Guide to Belek 2015
In our showcase of the best of Belek last year we wondered fancifully what trick the area would pull off next. Having revolutionised the golf travel market within two decades, and continually raised the bar even after gaining relative parity with Spain and Portugal, the question was where Belek could go next.
The answer is emphatic. Not a big golf tournament – they've already got loads of those (with the Ladies' European Tour, the Challenge Tour and of course the Race to Dubai series event). Not a big-name designer – they've already got loads of those too, from Faldo to Montgomerie. And certainly not a fl ashy luxury hotel – it seems as if they've already got more of those per square mile than more or less anywhere on earth.
No, Belek has looked outside golf to emphasise its standing in the world; it is poised to host the G20 summit. Not content with hosting the fi nest golfers on the planet – both Rory and Tiger have played here – Belek is now set to accommodate the most powerful men (and women) on earth. With one of the area's most gleaming golf complexes the venue for Messrs Cameron and Obama, and with both men keen golfers (especially the US President) surely they will be tempted to head out for a few holes at their host hotel, or elsewhere nearby... Belek will follow other grand venues such as Washington DC, London and Seoul in hosting the G20, further emphasising the standing of this remarkable area.
Describing Belek as 'remarkable' is absolutely apt, for this now thriving, gleaming, bustling town was little more than a fi shing village surrounded by a swamp in the mid 1990s. To now be hosting two of the most famous men in America in Obama and Woods is actually fairly ludicrous. But they have got things right in Belek, right from the very start. David Jones, the Irish tour pro, was asked to design the fi rst course, National, and he made a superb job. It set the standard for golf in Belek and has meant that unless a course is 'proper' it will not prosper. Or rather it will prosper to a lesser extent, because every course in Belek makes money – a stark comparison to those in Iberia. Anyway, the point of National being so good is that it demanded the others that follow had to be good too. So although the likes of, say, Gloria's ninehole Verde might not grab the headlines, what you'll fi nd is that it is a perfectly good, well-designed, wellmanicured course.
You won't really notice any difference between it and Gloria's two 18-holers. Or Tat International: sounds odd (it is an ego trip by the man who built it), but there is plenty to like here. As ever, though, there is a hierarchy to the courses. In the highest echelon are those that get into Golf World's benchmark Top 100 Courses in Continental Europe. Here we are talking about Lykia Links, Cornelia, Antalya's PGA Sultan (pictured above) and Carya. The likes of Montgomerie Maxx and National are strong contenders for the list, as is Gloria's underrated Old.These are some of the very finest courses on the continent, venues at which you know you are playing somewhere special. From the awesome seaside experience at top-rated Lykia to the stringent examination at PGA Sultan to the heathland feel of Carya, you have a tremendous variety to choose from too. Beneath those superstars is real strength in depth.
For courses such as Gloria New, Antalya's Pasha, Tat International and Sueno Pines will disappoint no-one. These are routinely well routed and beautifully conditioned. Book a round at any of these venues and be confident of enjoying yourself. That is only part of the attraction of Belek, with off course qualities that match anywhere in the world. Plus of course there is the weather, which is what made selecting this spot on the south coast of Turkey such a wise decision in the first place. Adding to the lure now are improved air links to Antalya.
This used to be an issue but now there are lots of flights to Antalya airport, which is 30 minutes from Belek and 45 from Lykia. Turkish Airlines carry your clubs free, too. Good news for David Cameron as he plans his visit in mid November....