With Tiger and Rory both walking its fairways last year, golf in the Belek region continues to impress and progress.
Has any country had a better year in golfing terms than Turkey? Since the first course was opened in the Belek area in 1994, it has made staggeringly impressive progress.
On the back of that steady progress, Turkey and Belek took a giant stride in 2012. In the autumn, Belek not only secured a lucrative event on the European Tour for this season, they attracted the world No.1 and 2 to its fairways. Doing so is no small feat these days; it requires passion, commitment and of course plenty of finance. The fact Belek hosted both Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy demonstrates what a golfing powerhouse it has become.
Belek, Tiger and Rory have come a long way since 1994. Back then, the area saw its first course – the National – open for play, Woods won the first of his three US Amateur titles, and Rory was preparing to go to Primary School. In October, they came together for the Turkish Airlines World Golf Finals, played over the PGA Sultan course at the Antalya Golf Club.
Four of the world’s top five players competed in the Turkey World Golf Finals – with Justin Rose beating Lee Westwood in the final. Just the previous week, the PGA Sultan course held the amateur game’s showpiece, the Eisenhower Trophy. And next year, Belek will stage a €7m European Tour event – one of the most exciting additions to the schedule for some time.
Turkish golf is on the map, thanks to Belek – and the limit of its progress and its ambitions seem never-ending.
There are now 17 courses on this golden strip of golfing terrain and more and more golfers are experiencing its pleasures; the fact it is cheaper than many other countries due to not being in the euro – and its southerly location giving it a couple of extra months of superb weather compared to countries further north in Europe.
Within 14 years of getting into golf, Belek was named Europe’s Golf Destination of the Year in the prestigious IAGTO Awards (indeed, the awards and the accompanying travel market were actually held in the area in 2011).
Why? Belek has some terrific golf. All of it is good, some of it is excellent. The aforementioned PGA Sultan at Antalya Golf Club is one of the stand-out venues. Designed by European Golf Design (of Celtic Manor TwentyTen fame), this seriously tough, 7,083-yard course comprises lakes, pot bunkers and trees to catch you out. It was again voted into Golf World’s Continental Europe Top 100.
The club’s other course, the Pasha is just as impressive – a lovely holiday course among mature woodland which was also laid out by EGD.
While Antalya offers the kind of inland golf you expect to find on holiday, Lykia Links offers something totally different. A genuine links course, it comprises deep bunkers protected by railway sleepers, and massive waste areas with slick greens. Pete Dye’s son Perry has done a terrific job creating a course which wouldn’t look out of place on the coast of Scotland, in southern Turkey. Think Turnberry with a hot sun… Lykia Links was one of the highest climbers in our 2011 European ranking, moving up to No.52.
Of the rest, the other key venues to consider are Montgomerie Maxx Royal – formerly known as Papillon – which is routed through sandy seaside ridges interspersed with pine and eucalyptus forest. As is the case everywhere in Belek, it is complemented by a great new hotel.
Carya is another terrific venue. It was created by Open legend Peter Thomson among pine and eucalyptus trees. Another multiple Open champion, Sir Nick Faldo, designed the three loops of nine among the mature trees at Cornelia with The Prince combination the pick; it was No.87 in our European Top 100.
Finally, Gloria has a total of 45 holes at the foot of the Taurus Mountains, all designed by Frenchman Michael Gayon, with
the Old the stand-out venue. It is impossible to get bored at this sprawling venue.
Off the course
Belek doesn’t just offer a fabulous golf break, it can also provide a brilliant family holiday. It is built on a sandy beach – an attraction for all ages. There are also swish hotels with spas, kids clubs, tennis and of course swimming pools. Water sports in the sparkling blue Med are plentiful; Belek Shopping centre has excellent options for some retail therapy. Soak up history at the ruins of the ancient city of Perge or the city of Antalya itself.
Getting there: Turkish Airlines operate flights to Antalya from various UK airports.
Time difference: GMT +2
When to go: Belek is typically Mediterranean with hot summers and mild winters. April to June and September to November are the best – in terms of climate – for golfers.