not to mention the beautiful views. It plays on and near the top of the hill Celtic Manor sits on, so its scenery is more spectacular than the low-lying Twenty Ten course. You can walk the Montgomerie course, but it’s not easy. Buggies are recommended. Green fees range from £40-75.
The five-star Celtic Manor Resort is the obvious and luxurious choice for lodging when you’re playing the Montgomerie or the other two Celtic Manor courses. It’s a five-star, 400-plus room lodge overlooking the countryside. It also features a full-service spa and upscale dining and bar options. From Newport, you’re also just about a half hour to the city centre of Cardiff.