What could flourish the golf tourism around the Black Sea?

By: October 16, 2017

Two years ago, my guest writer Görkem Kursunlu Karakus (Counsel, Embassy of Turkey, Washington, US) when she wrote about golf tourism development in Turkey, she has not mentioned any golf projects at the Black Sea shore of Turkey. We all can agree that golf life and tourism is mainly concentrated in the Belek cluster.

Turkey still relies heavily on international golf tourism as the number of registered golfers in Turkey is around 6776. Turkish golfers are mainly playing in Istambul (Kemer Country & Golf Club, Klassis Country & Golf Club) and in Ankara (Ankara Golf Club; in these 2 cities: 90% of rounds).

This is why I thought to share with you the latest Turkish golf course development project, the Samsun Golf Club (see picture below) on the Black Sea shore of the country. In April, I was invited by Turkey to the HESTOUREX (health tourism, sports tourism, and general tourism) 2017 congress and exhibition (Antalya, between 6-9th April 2017).

Surprisingly, when I asked the representatives of the Samsun Golf Club (Designed by Kevin Ramsey of Golfplan) they were not able to update me about their golf course and provide any further information.

Actually, Golfplan finished the first nine at Samsun Golf Club in 2016. The back nine is newly completed and will emerge in fully finished form (6,800 yards) come the spring of 2018. It is the only golf course in Turkey made by a municipality.

Samsun Golf Club in Turkey Black Sea

What we know about the Belek golf tourism statistics that Germany (36%), the UK (27%), Scandinavia (15%) are the TOP 3 source countries. If you don’t know where to find Samsun then I can tell you that is east of Istambul and you have to travel by car 737 km.

The other option is via the Black Sea. What is more complicated for Western European golf tourists is to arrive by airplane, even though Turkish Airlines, Germanwings, SunExperess (a cooperation between Lufthansa & Turkish Airlines) are arriving in Samsun.

My logic says that:

  • Just for this one golf course, Western European golfers will not come. Therefore, they will have to invest in local demand.
  • Big airlines will not open direct flights from major European cities.
  • The city does not have enough attractions. If you are interested in Kemal Atatürk then maybe…
  • You cannot rely on Russian golfers (cca. 2-5000 registered golfers are in Russia).
  •  The city’s two good quality hotels (Sheraton Grand Samsun Hotel: closer to the Samsun Golf Club; Hampton by Hilton Samsun) won’t be enough to impress the Russians.

The bottom line is that tourists who will come to this city will not come because of the new 18-hole golf course. If they want to be considered as an important golf destination, they will have to invest in golf course development. Hopefully, the region will remain peaceful and quite.

The Georgian capital, Tbilisi gets a 9-hole golf course

The first 18-hole golf course (6,300m; Tilander Golf Design) of Tbilisi and Georgia is planned to be opened in 2017. The developers plan to build hundreds of homes around the golf course.

With the very same dynamism, a new 9-hole golf course’s (3,400 yards) construction is on the way (another Golfplan project), the Tabori Hill project. Golfers will literally access the resort from the middle of downtown Tbilisi, by cable car. It is scheduled to open late in 2018. The Tabori Recreation and Golf Resort is a project of the Georgian Co-Investment Fund. It is a 60M USD project.

The recreation complex will feature a 5-star hotel with 200 rooms, sports halls, golf academy, driving range, restaurants, and cafes. Unfortunately, they forgot to plan wellness and spa facilities.

A good question could be what motivates these developers to build these golf courses. Just like in many former Soviet Republic golf does not have any history. What Georgia has got is a steadily growing tourism industry. In 2016, they had 6,350,825 tourists. This is 449,731 (7.6%) more than in 2015. The tourism brought more than 2 billion USD to the country.

The share of the total contribution of tourism & travel was 27.1% of the GDP (the direct contribution was 8.1% of the total GDP in 2016).

These investments will not put Georgia on golf tourists’ bucket list, but rather give another reason to visit Tbilisi and Georgia in general. Needless to say that Tbilisi is more interesting than Samsun.

Tabori Hill Golf Club Tbilisi Black Sea