With the Turkish Open included as part of the ‘Final Series’ on the 2013
European Tour, golf is very much a part of the country’s marketing strategy.
And as James Mossop reports, the quality and the value of the golf here
makes this a genuine alternative to the Algarve and the Costas
Quality and quantity would
appear to be the general
thrust of Turkey’s push for
recognistion in the golfing
world. There is a stretch of
14 outstanding courses close to the town of
Belek, in the Antalya region, with the sea on
one side and the snow-capped Taurus mountains
looking on in the distance. Famous golfing
names, Sir Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie,
David Feherty, Dave Thomas and David Jones
are the architects behind several of the
acclaimed layouts, with further input from
European Golf Design.
There are unquestionable reasons for packing
the shorts and heading to your nearest
airport. Antalya is handy for all the courses
on the strip. Turkish Airlines and several
budget conveyors fly here regularly. The flight
time from London is around four hours and
the destination offers guaranteed sunshine
with only 35 days a year seeing rain.
Some of the deals available are amazing. A
group of golfing pals from Hale Golf Club,
Cheshire, flew out last October, sun screen
and all. Seven nights, four rounds of golf, allinclusive
four-star hotel for just £565 per person,
plus flights from Manchester.
The “all-inclusive” package, as visitors discover
to their undying happiness, means that
once you have checked into your four or five
star hotel everything you can eat or drink is
yours with no extra charge. Happy days. Thus,
you sit down for a gourmet four-course meal
with aperitif, wine and digestif cognac and
your wallet remains untroubled.
One man amazed at the value Turkey has
to offer is Andrew “Chubby” Chandler, chairman
and managing director of International
Sports Management, who looks after Lee
Westwood, Darren Clarke, Charl Schwartzel
and Louis Oosthuizen and others.
Ever a man of pragmatism, he said: “The
all-inclusive deal is astonishing. Think about
it: a group of golfers at a club could pay £20 a
month into a holiday fund for a week that
costs £800 and still have £200 to play with.
All the courses are four or five star.
“Turkey offers a genuine alternative to
Spain and Portugal, where they have probably
been before. There are so many good courses
here that Turkey has a definite chance and
the weather is fantastic.”
Chandler was visiting Turkey with the top
eight players in the World Ranking to play the
World Golf Final, won by Justin Rose. But at
the end of the week Turkey as a destination
won the hearts and minds of all the visitors.
Tiger Woods had no doubt that Turkish
golf would soon be soaring, handing credit to the fledgling Turkish Golf Federation. Casting
his eyes to the distant mountains, he said:
“Turkey can become a significant destination.
I want to play golf all over the world and I will
definitely be coming back here.
“This is a good venue and if I can put some
focus on Turkey and the development of its
junior programme so much the better.”
Sure, Tiger may have felt obliged to say the
right thing at the right time, but the other
seven players competing on the PGA Sultan
course – Rory McIlroy, Westwood, Hunter
Mahan, Schwartzel, Rose, Webb Simpson and
Matt Kuchar – echoed everything the world
No.1 had said, and more.
Simpson, winner of the 2012 US PGA
Championship saw Antalya as a possible
venue for his American friends. He told me:
“It is not hard to get to at this time of year
when many parts of the States are getting colder while it is beautiful here.
“The game is growing quickly in these parts
and I just hope I can make it back to the tournament
next time. After the way golf has taken off
in South Korea and Japan a lot of people predict
the same will happen in Turkey.”
Simpson is hoping to take his course development
ideas to the Turkish capital, Istanbul,
where there are just two courses for 20 million
people. He wants to enhance facilities and boost
the burgeoning junior golf academies.
Turkey, a hotbed of football, has yet to produce
a professional golfer of note but that, and
the ambition to stage big tournaments, demonstrates
the appetite for growth.
The Antalya courses and the 45 hotels provide
plenty for the visitors to enjoy. High seasons
are October/November and March until
May. Rates vary slightly between seasons but
the courses appear to remain constant in their
condition and presentation.
One course, the Lydia Links, skirts the
Mediterranean shore in a clever attempt to replicate
some of the British and Irish links courses.
They certainly have the prevailing wind and
four holes, from the thirteenth to the sixteenth
have the ‘linksy’ feel.
The Turks point out that from 36,000 courses
world wide only 300 are considered true
links and Lydia Links is one of them. The ratio
may be open to argument!
The Montgomerie Maxx Royal Golf Club,
designed by former Ryder Cup captain Monty, is
described as seaside/parkland/forest which just
about covers everything.
All are ‘resort courses’ which means they are
generously fair and available to hackers and
scratch men alike. Interestingly, Westwood shot
61 and 64 on the par 71 Sultan course.
Magnificent scoring, of course, but the fairways
are wide and the length of 6,954 yards is shorter
than most of the championship courses they
play on when touring.
For the aesthetes there are crystal clear lakes,
colourful birdlife, fairways lined with umbrella
pines and eucalyptus trees set against the
Schwartzel said it reminded him of his
native South Africa while Sky TV’s on-course
commentator and former European Tour winner,
Wayne Riley, said the eucalyptus trees
transported him back home to New South
There is certainly much to admire. Turkish
golf and its tourist industry is making life
attractive to the golfing visitor.
One man, Oner Uygun, managing director of
Millennium Golf, is working with British travel
agents and tour operators bringing golfers to
Antalya. And for lovers of ancient history there
are venerable towns close by. Roman Emperor
Hadrian has a gate named after him. Shades of
the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires are all
around. A two-day diversion to Istanbul could
be an exciting option for the culture lovers.
Back in Antalya the courses were busy with
visitors from the UK, Germany, Scandinavia, the
Far East, Russia and other countries.
You could play the Sultan course, walking in the footprints of Tiger and the rest for 109
euros. For some reason the Turks like payment
in euros even though they are not in the
European money system. The local currency,
still acceptable of course, is Turkish lire
Menus are in euro and the value is good,
especially for those on the aforementioned allyou-
can-eat-and-drink deal. Otherwise a beer, for
instance, costs 3.5 euros for anyone not on an
all-inclsive deal. A very few hotels prefer the
The golf is good, the weather outstanding, the
value excellent and the last word goes to Justin
Rose, the man who collected the £1m winner’s
cheque at the end of the World Golf final.
He said: “The golf courses all look fantastic.
What better place to come to play some winter
golf. You have the weather, the courses and the
Turkish hospitality. It has all been just brilliant.”
Turkish golf, most people agree, is on the
march and it will be stamped even firmer on the
World map when the penultimate event of the
European Tour season in 2013 will be held on
the same strip that beckons holiday-makers.
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine