How has Turkey become an attractive golf destination?

By: Görkem Kursunlu Karakus December 29, 2015

In this article, I would like to emphasize the developing stages of Golf industry in Turkey, focusing mainly the efforts of Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s investments and Turkish Golf Federation (TGF) and Turkish Airlines supportive activities within the promoting Golf Tourism in Belek.

A fascinating mix of the West and East, Turkey is the cradle of cultures and civilizations connecting Europe and Asia and the capital of civilizations that have reigned lands of Anatolia for centuries. Turkey is a unique destination with stunning landscapes, fabulous ancient ruins, and rich culture. Turkey has become one of the world’s elite destinations.

Over the past two decades, Turkey has placed among the world`s top tourism destinations. According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO) statistics, Turkey has been ranking the 6th most visited country in the world since 2012, and keeps its position in 2014, with a record-breaking number of 41 million tourists from all over the world. In Europe, Turkey is the 4th most visited country.

Ministry of Culture and Tourism has been implementing and producing new strategies to create new tourism product to maintain the demand of tourism in different ways. In terms of alternative tourism, named as the ‘Capital of Golfing in Turkey’, Belek is a niche, and the stylish resort in Antalya, located on the Mediterranean coast.

Belek is the most popular golfing destination and offers courses designed by Sir Nick Faldo and Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie. In addition to the spectacular golf, Belek is adjacent to the splendid history and culture surrounding Antalya.

Home of Belek Golf Home of the Belek Golf Riviera

Today, Turkey has nearly 25 international level courses. In 2008, Turkey was awarded “The Golf Destination of Year” by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO). After the Tiger Woods played golf in Turkish Airlines Open in 2013, Turkey has got attraction as golf destination all over the world.

2015 KPMG report states that Turkey is a rising star of the golf destinations in the world. Let`s see the chart below to see the interests of Golf sport in Turkey:

Golf clubs 18
Registered golfers 6,776
Golfers per golf clubs 376
National population 74.9 million
National golf participation rate 1 in 11,000

Source: European Golf Association, Turkish Golf Federation, TurkStat, KPMG Research

According to this chart, it seems that Turkey improves and sustains golf as a successful tourism product. However, the local interest in golf is still inadequate. According to EGA statistics; national golf participation rate is 1 in 11000. To increase the involvement of locals, Turkish Golf Federation loan golf equipment and provide free coaching by professional players.

However, Golf has been developed rapidly over the past 20 years in the Mediterranean. It is also an important element for tourism for EMA region. Turkey, with its intense golf development, is competing against the leaders of Mediterranean Market in Spain and Portugal. Lagardere Senior Vice President Golf Roddy Carr said in the Turkish Airlines Open 2015 that “Spain took 15 years to do what Turkey did in 3 years.” In next years, Turkey will be able to do more.

In the beginning of 90s, Belek located in Antalya was selected by the Turkish Government to be evolved as a golf tourism destination due the advantages of region:

  • High-level accessibility. (Antalya International Airport is one of the biggest airports in Turkey)
  • Availability of a large portion of land attached to the coast suitable for several golf course constructions.
  • The appropriate climatic conditions allow to play the whole year and perfect golf circumstances in the spring and autumn.
  • The large supply of sweet water.

Because of these reasons Belek-Antalya has become a capital of golf in Turkey. On the other hand, Antalya is also one of the main “sea and sun” and “historical and cultural” tourist destination of Turkey. With 16 high-end gold resorts, Belek offers golfers a “full family vacation”.

Along the golf improvement, Belek has turned out one of the rising stars of golf destinations in the span of 10 years.

Supply and demand in Belek

Beside Belek-Antalya, Istanbul serves with 2 major golf courses, and there are 3 courses (2 in Bodrum-Mugla, one in Kusadasi-Aydin) in the Aegean coast.  The architectural influences of many civilizations, Sultan’s treasures, breathtaking view of Bosphorus attracts millions of tourists in Istanbul every year.

Due to its unmatched beauty, Istanbul serves golf lovers with two oldest clubs of Turkey: Kemer Golf Club and Klassis Golf Club. Both clubs have hosted national and international tournaments such as PGA Seniors Tour, European Club Cup Trophy since 1995.

The local town of Kusadasi has 185 acres 18-hole course with a fantastic view of Samos Island. It will be an exotic and challenging experience among the olive and carob trees. Vita Park Golf Club in Bodrum is the first golf resort in Turkey and the 3rd in Europe to use high-cost paspalum turfgrass which is environmentally friendly.

With regard to developing Golf, Turkish Golf Federation`s efforts are needed to underline. Turkish Golf Federation was established in 1895 with the name of “Istanbul Klassis Golf Club” but reconstructed in the beginning of 90s. In 1996 Turkish Golf Federation was founded and joined the European Golf Association (EGA) in 1997.

The aim of the federation is promoting golf and golf tourism. Turkish Golf Federation owns and manages several golf clubs in Turkey. TGF president Ahmet Agaoglu stated that they are passionate about developing golf sport for the next generation of golfers and ensuring those currently active are receiving the support they need to remain involved for years to come.

Since TGF founding year, this passion has helped take golf in Turkey to where it is today, having become one of the world’s top golf destinations. Golfers from around the world know of Turkey’s beauty and what is available in terms of designer courses and high-end hospitality.

Now we wish to share this sport with our own people, so they can also be a part of the global golf community. Contrary to popular belief, golf participation is not only centered in the western part of Turkey; there are many eastern cities with registered golfers who are working hard in their communities to help develop the game and are traveling to play and attend tournaments around the nation.

According to Agaoglu, TGF Federation is working closely with the Turkish Government and group of private and public investors to identify more sites where golf courses and training facilities can be developed. Currently, there are more than 35 golf courses planned within Turkey, with sites identified along the coast and throughout the country to satisfy growing local and international demand.

Montgomerie Maxx-Royal Golf Club in Belek

The Turkish Golf Federation created the Junior Golf League, in which 250 junior golfers compete for the chance to play on Turkey’s national golf team. Turkish Airlines supports the Turkish National Golf Team, an effort from which there is hopes to send at least one athlete to compete at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Not only the TGF but also Turkish Airlines contributes Golf sport in terms of creating new opportunities and it is necessary to underline the efforts of our National Flight carrier Turkish Airlines (THY).

Currently, there are a number of professional and amateur events on the Turkish Golf Federation’s 2015 calendar. Among the lot, the 3 most significant professional golf tournaments on its roster are the Turkish Airlines Challenge, Turkish Airlines Open, and the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open, all of which are being hosted in Belek.

These 3 events are Turkish Airlines’ title sponsored events which have contributed to the growth of the Turkish people’s awareness of golf by bringing important tournaments to Turkey. In particular, the Turkish Airlines Open has helped to increase the profile and generate a positive awareness of Turkey as a golf destination.

The Turkish Airlines Open and Ladies Open – now a cornerstone of the European Tour’s ‘Final Series’ and the Ladies European Tour – takes place in May, and attracts some of the biggest names in the sport, boasts one of the largest purse offering globally. Hosted in March, the Turkish Airlines Challenge is also a notable event on the European Tour.

Furthermore, Turkish Airlines continues to support golf from top to bottom, with the finals of the Turkish Airlines World Golf Cup Amateur Series taking place just prior to the Turkish Airlines Open. Now in its third year, the Amateur Series continues to cross the globe – and make its mark on the game of golf.

With over 70 events in 47 different countries, the Amateur Series begins in Johannesburg and works its way around the globe, offering a chance for amateur golfers to compete for the chance to reach the Grand Finals in Belek. In addition to this engagement, Turkish Airlines offers to carry one piece of golf equipment’s free for  the Golf lovers who choose to play golf in Turkey.

As a result of all the advantages stated above, golf is one of the prominent components of Turkey’s tourism. Turkish Government prioritizes golf for tourism development. At the moment, there are nearly 25 intended courses in Antalya, and eight more in the other regions of Turkey.

Finally, it may say that playing golf has been growing expeditiously in Turkey and one of the challenges of this growth is to raise the local interest of golf for the future to keep golf alive in Turkey.

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  • Turkish Airlines Golf Report, 2015
  • Ministry of Culture and Tourism Data Statistics
  • ‘Destination Golf’ booklet, published in 2015, by Destination Golf Media Ltd.
  • Golf in Turkey, published by The Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism