PGA National Turkey (Sultan)

PGA National Turkey (Sultan)

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Course Information

The remarkable aspect of the presentation of this course in Belek isn’t that it has few peers in terms of its conditioning as anything in our Continental European Top 100 Courses.

The climate in southern Turkey – with over 300 days of hot sun beating down on its tees, fairways and greens showering it in warmth and light – means it has a head start over Northern Europe in terms of perfection presentation.

That said, other courses in the area illustrate its climate alone is not enough to make flawless presentation a fait accompli.

But that is not the frankly bewildering aspect to PGA National Turkey’s manicured appeal; it is that when you play there you cannot comprehend that this isn’t a private course with 20 usually absent members, rather than one of Europe’s busiest courses.

Fairways are covered with tightly-knit, tightly-mown grass that means the ball sits up appealingly for high handicappers but offers strong players the kind of control from tight lies they savour.

Even if, like me, conditioning is far less important to how much you rate it a course compared to the entertainment, memorability and variety of the holes, you can’t help but be impressed by this parkland-woodland.

Its greens – without exception slick and true – putt as well as they look while fairways are covered with tightly-knit, tightly-mown grass that means the ball sits up appealingly for high handicappers but offers strong players the kind of control from tight lies they savour.

Allied to the neatness of the non-playing areas – the paths, the flower beds, the trees and the water features – it makes you feel like money well spent to play here.

This manicured scene is certainly a long way from how things looked in 1991, when PGA National Turkey was plot ‘G3’ among the six courses initially leased (there are now 14).

Then, ‘G3’ was little more than a swamp and eucalyptus forest.

The Sultan received praise from the game’s big guns – Woods described it as a shotmaker’s course – and it certainly stood firm against the finest golfers in the world.

The man charged with turning that unpromising scene into a world-class course was David Jones, a long-time about player who was carving out a reputation as a canny architect.

The Northern Irishman is the Godfather of Belek Golf, because prior to creating PGA National Turkey, he built the area’s first course – the National – with his good friend David Feherty.

Despite being built using fledgling construction teams, the National impressed. And the design team were asked to repeat their success on what was known for many years as Antalya Golf Club’s Sultan course.

Few could disputed they failed in that aim and corroboration arrived in celebrity form in 2012, when Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were among those to play in the 2012 Turkish Airlines World Golf Finals.

It was the first time the world’s elite had been lured to Belek and was the area’s final step into global golfing consciousness.

The Sultan received praise from the game’s big guns – Woods described it as a shotmaker’s course – and it certainly stood firm against the finest golfers in the world.

It starts with a friendly handshake though. A wide fairway (albeit edged by water) on the 1st being followed by a cute short 2nd and then a birdie-able par 5.

None of the big names burnt it up even though on some days some back tees were not used. Anyone who had played the course will not have been surprised by that though, because off its 7,150-yard tips it is a beast.

This is, you see, not your standard ‘resort’ golf, for the fairways are notably narrow and approaching greens guarded by water with long clubs or from among the trees that line the fairways is a demanding examination that most of us will fail.

Most of us should not even play it from the 6,600-yard gold tees but instead from the 6,100-yard whites in order to allow yourself to hit lofted woods and hybrids off the tee yet still have an appealing club for your approach.

It starts with a friendly handshake though. A wide fairway (albeit edged by water) on the 1st being followed by a cute short 2nd and then a birdie-able par 5.

So far, so easy, one might think. But then at the next, trees encroach more obviously and suddenly shoulders become tighter.

The short par 4 that follows – played towards the high-end Kempinski Hotel – is a welcome chance to make a par and usher in arguably the course’s strongest run.

After a water-dominated start to the back nine come back-to-back classy and exacting two-shotters with hints of Woburn at 12 and 13.

It is followed by another handsome par 5 with echoes of Carnoustie’s Spectacles then the 8th is a gorgeous par 3 over water to a green buttressed around its perimeter by a wall of boulders.

That same effect is used on the green if the 9th too, which tells you water guards this green too; hit a gentle draw off the tee and avoid the bunkers in the middle of the fairway has the advantage of giving yourself an approach ‘up’ the length of the green rather than have to flirt with the water.

After a water-dominated start to the back nine come back-to-back classy and exacting two-shotters with hints of Woburn at 12 and 13.

At 470 and 440 yards and playing along narrow, tree-lined, well-bunkered fairways that lead to angled greens which love to reject approaches, this is patently not standard ‘holiday’ golf.

The 15th is much less intimidating with probably the widest fairway on the course but soon it’s back to more demanding stuff on the brutal 16th and, after a nice par-3 interlude, the dramatic 18th.

It has water down the right and, in order to find the last of the round’s flawless putting greens, asks you to clear a boulder wall beyond a lake. Chris Bertram

 

Information

David Jones

+90 242 725 59 70

Kadriye , Serik , Antalya , Turkey , 07525