It’s sometimes difficult to comprehend how a country like Turkey can produce so many superb golf courses and this is what I was curious to find out more about.  A recent trip to Antalya, a thriving city south of Istanbul is where I discovered an oasis of well maintained golf courses including several championship courses. All are incredibly well designed and very challenging and a delight to play although sadly on this short trip I only managed to try out a couple of the courses. My previous visits to Turkey were more about sailing and had me flying to Dalaman airport to join a friend’s yacht for a couple of weeks sailing around the Aegean sea but not once did I come across anything remotely looking like a golf course.  

This time I flew Turkish Airlines from Heathrow direct to Istanbul and found the In-flight service above expectations. During our four half hour flight we were served a decent lunch and free drinks (more than British Airways does these days) and even the choice of in-flight entertainment was a good standard especially as I found myself glued to the large ipad size screen attached to the back of the seat in front of me, watching ‘live’ Andy Murray’s second round match at the French Open on the in-flight sport’s channel. This was definitely a first experience for me! 

From Istanbul we caught a connecting flight to Antalya and were met by the hotel’s bus for the one and a half drive to the Xanadu Resort hotel, our home for the next four days. Once checked into my large room with views overlooking the resort’s swimming pool styled on the Ancient City of Perge (which we visited the following day), I meandered down to the buffet dinner where every conceivable dish is served together with ‘unlimited’ wine, mostly local and all part of the hotel’s package. Apart from the fifteen well maintained golf courses, this region is brimming with fascinating and historic culture and the next morning was spent wondering round remains of the Ancient City of Perge built by the Romans thousands of years ago where many of statues and artefacts have been carefully excavated and preserved by internationally trained archaeologists, and can now be found in Antalya’s famous Archaeological Museum which we visited later that afternoon accompanied by our knowledgeable guide Omar. . 

Turkey-2The next day was golf day and spent at the very modern Cornelia golf Hotel adjacent to the Nick Faldo designed par 72 Championship course. The lush fairways and greens belie the very hot weather this area experiences especially during the summer months although the course reflects a typical Nick Faldo design. This time I played with couple from Holland who told me they had been coming here to play golf for the past five years, and always in late May!. I found this course a pleasure to play in spite of its many challenges and difficult to read greens. All courses are well maintained and plenty of lush fairways and greens, and not far away a new grass court tennis stadium has recently opened and where this year its first ATP 250 tournament was hosted prior to the start of Wimbledon. Imagine grass courts in Turkey? Temperatures were generally in the 30’s but seemingly much effort is put  into perfecting and maintaining all courses and why conditions are of such high quality.  Compared to daytime temperatures,evenings were delightfully cool, and eating al fresco an enjoyable experience.  

Turkey-1I have to mention our final dinner at the romantic Alp Pasa restaurant in the old quarter of Antalya. To get there we walked through several narrow passages full of quaint shops and bazaars and dined outside next to the lit outdoor swimming pool while dreamy jazz music played all night in background – what an evening to remember!    

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