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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 June, 2005, 06:24 GMT 07:24 UK
Experts identify Ryder Cup effect
Ian Woosnam
Welshman Ian Woosnam will captain the Ryder Cup team in 2006
Five years before a ball is struck, the arrival of golf's Ryder Cup is already having an effect on tourism and business in Wales, experts have said.

The Wales Tourist Board said new figures showed awareness of the event was rising and there had been an increase in people taking golf breaks.

The Ryder Cup is contested by the best European and US golfers every two years.

It will be held at the Celtic Manor Resort, near Newport, in 2010.

It is hoped Wales can take a share of the multimillion pound golf tourism market, which brings in an estimated 175m annually to the economy in Scotland.

The Ryder Cup, watched by 435 million people worldwide, has already been heralded as partly responsible for a new link between the Celtic Manor and the world's largest golf complex - the Mission Hills resort in China.

We will not get a better chance to raise our profile in the US
Rob Holt

Sir Terry Matthews, chairman of the Celtic Manor Resort, said the partnership will benefit members of each club and unveiling it was "a great privilege".

Claire Sanders, from the Wales Tourist Board, said owners of Mission Hills, which has 10 18-hole courses, knew the joint venture would be advantageous.

"The golf scene in China is such a developing market - I am sure that they are fully aware that, up to and after 2010, they will benefit from the work being done to promote the Celtic Manor," she said.

Discussions have also begun about a new tournament - possibly to be called the Double Dragon - which could alternate between the two resorts.

A spokesman for the Celtic Manor resort said these talks were at an early stage and, if the world's top players were to play in the event, discussions would be needed with representatives from the European and Asian tours.

Celtic Manor Resort
The Celtic Manor resort has linked up with a prestigious Chinese hotel

Back on the fairways, Andy Calton, editor of Today's Golfer magazine, said Wales was starting to become a more attractive destination for golfers, partly due to the Ryder Cup.

"It used to be Scotland and Ireland where people went on short breaks, but Wales is starting to get up there," he said.

"To be mentioned at that level is a massive achievement."

Earlier this year, three Welsh courses were included in the top 100 courses outside the US by American magazine Golf Digest for the first time.

Rob Holt, general manager of Ryder Cup Wales 2010, said the courses had not changed, but the profile of Wales as a golfing venue had improved.

Ryder Cup team
Bernard Langer captained the Europeans to Ryder Cup victory in 2004

"The Ryder Cup is not just about three days in 2010 - we are using it as a catalyst to promote Wales," he said.

"We will not get a better chance to raise our profile in the US - it is our biggest chance to break the US market."

And it is not just south Wales that is benefiting - David Morkill, secretary from the Royal St David's course in Harlech said the Ryder Cup had given a "spin-off effect" across the whole of Wales.

"The profile of visitors has also changed - we are getting more visitors from abroad, and they will come regardless of the distance [from the Celtic Manor]."

He added that the Ryder Cup had also provided the impetus for seven courses in north west Wales to link up to promote themselves.

New links

Outside golf itself, Gerry Hallett, deputy chief executive of the Wales Trade International arm of the Welsh assembly, said that business as well as tourism was taking advantage of the Ryder Cup.

He said the increased awareness about Wales was already having "a fairly broad return" and that results would become "more tangible" over time.

He added the relationship between the Celtic Manor and Mission Hills was an good example of how new business links could be created.

"We are keen to use it as a backdrop - it is a nice route into China, which is an unfamiliar route for small Welsh businesses," he said.

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