Perry Dye – son of legendary Pete Dye – has a few well known European designs to his name (Austria’s Klagenfurt-Seltenheim and San Roque (New) in Spain spring to mind) and his latest Turkish delight is right up there with the others in the top bracket.
The Links course lies within the sprawling Lykia Estate in Turkey’s Antalya region and it’s yet another in a line of fabulous 18-hole layouts to emerge from the Belek tourist area, one of Europe’s most vibrant golfing hot spots.
Actually, the course sits a little bit away from the eastern end of the “Belek golf strip”, beside a river estuary that runs into the Mediterranean, and it’s laid out over a classic links landscape, complete with natural sand dunes and rumpled fairways – ideal terrain for the first links course in the country.
The reputation of the architect’s father for designing tough tracks has rubbed off on Perry as he has fashioned a course at Lykia that offers a meaty test (in total contrast to the type of golf found at most other nearby courses) so holiday golfers – you have been warned – don’t expect a stroll in the sun here!
A massive 7,536 yards from the back pegs, Lykia Links is not just about length when it comes to presenting a serious challenge. Green complexes are guarded by deep, railway-sleepered bunkers, fairways are bordered by large waste areas and putting surfaces are generally small and sloping.
Two of the holes on the front nine (7 and 8) play round a fresh water lake but that’s as close to resort golf as you’ll find on this course. On the inward half, holes 13 to 16 are set out in the dunes along the shores of the Med and the round ends in fine style at a home hole where an enormous waste area and mounding flank either side of a fairway that leads to an upturned saucer of a green.
I’ve just had a look at some of the previous reviews for this course and I’m glad to see there are a couple of recent 3-ball marks from golfers who might agree with me when I ask the question “how on earth can this course be ranked number 1 in Turkey?” Having earlier visited Carya the same morning and been suitably impressed, I expected so much more from Lykia in the afternoon but it fell way short of my expectations.
The magazine award certificates that hang in the hallway of the clubhouse are obviously remnants of the club’s glory days, dating back to when it first opened, but they in no way reflect the current status of a course that is sadly showing more than a few signs of neglect. I can overlook poor conditioning during the off season but general scruffiness and widespread dilapidation are genuine concerns.
Having since made a few discreet inquires, I understand the place has gone rapidly downhill since ClubMed pulled out a few years ago, with the owners allowing key members of staff to leave and cutting off relations with the architect. Love grass was meant to grow around the bunkers, off the fairways and in the large waste bunkers to help soften the surroundings but the high maintenance regime required to manage these plantings has been totally abandoned.
I didn’t like the numerous sandy waste areas dotted around the course and the occasional lone trees planted in the middle of several fairway were just a bit too contrived – and the least said about the incongruous water hazard between the 7th and 8th holes the better as it does absolutely nothing (like the trees) to enhance the course’s tenuous links credentials.
On the positive side, carpeting the course with paspalum works well as that particular type of grass seems to provide the most links-like, firm and fast playing conditions that you’ll find in a warm climate. The fairways were nicely routed back and forward along the coastline but the only hole to get my pulse racing was the par four 12th where, after a blind drive, the fairway dips sharply down to a tiny, sand-protected green.
I don’t know if any imminent investment is planned for the course (and the clubhouse looks and feels really run down too) but, without a decent financial outlay, there’s only one way that Lykia Links is heading in future editions of the Turkish (and Continental European) rankings. It doesn’t take a genius to realize you can only rest on your laurels for so long before you’re overtaken by the opposition…
I played this on a beautiful November day, with no wind, and it was a joy to experience a course of this quality and uniqueness. Saying that, however, this is not a World Top 100 contender. It might be long for the shorter hitters, yet the fairways are so generous that it's quite hard to put your ball in serious trouble.
The flattish holes closest to the Med, Nos 12 to 16, are probably too wide open, and would benefit from more definition and shaping to make them interesting. While it has a strong links appearance, it is dissimilar from UK and Irish links in that there was virtually no run on the fairways when I played there.
Every drive was creating a pitch mark in the fairways, and leaving mud on the ball. This made the course even longer to play, and I eventually settled for the blue tees (5869 metres). The course, with its paspalum fairways and greens, was in good condition when I played there. The superb turf makes for easy walking.I liked the fact that most golfers were walking the course, and not riding carts.
Best holes? The tenth is a superb par 4, but difficult for the average golfer. I liked the 12th, with something of a blind tee shot, and then walking over a dune to discover a beautifully created green. The seventh is a stunning short par 4 with water guarding the left side of the fairway.
This is a bold and striking golf course you should probably NOT review after just one visit. However, I’m not going to let that stop me now, am I? It’s a complex and intimidating snake, newly basking by the timeless sea, coiled thrice about itself, sprung and ready to strike, a rumpled ribbon of green between the brown scrub and golden shore. The breeze helped us out on the opening 3 holes, and played from the back tees I was grateful for the assistance.
This is a new Links and it is as long as you want it to be. Take a cart too if I were you and a course planner, Don’t come expecting the Northern European style links. This one owes very little to nature on the ground. It is a hard and exhilarating test that is genuinely intimidating from start to finish and those greens are small and well defended. I don’t think I want to know what they are like when they are super fast as they are seriously undulating.
The manufactured dunes have quite a beard on them. You will lose your ball if you go in there so take a few. It can be hard work in places and patience for the first time player is a requirement. Never the less please don’t be put off. You should play it. It is well worth the short trip.
Make sure you play this one early in your trip. It is relentlessly difficult and you will need stamina to get the most out of it. Don’t play it swung out or hung over. I would say the top 5 on here are about right and this one is the best value of the lot.
PGA sultan is underrated they say but I’m going to have to find out on the next trip. There is much to enjoy here but it will not win everyone over. It will divide opinion but bland it isnt. You will all enjoy the situation, the few times you best it or even live with it are intensely rewarding. It was in fine condition and I am sure as the Turkish Season gets underway in a month or so it will be ready for you. Will you be ready for it? JCB LAY