We love to talk about the weather in Britain; it’s a fascination bordering on obsession. But is it any wonder? For six months of the year we shiver from the cold and take cover from the rain. And by the time we get to July and we’ve still not had more than a few warm sunny days in a row, we are already closing in on a miserable winter again.
The people of Cyprus do not have this problem. The island has one of the most consistently good climates in the world, with mild winters, long warm summers and over 330 days of sunshine a year. Even in its coldest month, January, the average temperature is still 12C. And more of us Britons really ought to be taking advantage of this glorious weather.
Because here is a destination that from March to November inclusive offers brilliant weather – Golf Escapes has been in October and it was absolutely perfect for golf (although, incredibly, even then it is still almost a little too hot at midday!). And all this is just over four hours away...
Cyprus is a terrific option for a family holiday, incorporating some top-class courses for those in the party who are keen golfers. You can split your week, with four days on the beach or around the swimming pool interspersed with three days on the golf course. Cyprus makes it very easy for everyone to be happy. You’ll all also enjoy the local food and drink: the Stifado and Kleftiko stews are sensationally tasty and seriously robust – and in an unpretentious little taverna, they are yours for €8; you can also take in one of the six Wine Routes.
While Cyprus is a generally tranquil island, you can find a buzz during the day or at night: Larnaca is a bustling hive of activity with lots of shops to satisfy even the most dedicated follower of fashion while Paphos has plenty of lively bars to choose from when the sun sets. Limassol is the island’s biggest town and boasts a lovely marina and lots of culture, history and archaeology to soak up. If you have the energy for activities in addition to your golf, you can scuba into the depths of the Med and explre the wreck of the Zenobia – one of the world’s top 10 dive sites.
Or you might fancy trying windsurfing in steady winds or sailing and deep-water fishing on the calm seas around the island. There are a network of cycle routes in Cyprus, including scenic coastal ones. You can also rock climb on a standstone crag at Akamas. All, of course, done with the sun warming your back...
Your golf options on Cyprus
Cyprus’ handful of courses are all grouped very tightly together near Paphos, so from one base you can play all of them, resulting in minimal travel time on the island and absolutely no annoying packing and re-packing. Here is a guide to what you can expect from each of the quartet – and as you will discover, the refurbishing of two of its existing venues has given the island its strongest-ever portfolio of golf courses.
The new, Tony Jacklin-designed Secret Valley course opened in September 2013, adding another top-notch golf venue to a burgeoning offering from the birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite. The new 6,270-yard, par-71, layout is located in a beautiful scenic valley adjacent to the Paphos coastline, Petra tou Romiou, from where, legend has it, Aphrodite rose from the sea.
It is fitting that the Greek goddess of beauty should originate from here, for the course, with its rolling Bermuda fairways and bent-grass greens, is a thing of beauty itself. With six sets of tees – three for men and three for women – it has been made playable to all standards of golfer, who will revel in the surroundings of mature trees and stunning natural rock formations.
The Golf Academy is located close to the clubhouse with grassed tees as well as 22 covered bays. Large putting, chipping, and pitching greens plus indoor equipment – a golf simulator and swing studios – complete the modern practice area. Secret Valley’s own PGA professional is available to give tuition for all ages and abilities, whether it’s for a complete beginner, an experienced golfer or a large group, lessons will be tailored to suit each individual requirement.
The oldest course in Cyprus was originally designed by Donald Steel in 1994 but it has recently undergone a significant overhaul by the Mackenzie & Ebert firm – the Open Championship’s preferred architects. Indeed, anyone who played Minthis (formerly Tsada) before the revamp might not recognise it now. Along with refurbished Secret Valley, it has raised Cyprus’ golf pedigree considerably.
Located in the grounds of a 12th Century monastery in a valley surrounded by vineyards and orchards, the fairways weave between mature trees and water features. Meanwhile the swish new clubhouse gives the complex a rounded appearance. The clubhouse has a restaurant, cocktail bar, lounge and sun terrace, conference facilities, a business centre and changing facilities. Its decor is an airy, modern slant on traditional Mediterranean architecture. An elevated driving range provides 16 bays and the practice facilities are excellent. The course’s elevated setting – 550m above sea level – lends itself to stunning views, providing the perfect backdrop for a challenging game. The terrific redesigned 12th – part of Tom Mackenzie’s astute refresh – is a great risk-reward hole. Your drive must find a fairway that is built up out of the valley and lined with local stone – or big hitters can take the direct route over the OB... but a valley awaits anything not quite perfect. Minthis Hills is now a very fine course.
Aphrodite Hills is the best-known Cypriot course and, being just 10 minutes from Paphos airport as well as close to the other three venues, its 290-room hotel makes it an excellent base. Designed by American Cabell Robinson, the course opened in 2002 and is laid out within 578 acres on two plateaux, divided by a ravine that overlooks the exact spot where ‘Aphrodite’ is said to have emerged from the sea.
It is a proper championship course at 6,930 yards with pot bunkers and tiered greens adding to the challenge. But if you play it off the correct tees (there are five sets to choose from), you can soak up the views of the Med as you move between indigenous olive and carob trees. The 143-yard 7th is one of those holes you really feel you must play before you hang up your spikes; you fire your ball over the aforementioned gorge before negotiating several chicanes in your buggy...
The course is complemented by a three-hole golf academy and sumptuous clubhouse, German and English-speaking PGA pros equipped with a full video swing analysis, a large, double-ended range, a short-game area with a large pitching and chipping green and a three-hole academy course. The hotel has four restaurants and three bars and the comprehensive facilities include an outstanding Tennis Academy and an award-winning spa, ‘The Retreat’.
Sir Nick Faldo’s design opened in autumn 2010 and benefits from a prime location on rolling hillside topography above the Mediterranean Sea. Voted among the Top 10 New International Golf Courses 2010, Sir Nick and his team were especially careful to retain as much of the existing landscape as possible, so as a result weathered outcrops of limestone as well as mature carob and olive trees are evident. This is a golfer’s golf course, requiring strategy and precision to score well.
The lavish clubhouse boasts a fine restaurant, five terraces, wine-tasting lounge, event facilities and an exclusive private terrace while the Golf Academy features a full-length range with target greens and bunkers, a short-game practice area and putting green.
A hole you would relish: Minthis Hills, 13th, 165 yards, par 3
Tom Mackenzie’s refresh of the course at Minthis Hills has been a tremendous boost to the course and this excellent short hole – which has water surrounding the green – is part of an excellent set of par 3s at the scenic resort.
The climate: Cyprus is a year-round destination and therefore ideal for some winter sun.
Getting there: Another real bonus, because as it is a popular tourist destination you can fly to Larnaca or, even better, Paphos itself, from lots of UK airports.
Time difference: GMT+2