Review | Golf in Belek | Turkey

Ed Butler headed to Belek in Turkey’s Antalya province for a romantic couples break and couldn’t resist playing golf, lots of golf.

I first heard about Belek when researching destinations for my one year wedding anniversary. Back then, it was early days, so my initial pitch was a resort without golf.

After discovering the wealth of high quality golf courses available to play in Belek, I switched tack and negotiated a mutual exchange of time on course for time at the luxury spa.

The Gloria Serenity was agreed and it was a perfect base for an excellent week-long golf holiday in Turkey.

The PGA Sultan - made Ed's Top-3
The PGA Sultan Course – Antalya Province

Gloria Resorts, of which there are three, have a long history of golf in Belek and many of UK golfers play the Gloria Old and New courses when staying out in the region.

Obviously, not booking with a golf operator meant I had to organize my games independently and so I hit the web. Never knowingly under prepared, I compiled a list of the courses in Belek and noted how close they were to our hotel. I also had to take enough Euros with me for three rounds and the taxis needed for transfers from hotel to golf courses and back.

Three courses to play in Belek

I selected three courses, the PGA Antalya Sultan, The National and Carya Golf Club.

If I could squeeze 9 holes on the Gloria Old so much the better, but I didn’t want to push it. A happy wife generally equals a happy life.

My first mistake was not checking with the individual golf clubs before I travelled. On arriving in Turkey, I discovered that my first choice, the National, was closed for the Ladies European Tour Turkish Open, so that was scratched.

The National would have been nice and I’d been told that it is probably in the top-two courses in Belek, so I was sorry not to give it a go. All’s well that ends well, as my hotel concierge made sure I got early tee times on the Sultan and Carya.

Being a relatively decent player and (I hate to admit this, but it’s true) a bit of a golf snob, I was at pains to play golf clubs rather than golf resorts.

In my opinion, there is a clear difference between a club and a resort. Normally, the green fees vary accordingly between the two types of golf destinations but in Belek this wasn’t necessarily the case; with the average green fee coming in around €100.

Big name designers

Two of the courses in Belek have been designed by two of golf’s leading lights, Nick Faldo’s Cornelia and the Colin Montgomerie’s new course.

Montgomerie Maxx golf course Belek Turkey
Montgomerie Maxx – venue of the inaugural Turkish Airlines Open – Belek, Turkey

Nice as they might be, I viewed them with trepidation as I thought that many a golfer would want to play them just so they have said they have played that course.

Cornelia does rank highly in Belek and their greens are some of the best around but I just felt that I wanted to play a course that was on the list of every golf traveller.

Likewise, the Montgomerie has had excellent praise for its presentation and superb greens.

I did read that there were some long carries off the tee and that there were some trees in the middle of some fairways that golfers found not only baffling but quite annoying after a good drive.

The ones that came up time and again on internet forums were the three I have mentioned above.

The only other one I would have considered playing was Lykia Links, but sadly this was 50 minute drive from our hotel and the taxi there and back would have been about a greenfee so this was non starter.

This was a shame as I had heard excellent reviews on Turkey’s only links course and I would have loved to have given it a go. With the wife relishing the prospect of her beautiful Turkish bath and copious spa treatments, I was ready to play some serious golf.

Royal ranking for the Sultan
The first game I arranged was a round on the PGA Antayla Sultan course.

After driving off the main road in Belek the taxi driver soon arrive at a beautiful front gate and promptly up through a lovely stretch of road leading to the hugely impressive clubhouse.

I was early and there is nothing better whilst playing golf abroad than seeing green keepers busy on the course, and the sprinklers full on producing a lovely rainbow effect with the warmth and strength of the early morning sun.

Freshly cut grass also cannot fail to whet the appetite of the first tee shot and to see what kind of test awaits you.

The course was in pristine condition when I went out at 8:30am with my two English and one German playing partners.

The course reminded me of a US stadium course and when I played it off the back tees it presented some nice driving holes.

With good par 3’s and a nice mix of risk and reward par 5’s this course was a definite challenge.

Water comes in to play in Belek a lot and at the Sultan there were probably 13 holes that you could quite easily lose your ball in the drink.

The Sultan is a great test of one’s mental game as there were no mickey-mouse holes out there. Our group made great time and it was a fun 4 and a bit hours.

My next test was on Carya Golf Club, which I had been assured was the club of choice for Turkey’s wealthiest businessmen and women.

If anything, the drive up to this course was even more breathtaking than the Sultan.

Easy on the eye - Carya Golf, Belek
Easy on the eye – Carya Golf, Belek

Carya Golf: A tiny corner of Turkey that is forever England

The thing that struck me almost instantly was how very un-European the course looked.

Designed by Thomson Perrett & Lobb, the design business of Peter Thomson, the legendary Aussie golfer of the 1950’s who won five Open Championships, this championship golf course set on undulating sand hills and cutting through mature pine and eucalyptus forest, in the heart of Belek.

Thomson himself has gone on record saying:

“This is an exceptional piece of land on which to build a golf course. It is reminiscent of the famous Surrey heathland courses near London that I rate among the world’s best and which I was fortunate to enjoy much success on in my playing days.

I am very excited about the prospect of creating a classic, traditional style course in Turkey.”

Peter Thomson – Five-Time Open Champion

He really has done a remarkable job and it does feel as though you are playing a psychedelic version of St George’s Hill or Sunningdale.

Heather and Bunkers abound at Carya Golf
Heather and Bunkers abound at Carya Golf

It is certainly unique to Belek in that it features so much heather that is grown on site.

What it does give is the most arresting spectacle of the tall pines framing each fairway with the heather down the edge.

Carya was a truly demanding golf course where you have to think about every shot.

One of the other key features of this course is the very strategic bunkering which was particularly evident on the superb par three holes.

I had read online that the greens had just been relaid about 8 weeks prior so naturally I was a little concerned before I left.

Actually I had nothing to fear as they were in remarkable shape considering. They were probably better than about 90% of all English greens at that time of the year.

Starting my round at 7.57am I was paired with two nice Englishmen in their fifties, who were mid teen handicaps.

We romped through in 4hrs and 2 minutes which was superb.

‘Better than both Spain and Portugal’: Ed Butler

This really has gone very high on my list. I would put it already above anything I have played in Spain and Portugal, including Vilamoura Old and Penina. It feels as though you really are playing in England in 85 degree heat.

Just an absolutely brilliant golfing day. If you are a single figure handicap to middling ability golfer, you simply must play this course.

I was bowled over by the quality of the courses, the facilities and the golf in general out in Belek. If you are looking for a new and different golfing experience to Spain and Portugal, Turkey’s Belek region should be top of your list.

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