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Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Offers Insights into Celtic Manor
Robert Trent Jones, Jr. has been quite the jet-setter recently, working on projects from Morocco to Egypt, from to Eastern Europe to Asia, but this week all eyes are his work at Celtic Manor in Wales, the venue for the 2010 Ryder Cup. Opened in July 2007, the course combines the routing of nine holes from the original Robert Trent Jones-designed Wentwood Hills golf course which have been extensively remodeled and nine completely new holes. The new course measures 7493 yards from the back tees with a par of 71.
In this quick sit down with Cybergolf's Jay Flemma, Jones opens up about the team effort that produced the 2010 course that hosts this week's Ryder Cup.
Robert Trent Jones Jr.
On the selection and design of the 2010 course:
"The 2010 course is a great tapestry with many weavers. Sir Terry Matthews is the owner of Celtic Manor Resort and the European Tour offered him the Ryder Cup on the condition that they get to redesign the course. Terry Matthews supported my father wonderfully in his later years, and so I wanted to help support his dream of bringing to Ryder Cup to both of our ancestral homes, Wales. We worked closely with Bob Harrington, the original shaper - he's Canadian, and therefore neutral between the U.S. and Europe - and Jim Mackenzie the superintendent. They made sure there was a good continuity to the entire course.
"I'd say the course is about 50-50 ours and 50-50 European Golf Design. We did the current routing of the entire 18 holes and the European Tour adopted it. Then they detailed out the new holes and changed the bunkering style, making them much deeper."
On the course's personality:
"The course is laid out down in the Usk River Valley, and it can get quite foggy because that's a tidal river that changes several feet as tides roll in and out, and, as everyone knows, Wales can be wet with rain and fog can pervade even on sunny days. The course itself is both like a character and has a lot of character, if you understand the nuance. Also, it's an open and interesting question as to whether the course has an English soul or a Welsh soul. I think it's both. My family and ancestry are Welsh and we are proud of that heritage and are grateful to be involved in bringing such a great event as the Ryder Cup to Wales. But the European Tour is based in Engkand, so you can argue that under their guidance and influence, the design is just as much English or Scottish."
On the archaeological sites on the course:
"Along the 16th hole and part of 17, there are the remnants of ancient Roman camps. When we did the original routing, we had 18 as a par-4 and 17 as a par-5, but having 17 as a par-5 interfered with the archaeological sites, so the solution was to reverse the pars. I followed the concept of 17 at Valderrama where you play across a lake on the long second or short third shot to an elevated green, and the European Golf Design did a terrific job of detailing the course to create the potential for great dramas to unfold on the finishing hole."
On the course as a match play course:
"While I prefer the last century course, I think the 2010 course will be a very good match play course. It's perhaps not the greatest stage ever to hold the event, but the Ryder Cup is even more about the actors on the stage and the great dramas they play out. The course has a lot of water and there is also the Usk River which has nice views.
"My favorite hole that I created in concept and in fact is number 15. It's a drivable par-4 where the tee shot is threaded through trees and must avoid a lake on the left. It encourages long ball hitters to be aggressive in match play. You can be a hero or victim, it's victory or defeat, but that makes for exciting golf, the element of temptation."
On whether one team or another has an advantage:
"This is essentially a parkland course which, if wet gives the Americans an advantage with their high-flying aerial attack. If, on the other hand, the course is windy and dry, the Europeans should have the advantage. It all depends on the green speeds, which are determined by the hosts. The new greens are all a mix of poa annua and bent, and they are all created from from the original sod from the holes that were redesigned. The turf was stripped and resodded from the abandoned greens so that there would be consistency in putting speeds throughout the course. My guess is the greens will run about 11 on the stimpmeter, which gives Europe and in particular the continental players like the Molinari brothers from Italy an advantage because greens speeds on the euro tour are a little slower than the 12 or 13 they run on the American tour.
So its home turf for Europe on a course that's really half and half. Let the games begin, and let the roars of the patriotic crowds echo through the Usk river valley."
Are you predicting a European victory?
"I'm predicting a Welsh victory, and a victory for the great game of golf."
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, http://www.jayflemma.thegolfspace.com, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 220 nationally ranked public golf courses in 37 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (www.golfobserver.com), Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.