Posted on 18 August 2011.
Golf Links Spain were invited by VISIT WALES and the Welsh Tourist Board to visit this wonderful Land of the Dragons and Song along with some of our fellow members of the European Golf and Travel Media Association. VISIT WALES uses the slogan – Golf as it should be – to promote the game there and they have managed to capture it right on the nose.
What we experienced was five days of fabulous golf, food and hospitality in this magical country and it has certainly opened up our eyes to the tremendous potential that exists in Wales for golfers of all abilities. Traditionally, it is the historic courses of Scotland in particular, together with those of Ireland and England that tends to attract the majority of golfing tourists from around the world. In particular, those international golfers from America and Japan automatically place destinations such as St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal County Down, Royal Portrush and many others high on their list of priorities when planning their ‘special’ trip away to the home of golf.
The Celtic Manor Resort Hotel
Well the 2010 Ryder Cup, and in particular the Celtic Manor Resort, went a long way to ensure that many of this target group of international golfers will wish to add wonderful Wales onto their itinerary. Based on our time there, everything a golfer might want is there in spades! Springy links turf, raging seas, wonderful views and mystical valleys combined with excellent golf courses – what more could you want?
We stayed in The Celtic Manor Resort and there did not appear to be any signs of the so-called financial ‘crisis’ as the hotel was very busy and there was plenty of activity and a great atmosphere. The rooms and service were of the highest calibre and there are some fantastic golf deals to be had.
Our introduction to Golf Wales was at the world-famous Royal Porthcawl Golf Club. This is unquestionably one of the great links courses of the British Isles and has been host to many great tournaments and it was immediately obvious why that should be so. On arrival at the very traditional clubhouse we chatted with a member who informed us that we were lucky to have just a light breeze for our round! His opinion maybe, but this was at least a 2-club wind and the opening three holes played straight into it. I have never hit so many ‘knock-down’ 6 irons from just over 100 yards in my life! The views all around the course are quite spectacular and my main piece of advice has to be – stay out of the bunkers! They are so punishing and it can be quite disheartening to have no option but to come out sideways, or even backwards on occasions, after hitting what you felt was a good tee-shot.
Next up we played at The Welsh National Course, The Vale. This is a stunning parkland course set in beautiful scenery with an abundance of wildlife and, together with its other Lakes Course, all set in 650 acres of spectacular South Wales countryside.
The 12th Tee at Southerndown
Next up was possibly the most memorable of the trip for me – Southerndown Golf Club. Sitting a couple of hundred feet above the coastline, this cannot be called a true links course but possibly better referred to as heathland. Sheep form a major part of the club’s greenstaff and you just have to let them go about their business as you negotiate this wonderful golfing experience!
Finally, we got to finish up at Celtic Manor 2010 Course, the venue for the 2010 Ryder Cup match that will live long in the memories of those of us who were lucky enough to be there and all of you who will have watched it. The course really did live up to its expectations and more so. I expected it to be a bit of a ‘slog’ due to its length but I’m pleased to report that this was not the case. My one piece of advice would be that, if you feel capable enough to walk the course you will enjoy the experience to its fullest. Buggies are not permitted on the fairways and this can lead to very long treks with two or three clubs in your hand if your ball should land on the wrong side of your intended path.
We cannot thank the Course directors and operating staff enough for their attentive service and we would encourage you all to check out each of the resorts for their extremely good value packages they have to offer.
Not only did we get to experience excellent golf but we were also spoilt rotten with the best of culinary treats that South Wales has to offer. This began on our welcoming reception at The Celtic Manor Resort, where we were met by Jane Harris and Claire Saunders who were to be our main hosts for the week – and what hosts they turned out to be.
It would be unfair to single any one of the venues as each offered a superb choice of beautifully prepared food so I shall happily list them all and recommend that you give them all a try when you get to VISIT WALES yourselves.
It all began with one of the finest arrays of ‘Welsh Tapas’ on our Welcome Reception upon arrival at The Celtic Manor Resort! The only way I can think of to describe what we were offered.
The following evening we were taken for dinner at the Woods Brasserie in the rejuvenated port area of Cardiff. Woods Brasserie is a contemporary restaurant situated within the iconic pilotage building of Cardiff Bay. Historically it was used by river pilots, who helped navigate ships through the shallow straits of the bay. The restaurant has a modern conservatory style dining room, a comfortable bar area and a balcony offering views of Cardiff Bay.
The next day, following our golf at The Vale, we dined in the Boardroom. The Vale Resort offers world class breaks. A luxurious 143 bedroom, four star hotel, 2 championship golf courses – the much talked about Wales National Golf Course UK and the beautiful Lake Course plus Wales’ largest health spa, dining in both formal and casual surroundings and exceptional sporting facilities.
The Newbridge on Usk
Our next evening proved a special treat when we dined at The Newbridge on Usk. The Newbridge Inn has morphed into the Newbridge on Usk and has found a new lease of life under the same ownership as the famous Celtic Manor Resort. Famous for its amazing location by a bridge over the River Usk at Tredunnock, this substantial inn now combines the virtues of a beamed pub-with-rooms and the cosmopolitan flavour of a stylish restaurant.
Our final gala dinner was held in the Julia Suite in The Lodge at the main resort itself. We were joined by Jonathan Jones, Director of Tourism and Marketing, Welsh Assembly Government and it was indeed an occasion fitting to bring our trip to a close.
Many thanks to Jonathan, Claire and, in particular, Jane for all they did for us and I shall leave you with the words of Features Editor, Jenny, for the final words…
“You have to go to Wales, and this is coming from an Irish girl who knows all about great scenery and hospitality.”