Nov 08

Pro and Amateur Golf in Turkey

Turkey Just Featured Itself in the Turkish Airlines Open – Some of Us Slow to Catch On

I have watched through the years as new parts of the globe have established a golf culture, especially much of Asia. We have seen great players like Lorena Ochoa and Lee Trevino have bring Mexican golf into the light, and have electronically visited outrageously beautiful locations in the globe’s tropical regions. Turkey and its participation in both amateur and professional golf didn’t just spring up yesterday, but in this case, my preconceived notions have been harder to resist. These come from two sources. First, a voracious childhood appetite for every Sinbad the Sailor movie that came down the pike. In these illusory looks at what is now Turkey, the land was barren, not to mention monster-infested, and the palaces of Pashas and Sultans were beyond belief. My second and more adult view involved a protracted period looking at the Turkish coast from nine miles away, on the Greek island of Lesbos. That coastline is vast, brown and strangely impressive. Now that I’ve seen some of the golf courses, of which Turkey has many, perhaps Sinbad was the right way to go after all.

The Turkish Airlines Open was played last week in Antalya, and just for the record, Justin Rose won it with a ten-foot birdie putt on the final hole. It was his second win on the European Tour,  In China, he came back from an eight-stroke deficit. He finished with a 65 in this, his most recent victory. Strangely appropriate, the courses of Antalya are named the Pasha and the Sultan. Both were designed by David Jones, and each for a completely different kind of golfer. The Pasha opened in 2003, and is open year-round. That must mean good climate for a course with the sea on both sides. For the traveler, one negative review cites a rude pro and a purchase of a complete set missing a driver, for which the purchaser was not satisfied. However, no one to my knowledge has panned the course. Pasha is a regimen of mid-level difficulty golf, with plenty of trouble held in reserve for the strategically-challenged Like its higher-ranking partner, the course winds through a series of clear lakes, along a pine forest, and under a group of white-capped mountains. The Sultan does the same, except that it is designed for the low handicapper, and is the ideal place in the region for a professional tournament.

Upon first seeing the photos of these courses, I caught a brief connection between the design of the course and that of the local architecture, wherever the two meet up. Whether or not the fairway is straight, there is always a curve in the visual, lending a refined suave to the style of the course and removing any sense of rigidity or monotony from the individual hole or greater course. In the occasional interaction of structures in or around, the buildings are the same, strong with a softening curve somewhere in the picture. On the Sultan, trouble is everywhere, and a fine shot only sets up another host of troubles while eliminating the previous ones.

My visual experience of Turkey was enjoyed from the perspective of the Aegean, and I confess to never having seen it from the Mediterranean side. That being said, I never expected such opulence from a golf course in this part of the world. I had rather anticipated the best of desert courses, employing the desert as the main ingredients. I was also caught up short to see that the Turkish Airlines Open is part of the European Tour. Asia Minor seems so far away and distinctly different from what I think of as Europe. Nevertheless, the country appears to have done a great job of putting fine courses on the map, and Turkey is suddenly another item added to the golfing bucket list.

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