A Wales Of A Good Time

This year's Ryder Cup Host offers great golf and sightseeing.

Royal Porthcawl is one of the world's best courses.

Destination: Wales Long passed over by golfers making a beeline for Scotland and Ireland, Wales will finally earn its place as a reputable golfing destination this year when it hosts the Ryder Cup. Although best known for its castles, plethora of sheep and passionate rugby fans, this tiny, proud nation is a must-visit for golfers looking to have authentic links experiences.

Where To Play Celtic Manor Resort. Located just two hours west of London, Celtic Manor is home to three courses, including the Twenty Ten, site of this year's Ryder Cup. Remodeled and rebuilt from the resort's former Wentworth Course, the long, tough Twenty Ten is the first golf course constructed solely for the game's most important international event. Two other courses, the Montgomerie and Roman Road, provide more player-friendly alternatives to the championship Twenty Ten.

Royal Porthcawl. Worthy of inclusion in the Open rota, this links toughie probably won't ever host a British Open because of its remote location. And that's a shame. It's one of the world's best courses.

If the summer is dry, expect short rough and browned-out fairways; if it has been wet, prepare for rough that can reach your knees. Either way, the wind can really howl, making Porthcawl a test for anyone.

Southerndown Golf Club. Built 200 feet above sea level atop a bluff overlooking the Ogmore River valley, Southerndown ranks as one of the game's most unique experiences. Sheep–lots of 'em–roam the course oblivious to flying golf balls. (Be prepared to shoo a few away that graze on grass between you and your target.) Rumor has it that a ball once lodged in one of the sheep's rear ends; he held onto it and later dropped it closer to the green. I kid you not.

Tenby. Wales' oldest golf course is a short, quirky links layout located just a few minutes from the charming seaside town for which it was named. Despite measuring only a little over 6,000 yards, Tenby plays a lot longer when the wind blows and the rough is up. Because it's in an environmentally protected area, the rough can be cut only twice a year, making for lots of lost balls. Its only blemish is holes 15-17 on the other side of the railroad tracks. These three holes aren't part of the original configuration and so are void of the rest of the course's character. Diversions The 38th Ryder Cup. Played on Celtic Manor's Twenty Ten Course this October 1-3. Corey Pavin captains the reigning champs, while Colin Montgomerie hopes to bring the cup back to Europe.

Castles. Lots of 'em. At times it seems there are nearly as many castles in Wales as there are sheep. Although many now are mostly ruins, about 200 or so are in remarkably decent shape and a blast to visit. Villages. Take my advice: Get lost. Set your "Sat Nav" for one village and wind your way through a dozen others, stopping for chicken in a basket and real ale at pub after pub. Some must-stops: Cowbridge (near Southerndown) and Usk (north of Celtic Manor).

British English VS American English Buggy Golf Cart Outside of resort courses, buggies may be hard to find. And that's a good thing if you want your golf to be "as it should be." Stroke Index Handicap Bring your handicap card with you. It'll prove that you have club affiliation (a must if you want to play "private" courses). Trolly Push Cart Makes the walk around these beautiful courses all the more enjoyable. Sat Nav GPS Short for satellite navigation, the Sat Nav is a must if you plan to drive in Wales. The roads are narrow, the hedgerows are high, and speed cameras are everywhere. How does the Sat Nav help with that? It beeps whenever you approach one.

Where To Stay Celtic Manor Resort. Founded in 1995, the five-star, 400-bed Celtic Manor Resort features a spa, six restaurants and easy access to the resort's three courses.

The Great House. Dating from the 1550s when Queen Elizabeth I gave it to the Earl of Leicester for use as a hunting lodge, the Great House is about 20 minutes east of Royal Porthcawl and just as far north from Southerndown. Spend some time by the large fireplace and throw back a pint or two. St. Brides Hotel. Located atop a hill offering a view of the charming Carmarthen Bay, this modern hotel and spa is the perfect place to unwind after playing Tenby.

Park Plaza Cardiff. Just around the corner from the beautifully restored Cardiff Castle, the Park Plaza Hotel is centrally located in downtown Cardiff near a shopping arcade. Cwrt Bleddyn Hotel & Spa. Centrally located near some of Wales must-see historical sites, including Tintern Abbey, Raglan Castle and the charming village of Usk.

Further information: visitwales.com

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