The 2010 with SkyCaddie

Celtic Manor’s 2010 course will host the Ryder Cup later this year. Matt Cooper was guided around it by SkyCaddie.

Celtic Manor’s 2010 course will host the Ryder Cup later this year. Matt Cooper was guided around it by SkyCaddie.

Listen to Matt’s views on the SkyCaddie
Watch Matt play the 18th at Celtic Manor


The 2010 course at Celtic Manor Resort sits in the Usk Valley and on the morning of my arrival it was looking a little ethereal with mist lingering across the course whilst a golden sun tried to break over the top of the surrounding hills.

At the doors of the 2010 clubhouse I was greeted by a member of staff who took my golf bag and then walked me to my locker in the changing rooms. “Is this where the players will change in October?” I asked, a little excited. “Yes, a wall will be built down the middle, Europe one side, America the other.”

That situated me with Team USA (for now) and I was therefore not too surprised to find Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus sharing a joke next to my locker (in a photograph I hasten to add).

After an introduction from the SkyCaddie team which explained the benefits of their latest model the SGX (click here for more details) we headed out onto the course, where I learned that I would be playing with Treeve Philp (responsible for the video that accompanies this story), Sue Gardiner (a SkyCaddie sales agent in the UK) and Richard Stamper (President and COO of SkyGolf).

We were playing the back nine of the 2010 course which, in theory at least, should be where the Ryder Cup is won and lost. Noting that Richard hails from Kentucky, I immediately came up with the idea of playing a Phoney Ryder Cup: unbeknownst to Richard, he was about to play the crunch singles match.

In my (all too vivid) imagination the vast bank alongside the final four holes was packed with spectators, the captains Corey Pavin and Colin Montgomerie were on buggies alongside us, glamorous Wags were imploring our greatest efforts and two continents were hanging on our every shot.

Let battle commence …

(Note – the yardages below refer to the full championship tees. The Phoney Ryder Cup was, appropriately, played off what were effectively yellow tees.)

10th – par 3, 210 yards: A raised tee looks down on a green which is now, after substantial re-bunkering, protected by four sand-traps. The prevailing wind comes from the Bristol Channel which means the tee shot is usually hit into the wind, making it a more difficult shot.

“Nice number SkyCaddie”: Two sand-traps front left of the green loom large, creating the impression that the green is shallower than it actually is. But the player doesn’t know that on the tee – unless, of course, he refers to his SkyCaddie which provides an accurate yardage to clear the front bunkers, to the pin itself and also to the back of the putting surface.

The Phoney Cup: A good start in the Ryder Cup challenge with both of us hitting to roughly 15 feet (nice number, indeed, SkyCaddie!). My birdie putt was arrow straight but had roughly 25 feet of weight. It hit the back of the cup, hopped in the air and failed to drop. Hole halved.

11th – par 5, 562 yards: Whatever you do, do not go left because a lake lies just off the fairway for the entire length of the hole.

“Nice number SkyCaddie”: From the tee there are two major considerations, both requiring accurate information. Two bunkers on the right-hand side of the fairway – can they be cleared? And for the really long-hitters – is it wise to go too far down the fairway and risk the narrow landing area that brings water into play? SkyCaddie have worked hard to produce a screen that provides brilliant images in bright sunshine – handy because the sun breaks out as we walk down the fairway.

The Phoney Cup: A chip to the edge of the cup from the back of the green earns Europe a one-up lead.

12th – par 4, 458 yards: This hole travels in the opposite direction to the 11th, on the other side of the lake, with another big water trap protecting the green. If the prevailing wind is strong it will pull balls to the left, where two fairways bunkers also pose a threat.

“Nice number SkyCaddie”: The raised green calls for the correct club selection. Using SkyCaddie’s HoleVue feature we observe that anything left or right can be gobbled by two large bunkers and anything short risks slipping down the slope and into the water.

The Phoney Cup: Another successful up and down for Europe, but it isn’t enough to maintain the lead as USA win the hole.

13th – par 3, 189 yards: Anything short and/or right of this green finds water. Anything long can very easily find one of two bunkers, leaving a tricky shot onto a green that runs down to the water’s edge.

“Nice number SkyCaddie”: A short left pin position calls for a safe play from the tee because the landing area is small, something SkyCaddie’s IntelliGreen technology makes quite clear. We observe the major contours, false front and yardages across the green.

The Phoney Cup: Europe and America ignore all advice from the SkyCaddie and, in a foolhardy display of Ryder Cup bravado, fire at the pin. USA finds the back bunker and then, intimidated by the water, thins the second shot through the green, landing with a splash. Europe’s tee shot finds dry land initially but gravity is a stronger force than hope and the ball slips agonisingly backwards into the water. Sue and Treeve make excellent pars so we settle for a dishonourable half.

14th – par 4, 413 yards: More water. A large pond protects the right side of the fairway and a lake the left side of the green. The hole can be played in many ways, depending on the tournament director’s intentions – and also the strategy of the player. If it is set up as a conventional par four the safe route from the tee (down the left) leaves a long shot to the green, over the left-hand water trap and from an angle that makes the landing area very shallow. The braver tee shot takes on the pond and leaves a short approach down the length of the putting surface. If set up as a driveable par four the hole strongly resembles the 10th at the Belfry.

“Nice number SkyCaddie”: SkyCaddie’s unique PivotPoint feature comes into its own. By dragging the PivotPoint around the screen you can organise your strategy, deciding which clubs to hit to and from your chosen PivotPoint on the fairway.

The Phoney Cup: Europe and USA play the hole in traditional Ryder Cup style: Europe in pre-1983 fashion and USA in Belfry-mode. That is, they both find water from the tee when taking the attacking route and then, when hitting their fourth shots from safe second