Categories
Travel

The 2024 Olympic Flame Is Lit

Olympia casts a spell over me

I am eagerly awaiting this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris, having managed to buy tickets for several events. I am all the more delighted when I receive an invitation to go on a press trip to Greece, which includes getting to know the golfing destination of Costa Navarino and taking part in the official ceremony to light the Olympic flame.

Gripping moments

The atmosphere in the ancient stadium of Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, captivates me from the very first moment. The entry of the Greek presidential guard, the raising of the flags, and the impressive voice of the world-famous American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who performs the Olympic anthem, move me deeply.

March-in by the Greek’s Presidential Guard. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

After the official speeches, the Olympic flame is lit in the ruins of the approximately 2,600-year-old Temple of Hera. From there, the flame is transferred by an actress, who takes on the role of the high priestess Hestia, to the torch of the first of more than 550 torchbearers. In doing so, she also hands over the traditional olive branch. Dancers in traditional antique dress accompany this atmospheric process with a performance whose choreography completely thrills me.

Handing over of the Olympic Flame by the High Priestess. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Over the next 11 days, the torch is carried from Olympia through Greece to the ancient Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, where the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896. From there, it will continue its journey by boat to Marseille in France.

Arrival at Navarino Bay

The following morning, the symbolic flame arrives at the world’s first International Olympic Academy Golf Course at Navarino Hills. This is very close to the town of Pylos, which is a two-hour drive south of Olympia.

It is the first golf course in the Mediterranean to feature the Olympic symbol, and the 18-hole signature golf course symbolizes the link between golf and Olympia. Its name reflects the shared values of the International Olympic Academy, the Greek Olympic Committee, and Costa Navarino – namely sustainability, personal well-being, education, and growth.

Participation in the ceremony on the 11th green in front of the clubhouse is extremely atmospheric and is carried out with the participation of young athletes from the golf academy, with two of them acting as torchbearers.

The Olympic Flame reaches the International Olympic Academy Golf Course. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Development from golf hotel to Destination Costa Navarino

I first traveled to the five-star hotel The Westin Resort in 2012. At that time, The Dunes Course, designed by Bernhard Langer in 2010, and The Bay Course, developed by Robert Trent Jones II and opened the following year, were only known to a few golfers in Germany. I was immediately fascinated by this beautiful spot, the hotel, and the two golf courses during this trip, and I’ve always been delighted by this destination. The last time I visited prior to this year was in November 2021, and my impressions from that time are attached.

This is the fifth time I’ve been here. The entrance area of The Westin and its lobby are now very familiar to me, so much so that I almost feel at home.

Entrance and lobby of The Westin Resort Costa Navarino. (Photos: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Once again, I relish my stay in a spacious room with sea views and the sweet treats to welcome me.

Sweet delicacies from local beekeeping in the Deluxe Sea View Room . (Photos: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The day couldn’t start better than with a hearty breakfast on the terrace of Moriās Restaurant. The freshly squeezed orange juice and savory omelette contribute to a perfect start to the golf day.

EThe perfect start to a great golfing day. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

From the initial two hotels, The Westin and The Romanos, and the two golf courses with The Dunes Clubhouse, Costa Navarino has now developed into a destination with a wide range of sports, wellness, and leisure activities.

With a five-day sports camp for children and teenagers aged between five and 15, the destination aims to bring them closer to the Olympic idea in ten different sports in July and August 2024. Professional coaches, such as those from the FC Bayern Munich Football Academy, will be on hand. In addition, the NBA Basketball School will be returning to Costa Navarino from May to September to share the special NBA experience with young and adult participants.

The three areas of Navarino Dunes, Navarino Bay, and Navarino Hills currently have four signature 18-hole golf courses. Their three exceptional clubhouses not only impress me with their architectural creativity and diversity, but also with their first-class catering offer.

An impressive golf quartet

The four courses are a maximum distance of 13 km apart and no more than 20 minutes by car. Hotel shuttles offer perfectly organized, free transfers to the various courses.

The state of maintenance of the tee boxes, greens, and bunkers on all courses is beyond criticism. Only the fairways of The Dunes Course showed potential for improvement in some places during my visit. However, according to the management, this is being addressed as soon as possible.

The latest jewel: Navarino Hills

A new experience for me this year is the visit to The Hills Clubhouse and a round on The Hills Course. I am delighted with both. The clubhouse sits enthroned on a hill with fascinating 360-degree views from the inviting terrace.

The Hills Clubhouse: straightforward design and fantastic views from the terrace. (Photos: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

From here, you can see over the course, the bay, the huge practice facilities, and the impressive mountain backdrop in the distance on the opposite side. It serves as the clubhouse for both The Hills Course and the International Olympic Academy Golf Course.

I like its clear lines, its open design, and the use of stone materials from the region. The transparent, discreetly integrated glass lift fits in with the concept of simple elegance. The 2,500 m² clubhouse was built with the aim of achieving energy efficiency class A+. It has photovoltaic panels.

Our group enjoys a meal at Piqantro, which is a restaurant, café, and bar all in one. It offers contemporary Iberian/Western Mediterranean cuisine, drawing on traditional recipes but also incorporating modern influences. There is a wide selection of dishes on offer. I enjoy the pasta with cherry tomatoes and prawns.

Leading by example

I am particularly interested in a screen that I discover both here and in the pro shop at The Bay Clubhouse. Among other things, I can use it to determine my course handicap by entering my personal HCP. The annoying search for this value in hard-to-read tables, which is often necessary on other courses, has come to an end here.

The system also offers a lot more information, such as the current speed on the greens, the pin positions, the grass used, the weather forecast, and the hotel shuttle schedule. What a step forward.

Equipment and service at its best

The buggies equipped with state-of-the-art GPS impressed me just as much as the quality of the rental clubs. Ball pyramids are available free of charge on the generously designed driving ranges. Not only here, but in all areas of the destination, I encounter attentive, friendly, and competent service staff who enjoy their work.

The golf cloverleaf in a cutshell

Navarino Dunes: The Dunes Course

Designed by German golf legend Bernhard Langer in collaboration with European Golf Design, it was the first signature golf course in Greece. Opened in 2010, this 6,018-meter championship course from the back tees leads through a varied natural landscape, past the two hotels The Romanos and The Westin. With spectacular views of the Ionian Sea, it features links-style elements along the waterfront fairways. The fairways, which run through the hinterland past olive groves and orchards, are more reminiscent of a parkland course.

Since my last visit in 2021, exclusive villas have been built along the first nine holes, although they are a long way from the fairways and do not come into play. Construction work continues on individual holes.

Early morning on the #18 . (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Navarino Bay: The Bay Course

Most of the tees on the par-71 The Bay Course offer a marvelous view of the sea. Some holes run directly along the historic Bay of Navarino. The course measures 5,536 meters from the back tees. The holes lead through extremely hilly terrain with considerable differences in altitude in places. Not only are its five par-three holes fun, but they are also challenging at the same time.

The Bay Course offeringImpressive views across the course to Navarino Bay. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Navarino Hills: The International Olympic Academy Golf Course and The Hills Course

The two newest 18-hole golf courses, designed by two-time Masters champion and Ryder Cup legend José Marίa Olazábal, are located above the coastline. Officially opened in 2022, they offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, the Bay of Navarino, and the Ionian Sea.

Stop playing and simply enjoy the views. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The International Olympic Academy Golf Course has a length of 6,366 meters. Details can be found in my report mentioned above.

The Hills Course is a par 72 with a length of 6,280 meters. It is also situated in complete tranquility, surrounded by mature trees and leads through rural Messinia with beautiful views of the rugged mountains and small villages. Its fairways are generously designed and offer sufficient landing area for placing drives. The bunkers are numerous but not very deep. I enjoy the round on this new course, which makes for relaxed golfing.

Each of the courses has its own character, which for me makes the quartet a four-leaf clover that gives me feelings of happiness. To single out one as the best course would not do justice to the others.

A pictSurrounded by unspoiled nature. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Destination Costa Navarino is world champion

With such variety and high quality, it comes as no surprise to me that Destination Costa Navarino was recognized as the ‘World’s Best Golf Venue 2023’ at the tenth World Golf Awards.

David Achington, previously director at Monte Rei Golf & Country Club in Portugal and Camiral Golf & Wellness Resort near Girona in Spain, took over as director of golf at Costa Navarino last year. He and his team were delighted to take the coveted award with them to the Peloponnese.

Quality has its price

The green fee is standard on all courses. In the most favorable of four periods, it is €193 for hotel guests and €233 per 18 holes in the high season.

Always a great pleasure

Visiting Destination Costa Navarino is always a special experience for me. The constantly expanding, exclusive offers and the top quality found in all areas are unrivaled.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s beach club. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

I am already looking forward to my next trip so that I can get to know the new W-Costa Navarino and Mandarin Oriental hotels. Ta léme sýntoma.

Juergen Linnenbuerger,

Cologne, May 2024

Categories
International

Golf Travel to Ras Al Khaimah: An Emirate full of interesting surprises

The Al Hamra Golf Club is hosting a DP World Tour tournament for the third time. After the first two tournaments in Dubai, the European Tour is making a stop in the northernmost of the seven Emirates as part of the International Swing, which is being organised for the first time this year. We make our way there and land in Dubai in less than six hours, and from there, we continue northwards by car in just under an hour.  

Impressive architecture in a style typical of the country

Everything here is more tranquil than in the neighbouring Emirate of Dubai. No skyscrapers dominate the skyline, instead more normal sized buildings. One of the few exceptions is the five-star luxury hotel Waldorf Astoria, built in 2013 in the shape of an Arabian palace, which can be seen from afar.

An architectural masterpiece. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

An extensive renovation of the hotel, part of the Hilton Group, was completed just in time for the tournament. Several areas, including some new ones, now shine in new splendour. Its tastefully furnished 203 rooms and suites offer plenty of space and views of the sea or the golf course.

Imposing reception area and impressive lobby. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Our welcome at the hotel is extremely warm. As soon as we enter the lobby, we are overwhelmed by the magnificence and opulence of the palace and the hospitality of the staff. In the centre of the lobby sits a remarkable giant clock, a trademark apparently of every Waldorf Astoria hotel. 

Our room is decorated in subtle colours whilst the bathroom, on the other hand, is a different story altogether with its black marble and golden mosaics. From the box seats on the terrace of our extensive room on the 7th floor, we enjoy a panoramic view of the second and third holes of the Al Hamra golf championship course.

King Premier Golf Course View Room. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Tournament with strong German participants

As accredited representatives of the press, we are up close and personal for the two final rounds of the tournament. Although admission is free, the reasonable number of spectators  allows us to experience the golf professionals up close. The winner of the tournament is the Dane Thorbjørn Olesen, who prevails over his compatriot Rasmus Højgaard with a sensational 27 under par and is the proud recipient of the winner’s trophy. We follow these two and Frenchman Frederic Lacroix in the last flight on the final day from the start and are repeatedly impressed by the incredible length of their shots. 

Olesen goes into the final round with a four-shot lead over Højgaard. He halved this lead on the second hole with an unexpected double bogey. At the eighth hole, both are level on 22 under par when the preliminary decision of the tournament is made. Højgaard misses his tee shot and makes an unexpected bogey on the par 5. Olesen, on the other hand, bangs his second shot next to the flag and holes out for an eagle. Out of the blue, he is three up again. Højgaard never recovers from this and finishes the tournament six shots behind his direct rival.  

Beaming winner and enthusiastic volunteers. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Five of the German professionals make the cut. Max Kieffer and Yannik Paul played outstanding final rounds of six and four under par respectively and shared a fantastic fourth place with three other players on 17 under par. Marcel Siem manages an eagle on the final hole, which catapults him up to tied 37th place, where Freddy Schott also finishes. Max Rottluff is tied 59th.

Golf Travel: A sporting challenge for all HCP classes

We play the par 72 course, designed by the internationally recognised golf course architect Peter Harradine, on the days following the tournament and can now see for ourselves what a great achievement the professionals have accomplished. Whilst they had 7,400 yards (the longest course in the UAE) to cover, we have 6,703 from the white tees and 5,815 from the red tees. Indeed five different tees offer a suitable challenge for every skill level.

The mostly flat course, which was established in 2007, continues to be in sensational condition during our rounds and everything is top-notch and well maintained. This makes golfing fun. The course is run by Troon Golf, a company that stands for top quality. We encounter wide fairways, huge bunkers and large, firm and fast greens.

Unsurprisingly, there is plenty of sand on a course surrounded by desert. A total of five million cubic metres were moved to build the course. The fine powder in the bunkers, next to the fairways and in the numerous waste areas makes playing from these a real challenge. The neighbouring development with mostly two-storey buildings in the typical local style is discreet and at a sufficient distance from the fairways.

Sand to the max. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The routing runs through four interconnected lagoons in the Arabian Gulf, which often come into play. This is the case for the first time on the third hole. On the right-hand dogleg par 5, the tee shot has to be played over the damp water, as does the shot into the green. For us, this hole is one of the most beautiful, also because it offers a great view of the Waldorf Astoria.

A rocky road to the green of hole 3. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The other holes are mostly dead straight and allow for a good score.We also like the tenth, where we have to place our shots into the green perfectly over a frontal water hazard and a bunker behind it.

Attention at hole 10. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The 18th hole is the crowning glory of the round. The 576-yard, par 5 is accompanied by the bright blue waters of the lagoon over the entire right-hand side. The opposite side is lined with trees that reach right up to the huge bunker in front of the green. The slightly elevated green, which rises towards the back, allows an aggressive attack that can be rewarded with a birdie or at least a par.

Full concentration at the final hole. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Afterwards, we enjoy a refreshing beer on the terrace of the clubhouse. The building’s normality is impressive and it doesn’t stand out due to its size or unusual architecture.

Our evening round under floodlights is an interesting experience, even if it is not easy for us to get used to the unfamiliar circumstances at first.

Nightgolf – a special experience. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The Al Hamra Golf Club attaches great importance to sustainability. It is the first golf club in the Middle East to be run completely plastic-free. It sets a new standard in this respect and thus contributes to the global environmental protection initiative.

Records by the dozen

After our laps, we enjoy the hotel’s own stretch of beach and the adults-only Sunset Beach Lounge with infinity pool. A promenade is being built between the beach and the hotel complex, connecting the neighbouring hotels and inviting walkers and joggers. From here, it will be even easier to watch an absolute highlight along the coast. Stretching for more than 4.5 kilometres, Ras Al Khaimah’s famous New Year’s Eve Fireworks displays have achieved several Guiness World Record titles for five consecutive years.

Like everything else in the hotel, there is plenty of space in the two pool areas and on the beach. The sun loungers and parasols are generously placed apart from each other and offer plenty of privacy. Everything here is also extremely well maintained and of a top standard.

Top culinary delights too

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel has eight restaurants, bars and lounges. The elegant Lexington Grill & Bar offers the finest Wagyu dry-aged steaks and seafood, the UMI serves Japanese delicacies, the brand new Azure serves Mediterranean dishes and the Beach Club Lounge has a little bit of everything. Everywhere we go, we encounter high quality, although this comes at a price, higher than what we are used to in Germany.

The attentiveness , friendliness and politeness of the entire staff is striking. We quickly become accustomed used to their constant smiles and the reserved, warm demeanour, which we would not want to miss. 

Plenty of adrenaline on a ride into the depths

Another world record is held by the Jais Flight zipline on the nearby Jebel Jais in the Hajar Mountains. From the start at a height of just under 1,680 meters, you can plunge headfirst into the depths for almost three minutes at a top speed of up to 160 km per hour. With a length of more than 2.8 kilometres, it is the longest of its kind in the world.

Not for the faint-hearted. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

To get in the mood for this adrenaline rush, the toboggan run located on the way up is ideal for reaching a maximum speed of 40 km/h downhill.

Who brakes is a coward. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

After these experiences, we stop at the highest restaurant in the United Arab Emirates, which is named ‚1848 by Puro‘ after its height above sea level. The view from here of the Hajar Mountains stretching out before us is sensational. 

However, a stay in the mountains offers much more. Various trekking tours and survival training courses lasting from several hours to a full day are offered here. You spend the night in tents in appropriate camps. The annual Highlander adventure attracts a large number of enthusiastic nature lovers who push themselves to the limit in the rugged mountain landscape.

Ras Al Khaimah holds another unique experience, as it was here that pearls were dived for several thousand years ago. Today, the pearls are cultivated in a lagoon. We take a traditional boat from the harbour to the floating information centre of the Suwaidi Pearls Farm, where we learn all about pearl diving and cultivation. Suddenly, a huge flock of flamingos flies past us. The pearls obtained from the oysters here have a maximum size of 13 mm. We are lucky because in the one we are allowed to harvest, we find a small specimen that we can buy.

Unique in colour, shine, size and shape. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Haste is the order of the day

Our stay in RAK was a complete success. In addition to the golfing highlights, we got to know parts of the Emirate that we hadn’t expected, but we were absolutely thrilled by them. The unaccustomed tranquility and deceleration we encountered were a pleasure. 

This may change in the future, as the construction boom has also started here. Tourism currently accounts for 5% of the gross national product. There are currently around 8,000 hotel rooms, but the aim is to increase this share to 30 % by 2030 and double the number of rooms. So let’s head to Ras Al Khaimah before things get too developed there and perhaps one day become just as hectic as in the neighbouring Emirate of Dubai.

Juergen Linnenbuerger, Cologne/Germany, February 2024

Categories
Travel

Breathtakingly beautiful: The first Links Golf Course in the Indian Ocean

In his report, Juergen Linnenbuerger, introduces the impressive newcomer to the Heritage Golf Club and the Heritage Le Telfair Golf & Wellness Resort, which leaves nothing to be desired.

Golfing in paradise

Officially, the brand new La Réserve Golf Links, the 11th golf course on the island, will not open until December 2023 so I am all the more excited when we are invited to play the course during the soft opening in October.

I am extremely curious to see whether it will live up to the great praise with which it has been showered by experts and the golf media. Already it is considered one of the best new golf courses in the world. Have the South African golf pro and The Open Champion, Louis Oosthuizen, and his compatriot, the well-known golf course architect, Peter Matkovich, really created something extraordinary?

Anticipation and excitement mount

On the non-stop flight from Frankfurt/Main to the east coast of the island, I ask myself what I can expect from the links golf course in the tropical paradise.

But the reflection doesn’t last long, because I quickly fall asleep after the delicious meal in the almost two-metre-long, completely flat prime seat, of which there are only four! They are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration and located in the front row of Condor Business Class. Their spaciousness exceeds that of the other seats in this class, especially in the foot area. You can even sit two to a seat opposite each other.

Without a doubt, they are the highlight of the airline’s new aircraft, the A330-900neo. Its two-tone striped livery reminds us of candy canes. Ours is coloured in white and green and conveys a joyful vacation mood as soon as we board.

The friendly crew impresses us with their perfect service. Entertainment is also writ large; we can watch movies in cinema quality on the 4K screen with a diagonal of 61 cm whilst a range of additional services perfectly rounds off the positive flight experience. The 11.5 hours literally fly by.

The resort shuttle takes us to Bel Ombre on the picturesque southwest side of the island in just over an hour. The 2,500-hectare Heritage Golf & Wellness Resort, located directly on the sea, includes two five-star luxury hotels, Le Telfair and Awali, as well as two impressive championship golf courses.

Driveway to the Heritage Le Telfair Golf & Wellness Resort (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

We were lucky enough to get to know the Le Château Course, the first course of the Heritage Golf Club, back in 2019. I present the course, which on several occasions has been declared the best golf course in the Indian Ocean.s

Pure golfing drama

It takes us less than 15 minutes by golf buggy from the clubhouse of Le Château Course to the first tee of the new La Réserve Golf Links. This is located at the highest point of the course, about 180 m above sea level where it is cooler and windier than in the resort. From there, the course descends over three plateaus at different heights until you reach the last hole.

The moment we step onto the first tee, we are struck by the wow factor which lasts until the final putt. From each of the holes, we gaze out over the deep blue Indian Ocean in the distance. Strikingly, the course is completely open, with a few trees only present between the eighth and ninth hole.

Right from the start, full concentration is required. The tee shot on the first hole has to be hit into the sideways sloping fairway into a strong wind with the rough waiting on the right and two hillsbguarding the green. How do we tackle that?

Well guarded green of #1 (Photo: Heritage Golf Club/Jacob Sjöman)

This question arises not only on every hole, but on every shot as each hole is different and extremely challenging. When choosing a club, less is more. Irons instead of the driver are often the better solution especially on the second hole, which runs straight but extremely narrow between dunes.

Long and narrow: #2, the most difficult hole of the course (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The third continues the series of impressive holes on the front nine with a dramatic precipice on the right that has a magical attraction. If you hit the landing zone on the plateau, all is well with the world, but you first have to get there against the prevailing wind. More golfing drama at the beginning of a round is hardly possible.

View from tee #3 (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

We pause to enjoy the great routing of the course and its magnificent views. The deep green of the fairways, the blue sea sparkling in the background with the brilliant white clouds above it and the white-yellow sand of the bunkers combine to form a colour composition that will delight golf course aesthetes. Added to this is the dark green Savanna Mountain Range that acts as a backdrop to the course and the adjacent nature reserve, which make the picture perfect.

The following par 3 requires a precise tee shot into the humpy green. If not successful, your ball can quickly end up out of bounds or in one of the pot bunkers. However, the magnificent view of the Baie du Jacotet with the snow-white crests of the rolling waves compensates for any inability to land the ball safely on the green.

Green #4 and view of the Bai du Jacotet (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

At the fifth hole, my adrenaline is pumping because the tee shot has to be played 60m deep over a ravine into the fairway. I get just over it and my pulse begins to calm down again.

Hit and hope: 60m downhill from tee #5 (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The lake, which is atypical for links courses, comes into play at six and seven (it serves to irrigate the course) and here too, there is the threat of losing your ball. At the imposing eighth, you have a couple of opportunities to land the ball on the split fairway.

Spoilt for choice: #8 (Photo: Heritage Golf Club/Jacob Sjöman)

From the beginning of the back nine the wind dies down after a beast of a front nine and the course develops into a friendly creature that allows itself to be stroked, becomes more likeable from hole to hole. We start to like it.

The 11th, the longest of the five par 3s, is the signature hole which, with the bay behind it, is both a playing and a visual highlight of the course.

Signature Hole #11 (Photo: Heritage Golf Club/ Jacob Sjöman)

By the 13th hole, the course has finally taken my heart, as I manage not to hit the bunker on the huge green and make a birdie. If the flag is placed closer to it, the bunker definitely comes into play.

Bunker on the green of #13 (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The native grasses swaying in the wind in the dense rough along the fairways on the following holes appear to have been painted onto the landscape and are a feast for the eyes. They will remain in our memories, as will the 18th hole, where a highly-playable green makes for a worthy conclusion to this spectacular course.

Rough at its best (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

This jewel of a golf course, integrated into former sugar cane fields, was created in harmony with the existing nature and is located in the vicinity of a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The course meets the standards required for GEO certification and thus sets an international standard for the construction of sustainable golf courses.

The irrigation system is state-of-the-art and allows targeted control of water use whilst the paspalum grass used on the whole course is robust and resistant to heat, which helps to save water.

Sporty and challenging

In the future, the challenging course will have six different tees. Due to its sporting challenges, the HCP limit will be 36.

Golf professionals will put their skills to the test for the first time on the par 72, 6,727m course from 14-17 December 2023, as participants from not one but two internationally-recognised tours battle it out for victory. As host of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, Oosthuizen will welcome professionals from the DP World Tour 2024 and the South African Sunshine Tour to La Réserve Golf Links. We are already looking forward to watching this event on TV.

Exclusive access

The club management is limiting numbers to 60 tee times per day, allowing starts to flow at relaxed 15 minute intervals. La Réserve is exclusively available to the approximately 180 members of the Heritage Golf Club as well as the guests of the resort’s two five-star hotels, as well as those staying in the resort villas and in the Château’s private suites.

The Le Château Course and the 9-hole Academy Course are still open to green fee players. Guests of the Heritage Resort play here free of charge. With the new course, the resort now establishes itself as the only 45-hole facility on the island and shines with a new star on the global golf map.

Jonathan Menteath, General Manager of the Heritage Golf Club, is confident that La Réserve Links has the potential to be ranked among the top 100 golf courses in the world. The new course is expected to attract more guests to consciously travel to Mauritius to play golf. At the moment, the type of group that predominates here are those looking for a beach and wellness vacation combined with a few rounds of golf still.

Interview with Jonathan Menteath (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

All-round comfort and enjoyment at Heritage Le Telfair Golf & Wellness Resort

We stay in the exclusive Heritage Le Telfair Golf & Wellness Resort, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, which is designed in an elegant colonial style.

The two-storey villas with 158 suites are located in a very well-kept tropical park. The brilliant white of the buildings shimmer through the otherwise dominant green of the densely overgrown grounds whilst tall palms and trees provide ample shade.

Colonial style building of Le Telfair Golf & Wellness Resort (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The tastefully-furnished rooms are equipped with classic as well as modern elements. Our Junior Suite Garden View with large terrace impresses us with its super comfortable bed and bathroom with free-standing bathtub.

Living room and bathroom of Junior Suite Garden View (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The beach, which is not very wide, is clean and fringed by tropical palms. The ocean water shines blue and is crystal clear. Its lateral current acts like a counter-current, making swimming on the spot in the ocean an interesting experience. Further out, the metre-high waves break on a coral reef.

Gorgeous beach at the Heritage Resort (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Those who prefer relaxing by the pool will find various options alongside the various water sports that are available at the C Beach Club.

Pool with direct view of the Indian Ocean (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Gastronomically, 13 restaurants and bars offer great variety both in terms of cuisine and ambience. From sitting barefoot in the sand at Le Palmerie to fine dining in a refined atmosphere at Le Château de Bel Ombre – there is something for every guest. We enjoy the delicious food and fine wines everywhere.

Extensive and high-quality wellness offers complement the resort’s feelgood program. The multi-award-winning Seven Colours Spa & Wellness is one of the leading ones in the southern Indian Ocean region. After the neck and back massage we feel deeply relaxed.

In harmony with nature

Environmental protection and sustainability are writ large at the resort, recycling management and waste avoidance are successfully practised, and plastic is avoided as much as possible. One example of this is the water bottles used, which are made from sugar cane and returned to the organic cycle after use.

Always a smile at the ready

Throughout the resort, the employées appear with great cheerfulness and helpfulness. They captivate us with their always warm smiles and read our every wish from our lips.

Everything at its best

We can add absolutely nothing to the frequently used positive cliché about a perfect vacation in paradise. Everything is just right in the entire resort and on the great golf courses. For us, a golf vacation could not be more beautiful, well-appointed and stylish.

Atmospheric conclusion of a dream holiday (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)
Categories
Travel

Pleasure, culture and golf courses at their best in Italy’s leading golf region

Exquisite truffles, the best chocolate and fine wines

Just thinking about the great white truffles from Alba, the full-bodied red wines Barolo, Barbera and Barbaresco or the finest chocolates from Turin makes my mouth water. The region is also known far beyond its borders for its rice and diverse cheeses, and the merest thought of its culinary delights make the hearts of gourmets beat just that little bit faster.

Finest white truffles from Alba (Photo: www.fieradeltartufo.org)

An impressive 46 Michelin-starred restaurants pamper the palates of their guests. Cafés serve the popular Bicerin, the sweet and tart chocolate coffee drink. Turin, the city of Vermouth, the nut chocolate praline Gandujotti and the popular breadsticks Grissini, attracts hundreds of thousands every year. And we have Turin to thank for Vitello Tonnato as well as ice cream on a stick, which was first made here with a vanilla flavour and a coated layer of chocolate. The popular nut nougat cream also comes from Piedmont and was invented by Turin confectioner Pietro Ferrero in 1946.

Italy moves into the global golf spotlight

Italy is attracting attention not only because of the Ryder Cup taking place in Rome this year, but also because of great golf courses in the rest of the country. The recognized industry website ‘Top 100 Golf Courses’ recently rated the 60 best courses in Italy.

Almost half of the top 20 courses are located in Piedmont, which is known for its breathtaking landscapes, from the foot of the majestic Alps in the north to the rolling hills in the south, and mo fewer than four have made it into the top 10.

With its 51 golf courses and 15 driving ranges of the 240 golf facilities nationwide, Piedmont ranks second among all regions. Golf here dates back to 1898, when the Couturbier Golf Course in Navara was founded and was one of the only two Italian courses at the time.

Impressive Alpine scenery

If you are flying into Milan from Malpensa airport or travelling from Lake Maggiore, the two par-72 courses of Circolo Golf Bogogno designed by Robert Von Hagge, Mike Smelek and Rick Baril are the perfect start to your golf adventure through Piedmont. They are situated in a magnificent landscape and offer fantastic views of the mountains towering in the background.

Bogogno Golf Resort (Photo: Azalea Group)

The Del Conte Course (rank 18) is a par-72 course and bristles with links character. It is characterised by wide, open landing zones, various flat sections, large lakes and dense rough, and is embedded in the magnificent backdrop of the Monte Rosa peaks.

The Bonora Course (rank 16) is also a par 72 but is more parkland in design and weaves through the expansive hilly landscape of the nature park, surrounded by old trees and criss-crossed by pristine streams.

They are part of the Bogogno Golf Resort, which is situated at an altitude of 320 m above sea level. It offers 50 spacious, sunny rooms equipped with all amenities. Some of them have a balcony or terrace and large windows overlooking the swimming pool and the greens. The modern SPA and the Rooftop Bar invite you to relax.

From here, a trip to one of the many lakes in Piedmont is not to be missed and is highly recommended.

Stroll through Orta San Giulio

After a half-hour drive from the resort, you reach the idyllic village of Orta San Giulio on the eastern shore of Lake Orta and its well-preserved medieval houses. It is one of the “Borghi più belli d’Italia” (most beautiful places in Italy). The 16th-century town hall, which is well worth seeing, is located on the Piazza Mario Motta in the historic centre of the town, which is surrounded by magnificent, partly Baroque palazzi.

San Giulio and Isola San Giulio (Photo: www.italien.de)

The short boat trip across the calm lake to the Isola di San Giulio is also worthwhile. A stroll through the cobbled streets to the Roman Catholic basilica with its magnificent Romanesque pulpit and the bishop’s palace rounds off the trip nicely. At the numerous Piedmontese lakes, including Lake Maggiore, a total of 70 bathing beaches invite you to take a dip in the calm, cool water.

From here, head southwest to Biella, home to number two in the aforementioned golf-course ranking.

Biella Le Betulle Golf Club

The golf club “Le Betulle” was founded in 1957. Nestled in a splendid natural landscape with dense forests of centuries-old beech, birch (Le Betulle) and chestnut trees, it is situated at an altitude of 590 m just a few kilometres from Biella and Ivrea. Its views of the Serra moraine hill with the Alps behind are extremely imposing.

The 18-hole championship course, a par-73 parkland layout, was designed by the English architect John Morrison and has been considered one of the best courses in Italy for decades. It is considered the course with the most typical English design in Italy and rolls through the hilly terrain, over bridges and gorges and past rocky cliffs.

Golf Club Biella #16 (Photo: Azalea Group)

Royal Park I Roveri

Founded in 1971 by the Agnelli family (co-founders of FIAT), the club is set in beautiful surroundings in the La Mandria nature reserve. It is surrounded by the Turin mountains, which magically attract the gaze of golfers. The club has always been one of the most exclusive in Italy. Several international tournaments, such as the Italian Open, the European Amateur Championship and the European Young Masters, have already been held here.

Golf Club Royal Park I Roveri (Photo: Azalea Group)

The Allianz Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Senior, is characterised by its great arrangement of bunkers, water hazards and large undulating greens. Its old trees also make it extremely visually appealing.

The second course, the Allianz Bank Course, was designed in 2006 and is the work of US architect Michael Hurdzan. He is one of the leading golf course architects in North America and speaks internationally on the subject of the environmental impact of golf. The collaboration was with Dana Fry.

It is his first course designed in Europe, where he brought his philosophy of harmonising the pristine natural landscape with the course. The course is relatively flat, open and with fewer trees. Numerous ponds and bunkers present its greatest challenges.

The Edoardo Molinari Golf Academy, founded by former European Ryder Cup star Edoardo Molinari in 2019, completes the extensive golf offer.

Circolo Golf Torino (La Mandria)

In the immediate vicinity of Royal Park I Roveri is the Torino Golf Club with its two 18-hole championship courses. The Blue Course and the Yellow Course are also located in the beautiful natural park of La Mandria. Originally founded in 1924, the club later moved here to the former game reserve of the Royal House of Savoy, where the famous Reggia di Venaria Reale palace is also located.

The uniqueness of the club is the location of the courses in its natural surroundings. Here one encounters untouched nature at its purest. You will look in vain for roads and buildings. Environmental protection and sustainability are very important to the club management. Proof of this is the Impegnati nel Verde prize awarded by the Italian Golf Federation in cooperation with the Istituto per il Credito Sportivo to promote the ecologically sustainable development of golf and to raise awareness of environmental issues among clubs and players.

Englishman John Morrison designed the original Blue Course in 1956, which now ranks sixth in the current Top 100 golfcours.com ranking. Some time later, the 18-hole Yellow Course was added. A number of holes were adjusted at the end of 1990 with the involvement of architects Marco Conze and Canadian Graham Cook in preparation for the 1999 Italian Open. The originally flat course received some mounding. In 2013 and 2014, the Italian Open was again held on the Blue Course.

Both courses are classic parkland designs, which today lead over slightly hilly terrain and are designed with many trees, bunkers and water hazards. The bunkers and greens, on the other hand, are flat.

Green of #1 CG Torino (Photo: Azalea Group)

Reside nobly

An ideal base for playing the four courses of the Royal Park I Roveri and the Circolo Golf Torino is the romantic four-star Relais Bella Rosina Pool & Spa. It has been completely renovated and is also located in complete tranquility in the natural park of La Mandria.

Each of the 21 rooms is bright and spacious. Guests can choose between deluxe rooms, junior suites and suites. The rooms and suites overlook Bella Rosina’s large, heated pool and park.

Bella Rosina Pool & Spa (Photo: Relais)

It takes just over half an hour to reach the centre of Turin, which of course cannot be missed on a trip to Piedmont. The small, charming four-star Hotel Victoria & Iside Spa, with a beautiful courtyard, is located in its centre, within easy reach of the sights.

Rich culture and elegant architecture

Not only gourmets, but also culture and architecture lovers will find their taste here. Turin, the first capital of Italy and the todays capital of Piedmont, is impressive with its many baroque buildings, palaces, basilicas and monasteries.

Some of the city’s highlights are the Shroud of Turin, in which Jesus Christ was wrapped in the tomb and which is now kept in Turin Cathedral, the Egyptian Museum, the monumental Mole Antonelliana building, which is the city’s landmark with its soaring spire.

Also worth seeing are the elegant Piedmontese Royal Residence and the Galleria Sabauda, where numerous masterpieces by great European artists are on display.

Piedmont whets the appetite for grandiose nature, rich culture, culinary delights and star-studded golf courses. Via per il Piemonte.

Juergen Linnenbuerger

Cologne, June 2023

Categories
Travel

True Links Golf at its best in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Where it all began

Links golf courses exude a fascination for me that has stayed with me ever since I first got to know them. Now the time has finally come to travel to the country where our passion originated. As there is no direct flight to Aberdeen, we first take the plane to Edinburgh. From here we take a rental car and drive relaxed on the well-developed motorway with a maximum of 70 miles to the north-east of the country. 

The region of Aberdeenshire is slightly larger than Muensterland in Germany and has about 250,000 inhabitants. There are about fifty golf courses. We will concentrate on three top courses during our one-week tour, because we want to get to know as many highlights of the region as possible in addition to golfing.

Manor house from 1225

As our first accommodation we choose the picturesque situated Maryculter House Hotel, which lies a little southwest of Aberdeen, towards Royal Deeside. The River Dee, which flows into the North Sea in Aberdeen Harbour, runs directly past it.

Gemütlich und authentisch: Maryculter House Hotel (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
Cozy and authentic: Maryculter House Hotel (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The manor house has its origins in the 13th century. It is a former domicile of the Knights of the Order of the Temple, stylishly furnished and with wooden panelling and beamed ceilings. The Knights’ Hall and the bar invite you to linger. Our Classic River View room in traditional style is comfortably furnished and offers a great view of the Peterculter Golf Club on the other side of the river.

After a delicious breakfast with fruit, yoghurt, porridge and scrambled eggs with Scottish salmon, we explore the west and south of the region. 

We drive through the scenically impressive Cairngorms National Park with its heather-covered plateaus, numerous raised bogs and forests. We make our first stop in the pretty village of Ballater. 

God save the Queen and the King

We continue to the most famous castle in the region, Balmoral Castle. It is the summer residence of the British royal family. Elizabeth II stayed here between August and October, where she also died in September 2022. In the only room open to visitors, the ballroom, exhibits and photos of the royals are on display.

Königliche Residenz: Balmoral Castle (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
Royal residence: Balmoral Castle (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Actually we want to visit the nearby Braemar Castle, but unfortunately it is closed for renovation. So we drive south-east to Lochton & Leys Farm. Here we meet about 250 specimens of the typical Highland beef breed with their distinctive pony and learn interesting facts about the animals and their breeding from the owner.

Eine besondere Rasse: Die schottischen Hochland-Rinder (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
A special breed: The Scottish Highland Cattle (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

We continue to the coast to Stonehaven, a worthwhile little town with a beautiful long beach and a typical small fishing harbour.

Nearby, the most sought-after photo motif in Aberdeenshire is enthroned on the cliffs. Surrounded on three sides by water, the ruins of Dunnottar Castle captivate thousands of visitors every year. We can understand why and can’t get enough of it.

Hoch auf den Felsen und von Meer umgeben: Dunnottar Castle (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
High on the cliffs and surrounded by sea: Dunnottar Castle (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Eighth-oldest golf course in the world

Then, finally, golf is on the agenda. The Aberdeen Golf Club was founded in 1780 and is a links as it is written in the book. From the venerable clubhouse with its impressive ancestral gallery, the members enjoy their food and drinks directly in front of the first tee of the championship Balgownie Course, which also hosted the Scottish Open 2014.

Separated only by the thin pane of glass, we are not impressed by this and play our drives towards the sea. In front of us are several ships waiting to enter Aberdeen Harbour.

Erster Abschlag im Royal Aberdeen Golf Club (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
First tee at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Together with the numerous wind turbines in the North Sea, they form the typical backdrop for the course. From the second hole, the front nine runs through the hilly dune landscape directly along the sea, whose holes are considered by many to be among the most beautiful of their kind. It leads to the furthest point of the course away from the clubhouse and back from there slightly above it in parallel. The ten bunkers on the eight have a magical attraction.

Bemerkenswerte Front Nine und das von zehn Bunkern geschützte Grün der Acht (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
Remarkable front nine and the green of the eight protected by ten bunkers (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

While the narrow fairways and the rough on the front nine make life difficult for us, on the back nine it is the mercilessly head-on wind. Although I follow the recommendation of the starter and tee off from red, I am on the verge of giving up. But I hold out until the end and, although I am completely exhausted, I am highly satisfied with this unique golfing experience.

Eine echte Herausforderung: Bunker am 18. Grün (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
A real challenge: bunkers at the 18th green (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

This is not changed by the fact that I end up in the huge bunker on the 18th below the clubhouse and have trouble getting out of it.

Murcar Links Golf Club

The next day we get to know another great old-fashioned links, the Murcar Links, founded in 1909. It borders directly on the Royal Aberdeen at its southern end and is only separated from it by a low fence. Here we can clearly see that climate change has also arrived in Scotland. The drought of the past few weeks has resulted in the fairways being an unusual colour and hard as nails, but still very playable.

Eine sonnige Runde im Murcar Links Golf Club (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
A sunny round at the Murcar Links Golf Club (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The great holes run through the dunes, some right along the sea. Seven is the signature hole and is not called ‘Serpentine’ for a reason.

Hügeliges Terrain mit ungewohnter Einfärbung (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
Hilly terrain with unusual coloration (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The course is sportingly challenging and provides us with a wonderful day of golf in the best weather

Several national amateur championships and international professional tournaments have already been held here.

Seals within reach

After the round we head north. After a short while we come to Newburgh, where the Seals sign catches our eye. We pass the entrance to Forvie National Nature Reserve, whose car park is right next to Newburgh-on-Ythan Golf Club. 

We take the short path through the dunes to the mouth of the River Ythan. In the completely deserted bay, we then see black moving dots in the water, which get bigger and bigger as we get closer. Numerous seals are enjoying themselves here and wonder about the strange figures on the beach. We have the impression that they notice us, but do not feel threatened in any way.

Castles like something out of a picture book

Castles worth seeing, such as Fraser, Fyvie, Crathes, Craigievar and Huntly are located on the Castle Trail, along which a total of 19 castles or their ruins can be found. Each one is different and impressive in its own way.

Schlösser wie aus dem Bilderbuch (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
Castles like out of a picture book (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Breathtaking and unique

The conclusion of our great links trio is the championship course of Cruden Bay Golf Club, which opened in 1899. Unlike the other two courses, the front and back nine do not run parallel away and back, but in two loops, partly through the huge, high dune landscape.

The warm welcome culture alone impresses us. The original mention by name on the guest board and also the guest gift in the shape and size of a pack of balls delights us. When we want to bring them into play on the round, we can’t help smiling.

Erhöhte Abschläge in herausfordernde Fairways und Grüns (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
Elevated tees into challenging fairways and greens (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Only now do we realise that it is not balls, but a small bottle of Specially Selected Single Malt Scotch Whisky. We are happy to say Sláinte Mhath and enjoy the 12-year-old dram. 

Herzlich willkommen im Cruden Bay Golf Club (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
Welcome to Cruden Bay Golf Club (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

After that, we swing more loosely, which is necessary on the unusual holes 3-15. Each is an experience in itself. Among our favourites are the 8-10. The eight, a short par 4, has to be played uphill into the high green surrounded by huge dunes. 

Umgeben von hohen Dünen: Grün von Loch 8 (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
Surrounded by high dunes: green of hole 8 (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

It continues steeply uphill to the highest point of the course, from where we have a fantastic view of one side of the course and the completely deserted bay.

The ruins of Slain Castle tower in the background. You can’t get more Scottish than that.

Slains Castle auf den Klippen über der Cruden Bay (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
Slains Castle on the cliffs above Cruden Bay (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Turning around, we look from the tee of the nine across the other side of the course, also along the bay. The tee shot has to be played downhill over a deep ravine.

The ten is also a challenge. Here it’s hit and hope, because the landing zone of the tee shot deep below us is not visible. We wish each other good luck, sip the rest of the bottle once more and are glad to find the balls on the fairway after the descent. As a reward, the sun comes out and accompanies us back to the clubhouse.

But before that, we have to play the tee shot of the 15 from a mini-tee box above the low-lying green of the 14 blind through a narrow ravine. But only after the traffic lights have turned green.

Loch 16: Knopf drücken nicht vergessen (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
Hole 16: Don’t forget to press the button (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Everything is just right here. The course offers a sporting challenge, a lot of fun and a unique links experience with incredible views. Top100 Golf Courses ranks it 67th in the world, just like the Royal Aberdeen (63rd).

Diversified Aberdeen

From our second domicile, the stylish Chester Hotel, we reach the three golf courses in less than half an hour. The listed original building dates back to the 19th century and now combines traditional style with super-modern design. Our spacious, chic Grand Room offers ample space and a private terrace. Ample parking is available.

Stilvoll, anspruchsvoll und schick (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
Stylish, sophisticated and chic (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The great breakfast is topped by the excellent dinner offer. My salmon tartare and steak from the local Angus beef melted in my mouth. The Malbec red wine and the subsequent whisky nightcap in the cool bar round off a wonderful evening.

The next day we take a look around Aberdeen. We are particularly impressed by the modern Art Gallery, Provost Skene’s House and the buildings of Kings College and Aberdeen University in Old Aberdeen.

Das 1495 gegründete Kings College ist Teil der Universität von Aberdeen (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
Founded in 1495, Kings College is part of the University of Aberdeen (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Since the weather gods continue to be kind to us, we also go to the beach. We haven’t had to use our rain gear all week and the thermometer even rises to 30 degrees Celsius.

At the end of the Esplanade, we reach the former fishing village of Footdee, which lies directly at the entrance and exit of Aberdeen Harbour. The original small fishing cottages have been lovingly restored by the current owners and now attract many tourists.

Idylle pur: ehemalige Fischerhäuschen in Footdee (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
Idyll pure: former fishermen’s cottages in Footdee (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

At the far end of the harbour pier is the popular seafood restaurant Silver Darling. Here, on the last evening of our trip, we enjoy the sunset not only with delicious oysters, mussels and freshly caught fish, but also watch the passing of the incoming and outgoing freighters with the same curiosity as the dolphins jumping in the bay.

The end of a wonderful trip to the north-east of Scotland could not be more beautiful.

The Silver Darling - eines der führenden Restaurants in Aberdeen (Foto: Jürgen Linnebürger)
The Silver Darling – one of the leading restaurants in Aberdeen (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)
Categories
Europe Travel

Impressive culture and varied golfing in Sicily

Five-star resort directly by the sea

From the capital Palermo, we set out to take a closer look at three very different golf resorts. First, we head to the southwest of the island. Here we find the luxurious five-star Verdura Golf Resort, a Rocco Forte Hotel, which extends over an area of 230 hectares. The view of the surrounding hills and the directly adjacent Mediterranean Sea are impressive. 

Overview of the extensive grounds. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

If you travel by car, you park your vehicle in the car park after passing through the entrance area and then use golf carts or bicycles to cover the sometimes large distances between the facilities. The architecture of the buildings is characterised by straight lines. Stone, wood and sugar cane lend them a naturalness. 

The resort has 203 rooms and suites and 20 new private villas. My modern and tastefully furnished Deluxe Room offers plenty of space and has a great view over the terrace to the sea.

Spacious and modern furnished Deluxe Room with Sea View. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Internationally recognised and a leader in the golf business for over three decades, Donato di Ponziano has recently taken over as the resort’s Golf Development Manager. He gives us a comprehensive overview of the resort and its goals. With his equally experienced Golf Manager Allessandro Mario Cardini, who takes up his position on the day of our visit, he wants to establish the current number one resort in Italy among the leading international ones.

Golf at its best on 45 holes

Originally created about 10 years ago, the championship golf courses were redesigned by US golf course architect Kyle Phillips after the course was flooded in 2019. In 2021, the East Course was reopened. Today, it shines in new splendour as a par 73 with a length of 6,763 metres. Its left character has also convinced the golf media. In 2022, it was rated Italy’s number 1 by Golf World Top 100.

In particular, its holes 5, 6 and 7, 12 and 13, with direct access to the sea, have taken my fancy.

Teebox of Hole 5 of East Course. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

If you stay on the fairways, the course is to manage despite its length. If you stray off the fairways and land in the current deep rough, your score is ruined, because searching in the rough makes no sense. The snow-white bunkers are just as convincing as the fast but fair greens.

The West Course is a par 70 course with a length of 6,547 metres. Its holes are much hillier and narrower. They first lead inland, past olive trees and lemon groves. It is more like a parkland course on this part, but this changes from the 14th hole onwards. From here on, the remaining holes meander along the bright blue sea until the end and offer spectacular views.

View from the Clubhouse to Hole 18 of the West Course. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

A 9-hole par 3 executive course and a well-equipped academy perfectly round off the golfing offer. The resort is an official partner of the PGA of Germany.

The elegant 4,000-square-metre Irene Forte Spa has several outdoor thalasso pools, an indoor pool, a hammam and a Finnish sauna. Sports activities include tennis courts, football pitches and various water sports.

Guests are treated to Mediterranean dishes, fresh fish and seafood as well as high-quality wines in four different restaurants and five bars. The linguine pasta with lobster served in the main Zagara restaurant is just as exceptional as the spaghetti in garlic oil with tuna eggs.

Valley of the Temples

Temple of Hera Lacinia (Temple of Juno) in Agrigento. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

From the resort, we head east across the island to Syracuse. After about 40 km we stop in Agrigento, which is famous for its well-preserved Greek and Roman temples. We visit the archaeological sites of the Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples) with the Roman Temple of Hera (Juno) and the Temple of Concordia, one of the best-preserved Greek temples of antiquity. These represent only a small part of the vast array of former architecture spread across the island.

Sightseeing Syracuse

After another 2.5 hour drive, we reach Syracuse in the southeast of the island. The port city is the birthplace of Archimedes and is known for its numerous historical and cultural sights. Our guided tour takes us to the Temple of Apollo, the Fountain of Diana and the imposing, gleaming white Cathedral of Santa Maria delle Colonne in the Piazza del Duomo. It impresses with its baroque façade and open staircase.  

In the narrow, atmospheric alleys of the old town, we come across a multitude of pubs, restaurants and shops, which also sell the colourful mosaic figures famous for the region.

Former Benedictine monastery in an idyllic setting

We also encounter these figures at our next accommodation, the stylish five-star Borgo di Luce Luxury Resort, to which the I Monasteri Golf Club is attached. It is located not far from Syracuse in complete tranquillity and is surrounded by palm, citrus and olive trees.

Left: Entrance of Borgo di Luce Luxury Resort, Right: Bar of Borgo di Luce Luxury Resort (Photos: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Various Sicilian noble families were among the owners. Even today, you can feel the special charm of the glamorous past. I am particularly impressed by the lobby, the bar and restaurants with their round arches, high ceilings and the artistic ceramic figures that always catch my eye. 

The 102 rooms and suites are spread over three buildings and are all on ground level. My superior double room with veranda and views of the golf course is at the back of the resort and is decorated in a contemporary style. 

Ceramic figures typical for the Syracuse region. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The resort has a large spa, an outdoor pool and a jacuzzi.

The par 71 course has a length of 6,520 metres. It opened in 2012 and is set in 86 hectares of lemon trees and prickly pears. Its 18 holes with parkland character run around the former monastery through the flat terrain. Several water hazards add to the charm of the course, as on holes 9 -12 and on 18, which are among its highlights.

9th (left) and 18th green of I Monasteri Golf Club. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The fairways, bunkers and greens are in good condition. It would be desirable if the driving range and tee boxes could follow suit.

Golf, relaxation and enjoyment on the northern slopes of Mount Etna

We finish our golf tour at the four-star Il Picciolo Etna Golf Resort & Spa, located in the midst of complete peace and nature. It is located 650 metres above sea level in the east of the island at the foot of Europe’s largest active volcano in the Parco dell’Etna regional park, halfway between Syracuse and Catania. 

Hotel with pool and surrounding vines. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Because of the altitude, the temperatures here are lower than on the coast and can be easily endured even on hot summer days. It is beautifully nestled between vines and orchards.

The owners, two sympathetic Sicilian brothers with Swiss roots, explain to us that they first acquired the driving range in 2021. Later, the golf course and the hotel right next to it followed. The goal is to develop this into a 4.5-5 star top golf and holiday destination in the next four years. The first steps have already been taken. At the moment, the technology is being brought up to date and, among other things, a solar system is being installed. The next step will be to modernise the rooms.

My spacious Etna Room offers great views over the vines to the volcano towering in the distance.

The 900-square-metre wellness centre with spa, fitness room, sauna and indoor pool invite you to relax, as does the outdoor pool with large sun terrace.

In the hotel’s main restaurant and the clubhouse, our palates are spoiled with traditional Sicilian cuisine and fine wines from the region. 

The huge clubhouse, which houses a few rooms, has also undergone renovation. Large parts, such as the pro shop with the bar, already impress with their modern ambience. 

Well-kept parkland course with spectacular views

The modernisation also affects the golf course. The fairways and partly huge greens are in top condition. At the moment, the bunkers are being reworked. Some of them already have gleaming white sand. The rest will follow shortly.

Well maintained fairways, greens and bunkers. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The 18-hole parkland course is the oldest on the island. It was built in the eighties of the last century. Between 1995 and 2011, it hosted several renowned tournaments.

Again and again great views of Mount Etna. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

It winds its way through the extremely hilly terrain, constantly uphill and downhill, past dense tree population. Again and again, Mount Etna towers in the background. If the weather or the rising smoke allow it, you can enjoy the magnificent view all the way to the top of the 3,357 m high volcano. If you want to admire it up close, you can also book a helicopter flight through the resort.

Dense tree cover throughout the entire course. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The layout is very appealing and the courses vary. A special feature is that the par 72 course has five par 5s and par 3s in addition to eight par 4s. Its length is 5,870 m. The use of the driver should be well considered because the holes require a tactical game. Precision is required here. The course is extremely well maintained and is a great pleasure to play.

The club has an academy with the latest technical equipment and experienced PGA professionals who, among other things, successfully dedicate themselves to youth work and see this as a focal point of their activities.

You can tell that the entire golf and hotel team enjoys their work. Everyone is enthusiastic and always smiling, and they transfer this good mood to the guests. First and foremost the Golf Marketing Manager Guy Roberts, who speaks excellent German and is thus able to converse perfectly with the currently largest group of foreign golf guests of the resort in their mother tongue.

Introduction to Sicilian wines

A visit to the resort cannot be complete without a tasting of the many wines grown in the area, as Sicilian ones are now among the leading in Italy. The informative tour and subsequent tasting at the I Custodi delle Vigne dell’Etna Winery round off an enjoyable trip across a culturally and golfing inspiring island, superbly organised by the English AZALEA Group. Grazie mille per i giorni perfetti.

Juergen Linnenbuerger

Cologne, June 2023

Categories
Travel

Top Golf Courses on the Germans’ Favorite Island

The Early Bird Catches the Worm

The plane takes off on time from Cologne-Bonn airport just before 5:30 a.m. After a smooth flight and a one-hour car journey across the island, I’m sitting on the inviting terrace of the Pula Golf Resort in the east of Majorca just over three and a half hours later.

I enjoy the pleasant temperatures in the morning sun and the hearty breakfast. Freshly fortified, I pick up my electric cart and hired clubs and play my first relaxed round on the adjacent golf course.

#18 in front of clubhouse and driving range. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Vamos a la Playa

With a German club member, I make a short trip to the nearby Los Pinos Beach in Son Servera, whose Bar Playa is known for its delicious fish dishes. Here, we savor freshly caught grilled sole with a glass of crisp white wine.

The view of the turquoise-colored Mediterranean Sea is just as magnificent as the laid-back ambiance. The aroma of freshly roasted garlic pervades the bar, which is popular with locals and foreigners alike, and whose attentive and friendly staff exude pure joie de vivre.

Perfect lunch on a beautiful beach. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Spanish, English, and German are spoken. A number of our compatriots have purchased property in this charming and peaceful area of the island and opted for membership at Pula Golf.

The resort, owned by the Sala family, is the ideal base for exploring the golf courses in the east and north of the island. Their son, Arnau, runs it with great passion as General Manager. Ten of the 31 rooms are located in the Majorcan-style manor house dating back to 1561, in front of which is the putting green. The stylish building and its small chapel are also used for wedding celebrations.

Stylish manor house and chapel from the 16th century. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The remaining accommodation units are divided between superior and deluxe apartments, which are located opposite the manor house at ground level and surrounded by magnificent nature, which is where I stay. It is modern and functionally furnished and is situated right next to one of Majorca’s typical windmills. Green fees are free for guests of some room types.

Apartements surrounded by natural vegetation. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

A total of 24 golf courses are spread across the island. With the Golf East Mallorca packages, you can play Pula Golf and the nearby courses at the Club de Golf de Son Servera and Capdepera Golf at discounted rates. A round on the course of Club de Golf Alcanada, which has been recognized as the number one on the island many times over and enjoys an excellent international reputation, is also possible.

Location, Location, Location

Less than an hour from Son Servera, Majorca’s top club is located in the far north of the island with a fantastic view of the bay of Alcudia. On the small offshore island that gave the club its name, there is a lighthouse dating back to 1861, which was manually operated until 1960 when automation took over. As a tribute to this historic lighthouse, the Club de Golf Alcanada incorporated it into their logo.

Always the sea in view. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Opened in 2003, its owner, Hans-Peter Porsche, recruited Robert Trent Jones Jr. to design the course. The par 72 course is 6,559 meters long from the back tees and offers views of the sea from 17 holes; the only course on Majorca that lies directly on the coast.

The layout of the course is varied. Most of the holes lead uphill and downhill, sometimes through valleys and ravines. The course is surrounded by a dense tree population including pine and olive trees as well as holm oaks that flank the fairways.

Old trees surround the fairways. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

I particularly enjoy the tee shots from the elevated tees into the steeply sloping fairways, while the bunkers placed in the center of the fairways, typical of RTJ Jr., are also one of the standout characteristics of the course.

The challenging course requires a strategic game. The first five holes are particularly tough, with mental strength required on the holes where ravines (barrancas) have to be overcome.

Not forgetting the firm and fast greens, which have a stimpmeter of 11.0 on our round, meaning that two putts is a great result! The minimum HCP of 33 for men and 35 for women is fully justified.

The condition of the tee boxes, fairways, and greens, including the clubhouse and various practice facilities, is immaculate. This also includes the Toptracer driving range, which was the first of its kind on Majorca. In particular, the perfect conditioning of the bunkers with their precisely cut edges and finely raked sand is also striking, thanks to more than 20 greenkeepers. Too beautiful to play in.

Too beautiful to play in. (Photo: AZALEA)

Host of the Rolex Challenge Tour Finals Supported by The R&A

The club, a founding member of the Leading Courses of Spain, is delighted to be hosting the final tournament of the Road to Mallorca tournament series in 2024 for the fourth time since 2019. At the end of October 2024, the 45 top-ranked players will compete for one of the 20 tour cards that entitle them to participate in the DP World Tour the following season.

German Golf Director Kristoff Both can think of no better way to promote the club than through the repeated live TV broadcasts on the four tournament days.

The club has also attracted attention in the past with the Spanish Senior Championship and one of the most recognized men’s amateur tournaments in the world, the International Spanish Amateur Men’s Championship Copa S.M. El Rey, held here for the second time in 2024.

We pass the attractive halfway house, the Lighthouse Bar, after #9 and a second time after #15, offering refreshing hot and cold drinks and tasty snacks.

The club has been using recycled wastewater from the neighboring hotels in Alcudia to irrigate the course since 1990. Indeed, the club has been regularly awarded the annual Q Calidad Turistica seal for quality, service, and the environment since 2010. Tetra Bricks have been used instead of plastic bottles since 2019, and water stations at various points on the course ensure you can refill your own drinking bottles during your round.

Everything at the Highest Level

After a challenging round of golf, a great lunch awaits us on the clubhouse terrace in a fantastic location. Soaking in the marvelous view over the bay, I particularly enjoy the excellent Pulpo a la Brasa and the spicy Gambas al Ajillo from the numerous excellent tapas on offer.

The aesthetics found throughout the club grounds are unrivaled. Eye-catchers include the starter’s house and the iconic clock from the American watch manufacturer VERDIN. This includes, for me, the colorfully designed pro shop, which is located together with the restaurant in a Majorcan-style building dating back to the 17th century.

Inviting starter house and pro shop. (Photo: Azalea)

More Than a Golf Course

Back at the Pula Golf Resort, I see for myself to what extent the aforementioned slogan is true. The small outdoor pool is just as inviting as the fully equipped Gym & Spa with indoor pool, sauna, and state-of-the-art training equipment, which is complimentary for hotel guests. I don’t make use of the resort’s own physiotherapist or the various beauty treatments on offer.

Completely relaxed, I look forward to dinner in the S’Era de Pula restaurant, as the resort also knows how to impress with its cuisine. After an aperitivo at the bar, it’s not easy to choose from the Mediterranean cuisine with local produce from the 6,000 square meter fruit, vegetable, and herb garden where organic cultivation is a top priority.

Restaurant in typical local style. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Sustainability plays an important role at the resort, where a circular economy is practiced. The resort is the first ‘Competitive Regenerative Hotel’ in the whole of Spain to have its own golf course. Measures include the avoidance and reduction of plastic, including the refilling of drinking bottles with still and sparkling water throughout the property, the use of solar energy, and the use of recycled water on the golf course.

Sustainability on the golf course. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

European Tour Course

Pula Golf has existed since 1995 and owes its original design to Francisco Segalés. The course was redesigned between 2004 and 2006 by two-time Masters champion and 23-time winner on the European Tour José María Olázabal. Oli transformed it into a 6,297 meter long, par 72, championship course from the back tees.

His last Tour victory on this course dates back to 2005, when he won the Mallorca Classic, which took place here between 2003-2007. The current layout has been in place since 2010, when some final adjustments were made. This was followed by the 2013-2017 Olazábal & Nadal Invitational, a Pro-Am tournament in favor of the Rafa Nadal and Sport Mundi Foundation.

Photos of former champions adorn the clubhouse. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

I agree with the owner’s description of the course in the Birdie Book as ‘Challenging but fair’ and ‘Tough Par, Easy Bogey’.

The course is divided into three distinct areas that can be reached through tunnels that pass under roads. Each hole has its own character.

Most of the holes lead uphill and downhill through open terrain. The course is characterized by several elevated tee boxes, greens that can be played blind, numerous bunkers, and two lakes with watercourses. The fairways offer plenty of approach shots, while there is no rough worth mentioning. Fairways, greens, and bunkers are in well-kept condition, with only the tee boxes needing some room for improvement. Overall, the course is fun to play.

Constantly uphill #10 and downhill #16. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Pula Golf was the first course on Majorca and the second in Spain to be equipped with a Trackman driving range. This is double-decked and is located between #1 and #18 right next to the clubhouse.

Two-level tees. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

I enjoyed my golf trip to the Germans’ favorite island and can highly recommend this perfectly run resort with its great service and attentive staff.

Recommended Stopover

On the way to the airport, I pass Manacor, the third largest town in Majorca. It is particularly famous for its industrial pearl production. Another attraction is the impressive training center of tennis’s great Rafael Nadal.

Sports enthusiasts should visit this center and the adjoining Rafa Nadal Museum Xperience. It offers numerous interactive opportunities to practice different sports and provides an overview of the champion’s greatest successes.

Majorca’s most famous sportsman. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Rafa is a passionate golfer with a HCP in the low +range. However, his extraordinary swing is probably not on any golf pro’s training program.

Cologne, June 2024, Juergen Linnenbuerger

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International Travel Uncategorized

Ayla Golf Aqaba – from minefield to jewel

Every day a new highlight

Originally, golf was not on our agenda when preparing our trip. For I had not known that golf was played in the country, whose Arab tribe of Hashemites goes back to the great-grandfather of the Prophet Mohammed. 

I only became aware of this through the huge urban future project ‘Ayla’ in the city of Aqaba on the Gulf of the same name. In 2008, construction began on a super-modern holiday destination, including the Ayla Golf Club. It is located in the pulsating Ayla Oasis, the great impressions of which we will review at the end of our round trip.

But before that, we will visit Amman, Jerash, Bethany, Mount Nebo and Madaba, whose visits would be worth a separate report. From there we continue to the thousand-year-old rock city of Petra.

The early morning walk through The Siq, a narrow path surrounded by rock walls up to 90 m high and leading to Al-Khazneh/The Treasure House of the Nebateans, is a top highlight of our visit. Close behind ranks Ad Deir /The Monastery which requires further climbing up the valley almost 900 steps through Petra and rising up 200 m in altitude, offering breathtaking views.

Way to the Treasure House through the Siq and view of Ad Deir/The Monastery. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Those who do not dare to make the walk through the gorge or the ascent alone can enlist the help of experienced four-legged professionals.

Four-legged taxis in Petra. (Photo: Juegen Linnenbuerger)

The overnight stay in a tented camp in the middle of the desert and the balloon ride over Wadi Rum are equally unforgettable.

Overnight stay in comfortable tents iand early morning balloon flight over Wadi Rum. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

We feel transported to the great scenes of the films ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’, ‘The Martian’ and ‘Dunes’ which were filmed here, and still feel the desert sand on our skin and the bumpy tours on the back of the Bedouin pickup trucks.

Relaxation on the Gulf of Aqaba

After pillars, temples, rocks and sand, the sea calls. The coastal city of Aqaba is located in Jordan’s extreme south on the Red Sea, close to the border crossing with Israel. Its seaport is the only one in the country and the gateway to the rest of the world.

Aqaba is a free trade zone and has more than 150,000 inhabitants. It is located at the northernmost tip of the Gulf of the same name, a branch of the Red Sea, and is bordered on its western side by Israel and the Sinai Peninsula and on the eastern side by Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Surrounded by turquoise sea 

We spend a few relaxing days at the five-star Hyatt Regency Aqaba Ayla Resort, which is located just over four kilometres from the centre of the port city. It is surrounded by bright blue lagoons with water from the Red Sea and has 286 modern rooms and 43 suites.

All have a balcony or private terrace with a great view of the marina or the imposing, majestic mountains. Our Standard Bedroom on the 4th floor has purpose-built furnishings and offers beautiful views down to the golf course.

View of the lagoon and the Hyatt Regency Aqaba Ayla Resort. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Hotel amenities include the La Plage Beach Club on the lagoon, a large relaxation area with infinity pool set amidst the perfectly maintained gardens, a luxurious Aqua Spa with Hammam, a gym and tennis courts. 

Guests can choose between international and regional dishes in five restaurants and bars; we recommend them all! (alcohol is served to foreign guests in all of them).

Wi-Fi is free of charge and works well in the public areas, at the pool and in the beach club, and in our room most of the time.

The service of the staff is attentive and unobtrusive and fortunately we can communicate very well in English.

The resort has been awarded global Green Key Eco status in the hotel category, recognising its efforts and commitment to public health and sustainable environmental standards in tourism. These are felt throughout the resort, which is exceptionally clean and well maintained.

Staying at the pools and the hotel’s own stretch of beach on the lagoon in our customary swimwear is fine in this country, which is dominated by Islam. Local women wear a black suit that covers the entire body, including the head with only a small section left free for the face, hands and feet. 

No fear of the great white shark 

Just a few kilometres outside the resort are fantastic snorkeling and diving opportunities, where you can gaze at a variety of fish in the crystal clear waters. Sharks, such as the harmless giant whale shark, are also said to occur here.

We also encounter one of these species at Ayla Golf Club, as its designer is none other than Greg Norman, known as the ‘Great White Shark’. He designed the 18-hole par 72 championship course in 2016, which spreads over an area of 800,000 square metres and is harmoniously integrated into the original desert landscape. 

Final hole (left) and holes 9 and 18 of Ayla Golf Club. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

A par 3 9-hole floodlit course and a Golf Academy with PGA-qualified pros and excellent practice facilities complete this comprehensive golf offering. 

In harmony with nature 

Specific requirements were given to the world-renowned company, Greg Norman Golf Course Design (GNGCD), to ensure the design interfered as little as possible with the environment and to comply with ecological aspects. The Ayla Oasis area, contaminated with over 60,000 mines from the Six-Day War in 1967, was first completely cleared and the golf course was built with excavated soil from the huge lagoon landscape.

Attractive holes in front of an impressive backdrop. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Several artificial lakes and wadis were created that are fed by rainwater from the surrounding mountains mixed with lagoon water and serve as reservoirs for irrigation and act as stopovers for migratory birds, complementing the natural ecosystem. Most of the electricity is provided by solar panels.

Plenty of water at Ayla Golf Club. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Early bird tee time

The hotel shuttle takes us to the nearby clubhouse in five minutes. We start early in the morning, as in May, it is already 25 degrees at 7.00 a.m., though the heat is easily bearable due to the low humidity. 

The wind that comes up during the round does not interfere with the game, but we find it blissfully cooling as the temperature rises.

Offering up fantastic views of the mountain scenery beyond, the open, mildly undulating course measures 7,152 yards from the back black tees. The fairways are gently curved but if you don’t find them, huge sandy waste areas await though in most cases you can play out of these quite easily. Water hazards come into play on half of the holes. Both fairways and greens are seeded with Paspalum grass, which is ideal for high temperatures.  

Sandy waste areas surround the fairways. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Five different tee boxes offer on all 18 holes makes it amenable for all HCP classes.

Good conditioning in all areas

Its layout is most appealing, the conditioning well maintained. The grass of the fairways has some yellow patches at the moment as it is still in partial hibernation. We hit the countless, fairly deep bunkers more often than we would like, but since most of them are under renovation during our visit and marked as GUR, we continue playing without a penalty stroke. Those completed are boast gleaming fine, white sand.

Renovation of the huge bunkers. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

There is nothing to criticise about the quality of the partly large, fast greens. They are true to track and a pleasure to play. Not only the course, but the entire facility is very well maintained, thanks to a team of 50 greenkeepers who do an excellent job. All the paths are paved and easy to negotiate with a buggy.

We are almost alone on the course and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere in the club, which currently has 120 members of the 400 players that exist in Jordan. As we learn from the friendly, South African Head Pro, Jason, about 5,000 green fees are currently sold per year. They would like to increase this moderately through targeted marketing measures and contribute to the Ayla Oasis developing more and more into an attractive, internationally recognised sporting and golf destination. 

The Mena Tour, for example, has already made a stop here. In 2019, the Jordan Mixed Open was held for the first time, a tournament format in which players from the European Challenge Tour, the Staysure Tour and the Ladies European Tour took part under the motto ‘We share the same drive’. 

In 2022, the idea was taken up of hosting the Jordan Open Golf Championship, in which men, women and juniors from 14 countries compete for victory. 

We enjoy the fair course with its varied holes and undisturbed play. 

An award-winning clubhouse 

Just as impressive as the course and its practice facilities is the clubhouse with its extraordinary design. Paying homage to the Bedouin architectural heritage. Renowned architectural firm, Oppenheim Architecture & Design, designed the structure from undulating concrete in an organic, contemporary style.

Clubhouse and Comfort Station in same style. (Photo: Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Ahlan wa sahlan

We feel extremely welcome and safe at all times throughout our journey. Everywhere we are warmly welcomed and well looked after. The decision to take a trip organised by a tour operator with an experienced guide was spot on. Our guide studied in Germany and with his extensive knowledge gave us deep insights into the Arabic religion, culture and history, which we would never have been able to discover on our own in such a short time. If necessary, I will be happy to establish the relevant contacts.

In spring and autumn, Jordan is a great travel destination that now also offers golfers a new, attractive alternative, but coming here just to play golf would not do justice to the Arab country with its extensive range of offers. We were thrilled by the combination of culture, unique landscapes, well-appointed hotels, gastronomic delights and getting to know the Ayla Oasis with its superb golf course.

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Travel

50 years of QDL – the amazing golf, leisure & lifestyle resort in the Algarve

The ‚Q‘ stands for uniqueness and highest quality

With 36 golf courses, the Algarve is one of the destinations with the highest golf course density in Europe. Three of them are located in the Quinta do Lago Resort, which beginnings date back to the early seventies. In five decades, a multitude of luxurious villas and flats, hotels, restaurants, an internationally recognised golf academy and a campus with a multi-sport facility have been built at this exclusive resort. Combining luxury with sustainability is not a contradiction here, but lived practice. 

The resort extends over an area of 465 hectares, with a large lake, the Lago, in its middle. To the south, the resort borders on a nature reserve, the Ria Formosa Natural Park, from which you can reach the Atlantic Ocean with its golden-yellow, kilometre-long sandy beach via a wooden walkway.

Palm Springs sends its regards

It takes just twenty minutes by car from Faro airport to the Magnolia Boutique Hotel located at the the northern edge of the holiday oasis. The architecture and design of the main building, surrounded by palm trees, is reminiscent of Palm Springs in California. The pink lettering and the huge figure at the entrance already catch the eye during the day. They look even more striking when their neon lighting is visible from afar in the dark.

The Magnolia Hotel at day and night (Photos Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The other areas of the four-star hotel are also dominated by pastel colours and shapes of the well-known Mid-Century Modern Style.  

Similar to a motel, you can park your car on one side of the buildings directly in front of the room’s entrances. A small terrace leads to the functional, modernly furnished rooms, which have the usual amenities. They are clean, the beds just as great as the extremely fluffy towels.The complex includes a couple of cottages, in matching colours, in complete tranquillity at the back of the premises. These are also very popular, as we can see during our visit. The U-17 team of the Portuguese national football team is staying here during the qualifying tournament for the European Championship 2023 and finds optimal training conditions in the resort’s sports campus.

Heated swimming pool of Magnolia Hotel (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The hotel’s heated outdoor pool, its spa & wellness centre and its tennis court provide plenty of variety. 

We are also pleased by the hotel’s gastronomic offer. The breakfast buffet, the freshly squeezed orange juice and different á la carte options are the perfect start to our golf rounds. The quality of the evening menus follows on seamlessly from this. The Chicken Piri-Piri, famous for the region, is of course not to be missed.

There are a total of 12 restaurants in the resort. We especially like the Bovino, which is not only known for its great steaks, but also for its creative cocktails. The Asian-style OMAMI, which is our favourite both culinary and visually, presents itself in an unique way.

Asian cuisine at its best at UMAMI and the drinks are also outstanding (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The Magnolia Hotel is within walking distance of the ‘Q’ roundabout and of two shopping centres. What takes some getting used to is the Christmas decorations at 24 degrees and bright sunshine.

Christmas decorations of Q-roundabout (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

All good things come in threes

The South, North and Naranjal golf courses belonging to the resort are among the best the Algarve has to offer. They occupy top positions in the relevant rankings. 

They date back to the initiative of entrepreneur André Jordan, who founded QDL with the aim of developing a resort in the American country style. Just three years later, in 1974, the 18 holes of the South Course and 9 holes of the neighbouring North Course were opened. Their original designs are credited to the American William Mitchel, who designed more than 150 golf courses and brought tees, bunkers and greens to the Algarve according to American standards. The Naranjal Course was opened in 2009, designed by Portuguese architect Jorge Santana da Silva.

The courses have four and five different tees respectively, all with the same elegant obelisks with information about the holes.

Impressive signs on all three courses (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Portugal’s flagship

The South Course quickly rose to fame, as the Portuguese Open was held on it for the first time in 1976. Seven more tournaments were held on it as part of the European PGA Tour until 2001, when it continued as the Algarve Open.

In 2020, the course was closed for more than a year and underwent an extensive redesign. With an investment of more than seven million euros, it was brought up to the latest standards, including a new irrigation and drainage system. Sustainability is the focus of all innovations. The fairways were sown with Bermuda hybrid grass, the bunkers were renovated and several holes were redesigned. 

After the renovation, the 18-hole par 72 course with a length of 6,416 m from the black tees is now also suitable for long hitters. It is undoubtedly the gem of the golf triumphant and not only a feast for the eyes with its partly huge pine trees.

The fairways are mostly surrounded by tall trees, which are repeatedly interrupted by imposing villas. These, however, sit discreetly in the background. Level holes are a rarity. Most tee shots are either downhill or uphill. 

World-class conditions on the South Course (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Its state of maintenance is exceptional. The feel-good factor begins on the perfectly mown tee boxes and continues on the immaculate fairways, which run over sandy soil. The transitions to the asphalted paths are just as uncritical as the partly huge areas covered with wood chips between the courses or under the trees. The high quality of the bunkers and of the fast greens fits seamlessly into this assessment.

Tee boxes like greens (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The course requires precise tee shots, because the less accurately hit ones quickly disappear in the not very high, but extremely dense rough. Or the balls come to rest on the well-kept areas with wood chips, from which further play is not easy. The highlights of the course are its last holes, when water comes into play. On the 15th, the tee shot from the elevated yellow tee is 166 m carry over the lake into an immaculate green. A large wooden bridge leads to it.

Tee box and green of 15th hole ( Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The green of the 16th ends in front of the lake with views to the Ria Formosa Natural Park and the tee shot of the 17th is also to be played over the lake.

Currently named Europe’s number one

In November 2022, the course was named not only the best Portuguese course, but also the best course in Europe at the World Golf Awards. 

One clubhouse for both courses

The modern, spacious clubhouse is located in the middle of the resort. We can reach it from the hotel in a good five minutes. From its large terrace we have a great view over the entire first fairway of the South Course.

The omnipresent Q in front of the clubhouse’s entrance and the clubhouse terrace with an amazing view of the first hole (Photos Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The well-equipped pro shop is where we register and get our score cards for the North and South Course. The new metallic painted and leatherette equipped buggies are of course equipped with GPS. We meet friendly and helpful staff in all areas.

Close to each other

The North Course, whose former name was Ria Formosa, has also been extensively rebuilt and redesigned. This was last done in 2014 by golf course architect Beau Welling in collaboration with former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, who also founded the resident Golf Academy. The investment volume was approximately nine million euros. 

All tees, bunkers, greens and cart paths were renovated. In addition, the course received a new irrigation and drainage system that allows the water to be reused. 

Its first tee is located just a stone’s throw from the clubhouse, opposite the 10th of the South course. The slightly hilly course runs through different areas of the resort. At 6,140 m from the back tees, it is the shortest of the three resort courses. Due to the sometimes quite long distances between the holes, a buggy is recommended. One leaves the course several times when crossing the streets of the resort. However, this does not dampen the enjoyment of playing it.The fairways offer ample approach opportunities and are often lined by umbrella pines whose crowns resemble broccoli heads. The greens are ondulated but play well.

The fairways live up to their name (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Water only comes into play on two holes. Particularly memorable is the 12th, a 372 m long par 4, which winds as a dogleg to the green around a lake into a strongly ondulated green.

Signature hole of the North Course (Photo QDL Resort)

A special experience

Finally, we play the Naranjal Course, which is located two km east of the resort in a former orange grove in the Ludo Valley. In 2011, it won the ‘Best Course’ award at the Portuguese Travel Awards.As soon as we enter the tee box of the first hole, we understand why. We start shortly after sunrise, when the course, still virgin with dew, spreads out before us through the open, spacious grounds. The atmosphere is unique.

The early bird catches the worm (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Unlike the other two courses, its fairways are not surrounded by buildings, but are harmoniously placed next to each other in the slightly hilly terrain. Only the outer boundaries have partly dense tree cover.

Its spectacular fairways are just as impressive as the five lakes, the harmoniously placed umbrella pines, cork oaks and orange trees. The greens are also impeccable.

Among its special features are the huge bunker landscapes that already come into play on the second hole, a par 3. Its tee shot is to be played deep into the green, which is protected on one side by abundant sand that leads directly into the lake.

With a length of 6,480 metres, the demanding course with its five par 5s, eight par 4s and five par 3s demands the utmost concentration and accuracy. Its layout inspires us just as much as its state of maintenance.

Signature Hole of the Naranjal Course (right) (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Offers that are hard to beat

The short drive from Faro to the hotel, the quick accessibility of all golf courses, their designs and well-kept conditions convinced us as well as the excellent hotel and gastronomic offers and the exceptionally high standard of care throughout the resort.

The Magnolia Hotel offers various extremely attractive packages. Or you can opt for the golf offer valid until the end of January 2023 to play the North or Naranjal Course for € 114,- including half a buggy.Golfer’s heart, what more could you want.

Categories
Travel

Cyprus: Spectacular golf courses on the island of the gods

Pleasant temperatures and plenty of sunshine 

The former British crown colony is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and has been a member of the European Union since 2004. With up to 340 days of sunshine, Cyprus is a year-round holiday destination. We are heading to the south of the island, where Greek and English are spoken. There we would like to get to know four golf courses. Pleasant temperatures around twenty degrees in December increase our anticipation.

Oasis of well-being directly on the beach

As a starting point, we decide on the five-star Columbia Beach Resort, which is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. It is located in complete tranquillity in the dreamy village of Pissouri with direct access to the two-kilometre-long pebble beach. The water is glassy and invites you to swim even in December. It takes us just under three quarters of an hour to reach it by car from the airport in Larnaka via the not very busy, well-developed motorway. We quickly get used to the left-hand traffic. 

The main building and the 169 suites are terraced in the shape of a Cypriot village around the pool area with two pools and a large garden. Everything is very well maintained.

Inviting pool and Executive Suite with sea view (Photos Juergen Linnenbuerger (left) and Columbia Beach Resort)

The round arches of the high ceilings, the high-quality and tasteful interior made of local materials, and the natural stone floors of our Executive See View Suite create an extremely authentic and pleasant atmosphere.

The warm rays of the sun and the sound of the gentle waves already gave us the first feeling of well-being on our balcony in the early morning. This continues seamlessly at breakfast on the terrace of the Bacchus restaurant, where we can almost dangle our feet in the pool. The buffet and á la carte offerings are varied and of high quality. 

After our daily rounds of golf, we return at dusk, as the sun sets at 4.45pm at this time of year. On our return trips, we look forward to the extensive leisure facilities, which include floodlit tennis and squash courts, a gym and an indoor pool. The huge Hebe Spa offers a variety of treatments and has won several awards. 

We take our dinners from the resort’s talented chefs on the terrace of the Apollo Tavern restaurant. These impress us, as do the tasty Cypriot wines and the creative cocktails in the stylish Ouzeri Bar.

Particularly noteworthy is the great friendliness and constant attentiveness of all the service staff, with whom we have excellent conversations in English. 

Minthis Golf with wow factor on the back nine

The first course we play is Minthis Golf. It is located about 40 minutes from our hotel and a good ten minutes from the Town of Paphos in the luxurious new resort. At an altitude of just under 600 metres above sea level, it is the highest course with impressive views of the Troodos Mountains towering in the background. Temperatures here are usually a few degrees lower than on the other courses that are close to the sea. The altitude has the advantage that pleasant play is possible here even in the warm summer months.

The par 72 course runs past walnut, almond, olive and carob trees through the hilly terrain of the resort. Excellent wine is also grown here, the quality of which we can convince ourselves of in the modern clubhouse after the round, as well as the delicious dishes.

Opened as the first course in Cyprus under the name Tsada Golf in 1994, it was originally designed by architect Donald Steel. Between 2017 and 2020, it underwent a major overhaul by the firm Mackenzie & Ebert and reopened in 2021. It received a new layout, harmoniously integrated into the landscape, and new greens according to USGA standards. Sustainability is a top priority throughout the resort. It owes its current name to the historic 12th-century monastery, which is located behind the green of the fourth hole. A short detour into its inner courtyard is worthwhile.

Fantastic mountain scenery behind the tenth hole (Photo Juergen Linnenbürger)

The view at the start over the wide, open course has an extremely calming effect on us and contributes to a pleasant start to the soft front nine. But from the ten, the course really turns on. Here we encounter some unusual holes with tee-offs from elevated tee boxes that are sporty and visually impressive.

The wow factor on entering the tenth hole can’t be topped. With its spectacular tee shot over the ravine (see photo above left), it alone is worth the round. The service behind its green also makes an impression, as a buggy takes golfers who don’t use one of their own back to the other side of the course with their trolleys to the next tee.

Deep down into the fairway of the 11th hole and ancient monastery in the backyard  (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

From here, it’s a steep downhill slope to the green on the left, with another great view over the course.

14th hole – The secret signature hole (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

We also like the 14, a risk and reward par 4 designed as a dogleg, where our successful drives roll from the terraced tees far into the vicinity of the beautifully laid out green. The following par 3 with the great island green follows seamlessly.

We enjoy the round in absolute tranquillity in the midst of the natural surroundings and the course, which is sporty to play. The fair rough and the fast but true greens also contribute to this.

Service is written in capital letters throughout the club. We are greeted in a particularly friendly and humorous manner by the caddy master and the starter. We can literally tell that they enjoy their job.  

In November 2022, Minthis Golf Club was voted the best golf course in Cyprus at the World Golf Awards. It is the first GEO-certified club on the island and the only one to have received this award twice.

The goddess of love and beauty 

The name Island of the Gods comes from the legend that Aphrodite is said to have risen from the foam of the sea at her birth in Petra tou Romiou. The rock named after her is one of the most visited tourist spots on the island. We visit it early in the morning and have it to ourselves. We do not swim around it three times and hope that eternal love is assured even without this sporting feat. 

The most famous rock of the island (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Less than five minutes away is the Aphrodite Hills Resort, named after the goddess. Its par 71 course is part of Cyprus’ first leisure and golf resort. It has 290 hotel rooms as well as an extensive real estate area with villas and flats. 

The resort offers not only golf but a range of other sports. It wants to contribute to making Cyprus an attractive destination for these as well. These include tennis, basketball and football as well as horse riding and cycling. In November 2022, for example, the amateur road cycling race L’Etape Cyprus by Tour de France was held here for the first time with participants from 22 countries.

Part of the DP World Tour

Its championship course, the PGA National Cyprus, gained international attention in October 2020 when it became part of the European Tour (now DP World Tour) and hosted the Cyprus Open and Cyprus Showdown on two consecutive weekends. 

Its layout is credited to Cabell B. Robinson, who developed it over five years. It was opened in 2002. The course stretches over two plateaus separated by a huge canyon. The sign behind the second hole makes it clear why buggies are compulsory on the course: 950 m to Tee 3. 

Nothing for scaredy-cats (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

We almost missed the small tee box of the professionals on the way there, because they play their drive 200 m carry over the huge, deep canyon. We drive around it with our buggy and look back from the third tee with admiration at the performance of the professionals. 

Winding path to the tee-box and to the green of the 7th hole (Photo Jürgen Linnenbürger)

It also gets exciting after the sixth hole, because two holes follow that will remain in your memory. First, the path runs steeply downhill in serpentines to the tees of the seventh (see photo above right). Afterwards, on the way to the eight, the view back to the seventh green and the winding path to it is impressive.

Hole Eight – the signature hole (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The eight is the signature hole of the course. Originally, you could look out over the entire fairway across the full width of the green to the sea. In the meantime, however, the development has advanced to the green on one side.

Relaxed back nine in very well-kept surroundings (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The back nine gives the opportunity to make the score friendly. It leads uphill and downhill through the hilly, well-maintained terrain with beautiful views all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. The state of maintenance is without any criticism on the whole course. 

Arizona sends its regards

On the same road, only a few kilometres further in the direction of Paphos, lies the entrance to the Secret Valley Golf Course. The par 71 course is located in a long valley surrounded on both sides by high mountains. The setting and scenery are magnificent.

Fairways embedded in a mighty mountain massif (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The origin of the course dates back to 1996. It was redesigned in 2013 by Hans-Georg Erhardt and Snorri Vilhjalmsson of Golf and Land Design, together with four-time Ryder Cup Captain Tony Jacklin. 

Hit and hope (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

With its approximately 350 members, the Members Club has more than half of all club members of the four clubs played. The partly small landing zones, tee shots that have to be played blind, the dense stand of olive trees and bushes as well as the doglegs require great precision. Added to this are the fast greens.

Green bunker of the 11th and fairway of the 12th hole along the lake (Photo Jürgen Linnenbürger)

Many holes are also visually very attractive. These undoubtedly include the eleven with the greenside bunker leading directly into the lake and the fairway of the twelve along the lake with the shot over the water into the green. 

Final hole at sunset (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

Not to forget the 18th, where the red colouring of the mountain massif by the setting sun reminds one of Arizona’s courses. The good state of maintenance also makes the course an experience.

Sir Nick Faldo’s preference for sand

The Eléa Golf Course is located in the middle of the Eléa Real Estate complex very close to Paphos. The clubhouse, impressive both from the outside and the inside, is enthroned at the highest point of the course. From its observation tower, we have fantastic views over the spacious, open course, the Mediterranean Sea and the nearby Town of Paphos.

Wide fairways and huge greens (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

It was opened in 2010, designed by Sir Nick Faldo, the six-time Major winner. The result is an 18-hole par 71 course with wide fairways, tricky greens and countless, huge bunker landscapes surrounded by carob and olive trees. If you love bunkers, this is the place for you.

Plenty of sand on the course and no shortage of rocky waste areas (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

We start the round with a tee shot deep into the valley. The two also continues downhill. After that, it becomes more level. The course spreads out in full size below the clubhouse and leads back uphill to it on the last holes. The fairways are often intersected by stony and rocky waste areas, which have to be played over. 

Fairways, bunkers and greens are well maintained. Every hole, including the four short par 3s, has its charm and should not be underestimated. Strategy and precision are required throughout the course.

The most difficult hole and the impressive clubhouse (Photo Juergen Linnenbuerger)

The last three holes are as impressive as they are challenging. The blind shot into the elevated green of the 16th, the tee shot of the 17th past a huge bunker landscape as well as the shot over a canyon into its green require full concentration once again. The same applies to the shot into the green of the 18th, which is protected by a huge bunker. 

We look back very satisfied on wonderful days, spectacular, extremely varied golf courses and excellent hotel and gastronomy. Our visits to the archaeological park with its impressive mosaics and the tombs of the kings in Paphos contribute to this just as much as the excursion to the original mountain villages of the Troodos Mountains. 

Juergen Linnenbuerger, December 2022