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Turkey: Playground Of The Gods

Aug 1, 2011
2011 / August 2011

It’s one of those mind-boggling moments when you realize you are standing on hallowed ground. You take it all in. The salty breeze from the Mediterranean; the scents of pine, eucalyptus and heather as you gaze down the fairways where thousands of years ago Greeks and Romans built their temples, sanctuaries and picturesque cities. Mythology says this was the playground of the Greek gods, and now legendary architects have sculpted a playground for golfers in Turkey.

As the cradle of civilization, Turkey’s core is as historic as it is progressive. Its landscape is dotted with remnants of ancient empires (more Greek ruins than Greece and more Roman archaeological sites than all of Italy) merging with skyscraping buildings, mosques and quaint restaurants and bars. Within the borders of Turkey, travelers are wowed with its captivating coastlines, majestic mountains, cosmopolitan cities and quaint villages, Mediterranean climate, diverse culture and culinary delights. Turkey is an ancient country steeped in 10,000 years of history, including chronicles of golf.

In 1895, the ancient city of Istanbul was home to Turkey’s first golf club, the 9-hole Istanbul Golf Club in the Maslak district. Today, Turkey is again on the move, welcoming new courses from well-known golf architects, and nothing gets a golfer itching to play more. Renowned golf architects such as Colin Montgomerie, Nick Faldo, Perry Dye, Michel Gayon and Dave Thomas have put their mark on Turkish golf. Jack Nicklaus has also added Turkey to his roster with the opening later this year of his course at the $1.4 billion Mardan Palace Antalya.

All this and more give Turkey the honor of emerging as the newest world-class golf destination and one of the most affordable.

The Turkish Riviera, located along the Mediterranean coast of Antalya, is experiencing a revival, boasting the largest concentration of luxury hotels, golf resorts and courses, many in the Belek resort area. Golfers can choose from an impressive 19 new clubs or resorts that have opened since 1995 — six opening since 2005 — offering 252 holes within a 20-mile radius. With 300 days of annual sunshine, any day is a perfect day to play.

On the southern coast of Turkey, Lykia-Links Antalya joined an elite group of golf courses in 2008 as one of only 300 golf courses labeled a true “links” course and the first in Turkey. With close proximity to the beach, all 18 holes of this par-72 course feature views of the Mediterranean Sea and the surrounding peaks of the Toros Mountains. The Perry Dye design tests golfers with pot bunkers, rye grass and elevated tees winding through the natural sand dunes, while prevailing winds challenge golfers at four of the coastline holes.

Up for a challenge? Bring your game face to the 2008 $100 million golf and resort complex, The Montgomerie Maxx Royal (formerly Papillion Golf Club), located in the beach region of Belek near Antalya. Within 260 acres of mixed pine and eucalyptus forests, the 18-hole, par-72 championship course by professional Scottish golfer Colin Montgomerie was his first golf course designed in the Mediterranean. The coastline again provides amazing views while the natural ridges, sandy grounds and eight lakes set a challenging pace for golfers. For higher handicaps, consider loosening your swing at the accompanying practice facility or opting for the short 9-hole, par-27 Academy course.

Designed by French architect Michel Gayon, the Gloria Golf Club was the first in the country to complement accommodations with an on-site championship golf course. Now the largest golf complex in Turkey, the Gloria Golf Club offers 45 holes — two 18-hole courses (the Old and New) and the Verde 9-hole, par-36 course — plus the Gloria Golf Academy and Driving Range, with some of the best practice facilities in Belek.

The 18-hole, par-72 Gloria Old Course is Belek’s third-oldest golf course, a classic tree-lined parkland course with tight doglegs and deep bunkers. Host to several European Tour Events since its 1977 opening, it is considered more traditional, designed amid umbrella pine trees and seven freshwater lakes, and a test for any golfer.

Opened in 2005 and designed by renowned French architect Michel Gayon, the Gloria New Course is no less challenging but perhaps more forgiving. Its open and undulating design meanders through pine trees and four wide lakes — with 67 bunkers to test your accuracy. The signature hole is the 17th, a replica of the famous 17th at TPC Sawgrass, and the lake-lined 9th and 18th holes remind the golfer that accuracy is more important than distance.

A look down the fairways of the classic Carya Golf Club (2008) elicits memories of merry old England, as this heathland-style course culls its inspiration from the traditional courses in the Surrey area outside of London. The creation of the Carya Golf Course included planting nearly 1 million homegrown heather plants to fortify the existing environment. Heather borders the fairways that flow through pine and eucalyptus trees and across a sand ridge, a spectacular course to play.

Golf architect Nick Faldo designed his contribution to Turkey’s championship golf courses at Cornelia Golf Club (2006) as the centerpiece of the Cornelia Golf Resort. It features an abundance of elevated tees, nine lakes, irksome bunkers and challenging doglegs with scrub areas off the fairway. The 27-hole facility provides three 18-hole combinations: the King Championship, Queen and Prince courses. The longest, at 6,947 yards, is described as “ferociously challenging,” which hasn’t kept it from becoming one of the most popular courses in Belek. It is also home to the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, the first of its kind in Turkey.

Swinging your clubs on a sacred PGA course in Turkey: priceless. Antalya Golf Club’s PGA Sultan (2003) puts a stamp of approval on the country’s international reputation in the golf world. In 2012, the PGA Sultan will follow in the footsteps of world-famous courses like St. Andrews’ Old Course and Pinehurst to jointly stage the prestigious Eisenhower Trophy. Rolling fairways, 12 water hazards, almost 100 sand traps, numerous pot bunkers and tight targets make this course a handful, requiring handicap certificates. Two signature holes don’t allow much of a breather. The 16th is a par-5, 539-yard, left-to-right dogleg down a narrow fairway with water lurking on the right. The 18th is a par 4 with a long carry off the back tee over water to another right fairway, followed by an approach shot to an undulating green with water on both sides.

Other notable courses include The Pasha, sister to the PGA Sultan at Antalya Golf Club; Sueno Golf Club with two 18-hole championship links courses; 27 holes at the TAT International Golf Club, known for its opposing views of snow-covered mountains and the Mediterranean Sea; and the National Golf Club, just 25 minutes from Antalya’s airport, with 27 holes catering to all skill levels and the first course on the Turkish Mediterranean coast to be built to international standards.

A visit to Turkey wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Istanbul, where East meets West. Embraced by two seas and the connecting Bosporus Strait, Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles both Europe and Asia. Historically known as Constantinople, Istanbul was the center of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires.

A vibrant, colorful, modern cosmopolitan city, Istanbul is home to about a dozen courses, including the fourth-oldest golf club in Europe, the Istanbul Golf Club. Originally known as the Constantinople Golf Club with a 12-hole layout, after several name changes and a location change it reopened in 1920. More than a century of golf warrants a stop at the 9-hole Istanbul Golf Club, located in the northern part of the city near one of the major highway bridges to the Asian side.

Set in the rolling hills of the nearby Belgrade Forest, the Kemer Golf & Country Club is just 30 minutes from the city center. The most prestigious country club in Istanbul, the 18-hole, par-72, 6,889-yard championship course opened in 1995. Providing a picturesque walk in nature, it plays short but tight, with slender fairways and bunkers strategically placed between streams and lakes.

On the shores of the Sea of Marmara 55 miles west of Istanbul is the Klassis Golf & Country Club. Klassis was recognized as a PGA Tournament Course in 1995 and hosted the 1997 and 1998 European Challenge Tour and the BEKO Seniors PGA Tour in 1999. The 6,869-yard, par-72 golf course offers four par 3s, five par 5s and nine par 4s. The 12th hole replaces a fairway with a 54-yard-deep valley. Although water only comes into play on three holes, one of these, the 9th, is the signature hole at 188 yards, a tricky play atop an elevated tee across a lake to a two-tiered green.

Turkey is an ancient country steeped in 10,000 years of history, including chronicles of golf.


Info To Go

Antalya Airport (AYT) is six miles east of the city center. The Havas airport shuttle takes 30 minutes. Access to Belek, the core of golf courses, is limited to private shuttle or taxi, approximately a 30–40 minute drive.

About 14 miles west of the city center, Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport (IST) at Yes¸ilyurt is the busiest Turkish airport and appeared in the James Bond film From Russia with Love. Access to the city center (Taksim Square) is by Hafif Metro (Light Metro) to Aksaray (35 minutes, $1 one way); Havas airport shuttle (45 minutes, $10–15 ); and Gündüz taxi ( 35–75 minutes, $18–23).


Gloria Hotels & Resorts
Stay and play at the largest golf complex in Turkey. Choose from three beachfront hotels and enjoy discounted greens fees. Acisu Mevkii, Belek, Antalya, tel 90 242 710 23 00, www.gloria.com.tr $$$$

Klassis Resort Hotel
Klassis Golf & Country Club is the only club in the area with an on-site 4-star seaside hotel. Karga Burun Mevkii 34570, Silivri, Istanbul, tel 90 212 727 40 50, www.klassisotel.com.tr $$$$

Mardan Palace Antalya
At Turkey’s first 5-star destination resort, the décor is influenced by the Ottomans. Play the signature 18-hole Jack Nicklaus course. Kundu Köyü, Oteller Mevkii, Antalya, tel 90 242 310 41 00, www.mardanpalace.com $$$$


Gizli Bahçe (Secret Garden) Restaurant
Choose a table near the ancient walls or on the patio. The Turkish menu includes saksuka, an appetizer of eggplant, zucchini and tomato. Dizdar Hasan Bey Sokak 1, Kaleiçi, Antalya, tel 90 242 244 80 10 $$$

Haci. Baba Restaurant
Authentic Ottoman cuisine, ready-to-grill kebabs or lamb-and-cheese-stuffed crêpes are served in an unpretentious second-floor dining room near Taksim Square. Istiklal Caddesi 49, Beyog.lu, Istanbul, tel 90 212 244 18 86, www.hacibabarest.com $$–$$$

Meridiana Restaurant & Bar
Located in the National Golf Club, accomplished and award-winning Executive Chef Adnan Kaplan serves international and European cuisine. National Golf Club Antalya, Belek Turizm Merkezi, Antalya, tel 90 242 725 46 20, www.nationalturkey.com $$–$$$$




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FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.


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