Antalya Golf Club is one of Belek’s leading golfing complexes and it’s attached to the 440-room Sirene Belek Golf Hotel. Residents and visitors are in the fortunate position of being able to choose to play one or both of two sensational 18-hole layouts – the PGA Sultan and the Pasha.
Designed by David Jones and European Golf Design in the late 1990s, the courses wind their way through woods, up and over sandy banks and around crystal clear ponds that were once swamps. Water features at half the holes on each course and there are a good number of pot bunkers to be negotiated on fairways and around putting surfaces.
The front nine on the PGA Sultan ends with a classic risk/reward hole, a 362-yard, par four, named, appropriately enough, “The Choice.” A brave tee shot must flirt with water on the left to set up an easier second shot while a safer drive down the right will result in adding two clubs to the approach.
The next six holes – from “The Keyhole” to “The Long Fellow” – are all demanding par fours, with the long, narrow, 476-yard, 12th one of the toughest to be found on any of the Belek courses. As the club themselves say of this hole, “ be proud of a par here.”
The round ends with a 448-yard, par four hole called “Looking Back.” If ever a hole was designed to plot your way from tee to green then this is it. Water either side of what is effectively an island fairway pressurises the drive as there is little margin for error if the tee shot is to remain dry on the short grass. The green is surrounded by five bunkers so an accurate approach shot is as essential as the first one from the tee box.
In October of 2012, the PGA Sultan course co-hosted the prestigious Eisenhower Trophy, the biennial World Amateur Team Championship, with the 3-man team from the USA winning the event. The following week, eight of the top thirty world-ranked professionals pitched up to play in the one-off Turkish Airlines World Golf Final, where the $1.5 million first prize was claimed by Justin Rose.
Business seems to be booming once again in Belek with hotels and golf courses running near to full capacity. It's not difficult to see why, as we experienced high quality golf, all-inclusive 5-star accommodation and superb value for money throughout our trip. Our group stayed at the excellent Sirene Hotel, which is situated a few hundred yards from the clubhouse and belongs to the same group which owns the Sultan and Pasha courses.
There are so many great layouts to choose from locally but it's the Sultan course at PGA National Antalya that offers the toughest test. Even a few big name tour players found it to be a brute from the back tees but with some careful tee selection, this is quite possibly the most exciting course in the region. With two very different courses to play, literally acres of water to negotiate and some pretty intimidating bunkers to avoid, this is resort golf at its very best. As many as eleven holes have water in play but a combination of wonderful conditioning and fast undulating greens will hopefully distract you from the inevitable lost ball or three.
The front nine is solid throughout and culminates with two particularly strong holes. The par-3 eighth requires a courageous shot of around 190 yards to reach a green protected by three separate water hazards and the tricky ninth is a real beauty with water running the full length of the hole before jutting in front of the green to significantly toughen up the approach.
As good as the front half is, the back nine is even better. A fine run of par-4's get us away, the twelfth with a beautiful downhill approach to an angled green sat between lakes probably being the pick. Attractively designed and well-positioned bunkers are a constant threat throughout these holes. We leave two of the best till last with water interfering on all three (or more)shots approaching the tricky sixteenth and more water left and right on the memorable eighteenth to make this a very tough finale indeed. It's a destination that I would happily return to again and again. Brian W
I was taken aback a few months ago when I saw that Turkey occupied six of the top thirteen places in Golf World’s inaugural Top 100 Golf Resorts of Continental Europe listings, with Antalya ranked at number 7. After my recent trip to Belek, I now understand why these golf facilities are rated so highly.
The PGA Sultan course doesn’t have a great tournament track record – apart from a couple of very high profile amateur and professional events played within a week of each other back in 2012 – but this is a big, expansive layout that’s more than capable of hosting major golf competitions.
It doesn’t take long to see why it’s currently ranked just outside the Top 50 of Continental Europe because the par three 2nd is a wonderful short hole, played slightly downhill to a green that’s beautifully framed on three sides by umbrella pine trees – no wonder it’s called “Surrounded”.
I really liked the par four 5th (originally called “Sea View” but a hotel now obscures the field of vision behind the hole) and it plays from an elevated tee before dropping steadily down to the green. The par five 7th is another terrific hole on the front nine, even though it’s a little tight off the tee before the fairway then doglegs right and down to the green.
There’s only one par three on the inward half (at the 17th) and it’s easily the blandest hole on that nine, which was a bit of a disappointment. Six demanding par fours between the 10th and 15th define the main challenge, despite the fact that the par five 15th is probably the best hole, with water featuring all the way down the right before a creek then slashes across the fairway in front of the green.
According to the course guide, the PGA Sultan slope rating from the back tees is 142, which gives a fair idea of just how tough a track this can be. I can understand why people come back here every year because there’s quality everywhere you look around, both on and off the course, but if it’s resort golf you’re looking to play then I suggest you go elsewhere as this is a course for serious golfers.