Golfing breaks and Roman gems in Antalya

Posted on: 14 May 2014 by Gareth Hargreaves

Turkey's Mediterranean coast resort of Belek, near Antalya, harbours excellent golfing facilities and an immensely rich historical landscape.

Golf holidays is Turkey

Golfing breaks have become increasingly popular over the past two decades with Spain leading the way in resort-style breaks, but Turkey now offers some outstanding facilities and stunning courses.

This year sees the 40th staging of the Ryder Cup between Europe and the USA on the King's Course at Gleneagles in Scotland. Unfortunately, with Ryder Cup fever comes Ryder Cup pricing and the ticketing agencies, courses and hotels will be looking for a bumper pay day off the backs of golf fans.

For an alternative to spiralling UK prices and unpredictable weather, 50connect visited Belek, in the Antalya region of Turkey, to run the rule over the Montgomery Maxx Royal. Our visit coincided with the arrival of the European Tour in Belek for the Turkish Airlines Open, and the event showcased the splendid Montgomery Maxx Royal course to the full - but more on that later.
 

Kaleiçi

About the Antalya region

The area around Belek has an incredibly rich historical and cultural heritage spanning two millennia; etched with the craft of the Romans, Byzantines, Seljuk Turks and latterly Ottomans. For me as a western European, I found this a fascinating journey of discovery as I have always had an interest in history, but to see it so embedded into the landscape and lives of the modern day residents - without the conservation police scolding at every turn - is very satisfying.
 

Roman Amphitheatre at Aspendos among best preserved in the world

Aspendos

The Greco/Roman theatre at Aspendos is among the best preserved monuments to the sophistication of architecture and culture of Rome still in existence – that it was built around 150 years after Christ's death is staggering.

Aspendos is an amazing sight; its towering outer facade is impressive in its own right, but the stunning interior is something else all together. Built during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (around 155 AD) by the Greek architect Zenon, the amphitheatre has a capacity of approximately 15000 and such is its condition that it is still used for productions today. If you are visiting south west Turkey, Aspendos is a must see.
 

Stunning colonnaded Roman street at Perge

Perge

Close to Aspendos lie the remains of the city of Perge; its colonnades, shops and bath houses allow the visitor to get a real feel for how the ancient city must have looked. Wandering through the ruins and peering at the sophistication of the culture at a time when we Britons were still painting our faces and living in mud huts, John Cleese's line from Life of Brian sprang to mind 'What have the Romans ever done for us?'

Well, at Perge, fresh running water from the Taurus Mountains 17 km away (carried on the still visible aqueducts), irrigation, covered sewers, planned streets, hot baths, commerce and a sophisticated society.

Though the site is now protected and is being studied by archaeologists, there is still much to reveal. It is remarkable that in among the ruins, beneath only centimetres of earth, you can make out the still intact tiles of mosaics that have been covered by time.   

The theatre at Aspendos and the ruins at Perge are but two examples of the sites of antiquity that are engrained into this landscape. Our short trip did not allow us the luxury of spending the time these sites warranted.
 

Ninth hole on the Montgomerie Maxx Royal

Turkish Airlines Open 

The Montgomerie Maxx Royal created by eight-times European Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie is a beautifully manicured 260 acre site that offers a very challenging par of 72.

For the inaugural Turkish Airlines Open, a stellar field including Tiger Woods, 2012 Ryder Cup vice captain Miguel Angel Jimenez, Britons Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood, as well as Euro Tour regulars Henrik Stenson and Nicolas Colsaerts.

Hosting the event in early November offered a timely reminder of the climate enjoyed by this region of the Med; 22 degrees in November is not something we Brits are accustomed to and it showed in our choice of attire. While the rest of the, very healthy, crowd chose tee shirts and shorts, we were soon peeling off our jackets and jumpers and uncomfortably shifting in sweaty jeans.

Wardrobe misjudgements aside the tournament was a huge success, producing some excellent golf. Ian Poulter and Justin Rose were still right in the mix mid afternoon on the final day, and although Poulter fell away, Rose played himself into a tie with Woods for third place behind Jamie Donaldson (Wales) and winner France's Victor Dubuisson. 

The Montgomery Maxx Royal was pristine; I would go back just to walk round it - never mind playing on it. It has to be said though, this is not a course that will offer much to the beginner - more experienced players will revel in the challenge it poses. As long as you know your level before you tee off, you'll enjoy yourself.  
 

Victor Dubuisson sinks his winning putt in Turkish Airlines Open at Belek


While Britain's golfers have been slow to pick up on the quality of Turkish golf resorts, the German, Scandinavian and Russian markets have not. There is a good flavour to the multinational groups sunning themselves and enjoying the many courses, and while tee times need to be booked in advance there is enough variety and capacity to cater for all. Early and late season bookings are recommended as the resorts are quieter and courses less full.

Green fees vary from course to course and can be booked through Bilyana Golf:

  • Cornelia Faldo Course = £65 
  • Montgomerie Maxx Royal = £106
  • Pines or Dunes course = £50
  • Carya = £66

All course bookings include return shuttle with Bilyana.
Pricing based on games played 1 June 2014 bookings.

 

Balcony view from Cornelia Diamond

Cornelia Diamond Resort

The Cornelia Diamond Resort is immaculate and its mantra “tailor made luxury” is absolutely spot on – it is a gem!

The cruise liner-like hotel casts a sweeping arc parallel to the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean. The complex offers all inclusive breaks and golf packages.

Facilities include

  • Seven outdoor swimming pools, one with waterslides (usually closed Nov-Mar)

  • Sun terrace with sun loungers and parasols

  • Indoor pool

  • Pool/beach towels

  • Main buffet restaurant

  • Nine à la carte restaurants (four Nov-Mar, min. age 12yrs in four May-Oct)

  • Ten bars

  • 24hr room service

  • Watersports

  • Nick Faldo golf course

  • Gym

  • Extensive spa

  • Turkish bath

  • Sauna

  • Internet café

  • Wi-Fi (selected areas)

  • For children: hotel-run kids' club (4-12yrs) and teens' club (13-17yrs, Apr-Oct), outdoor and indoor kids' pools, waterslides, kids' buffet, highchairs and cots

 

The Cornelia Diamond is a stand out hotel for facilities, features, food and the attentive and engaging manner of its staff. If golf is your bag, this is one stop you seriously need to consider. Belek's courses are far more than the homogenous offerings of the Algarve and the Spanish Costas and will suit experienced and beginners alike.

In short then, Belek is a fantastic place to holiday. Whether you go for the golf, the sun and sand or to explore the historical past of the surrounding areas - it has something for everyone. The challenge you will face is fitting it all in! 

 

Getting there

Turkish Airlines flies from Gatwick, Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh to Antalya via Istanbul, with return fares from £200 ( depending on season). Rooms at the Cornelia Diamond in May start at £336 per night. 

Time zone: UK + 2hrs

Currency: Turkish Lira £1 = 3.48

 

 

This trip was supported by:

Turkish Culture and Tourism Office UK www.gototurkey.co.uk

Turkish Airlines www.turkishairlines.com

Turkish Airlines Open www.turkishairlinesopen.com

Cornelia Diamond Golf Resort & Spa www.corneliaresort.com

 

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