Nick Faldo called this: "an exceptional piece of land" and who can argue? Faldo Design has created an instant hit with holes routed through the pine-clad and naturally sandy area in Belek, southwest Turkey. The Cornelia Golf Resort is set to become very popular with locals and visitors alike. Construction of the Faldo designed Cornelia golf course began in early 2006 and, nine months later the first 18 holes opened for play. We think this may represent a world record for "beginning to end" golf course construction.
You may be forgiven for thinking a course built so quickly might look rough and unfinished. Well, having played the course some six months after it opened, we can assure you that the Cornelia is magnificent. It looks mature, lush and already has the ‘wow’ factor.
The sumptuous clubhouse waits with its open-plan style easing you through the reception, golf shop, restaurant and bar to the terrace. Thoughtful warm-up facilities – an obvious Faldo influence – and a team of David Leadbetter trained instructors are on-hand to help all standards prepare for golf on what will be a memorable round.
The opening hole on the ‘Tiberius’ nine is fairly gentle but the 2nd hole, named ‘Corridor’, is just that, a par five through an avenue of trees doglegging twice from left to right. Another great hole is the 7th, ‘Faldo’s Choice’, which is the drivable par four but watch out for the tall trees that protect the green. These will quite happily divert even a well-struck tee shot.
Continuing the Roman theme, the second nine is called ‘Sempronia’, which again contains a collection of stunning holes and one of the best must be the 13th, named ‘Deception’. It’s a lovely par four that turns right at the elbow of a dogleg leaving a tough approach to the well-bunkered green.
A third nine – called ‘Gaius’ – opened in June 2007, and this is perhaps the best of the three nine-hole loops. Combine Gaius with Tiberius and you have an 18-hole course known as The Prince and we believe this is the premier combination.
One of the best new clubs in Europe has further improved and we are convinced that the Cornelia will continue to receive many more accolades.
A really fun course to play from the black tees - lots of challenging holes with a good mix of water, trees and shaping fairways. Definitely worth a visit if you are in Belek
Cornelia was the last of nine courses that I visited on my recent golfing tour of the Belek region and it was the one that (pleasantly) surprised me most of all with the general naturalness of the layout, apart from one or two water-laden holes on the second nine of the Prince’s 18-hole layout.
I knew it was ranked as one of the Top 100 courses in Continental Europe, it had co-hosted the Eisenhower Trophy world amateur team championships for men in 2012, and it was a Nick Faldo design, so I really should have expected to find a top track when I entered the front gates.
What I wasn’t ready for was the maturity of a course that’s not quite a decade old yet. I also didn’t think I’d see such heavily contoured terrain used to great effect, with greens perched on top of little ridges and fairways bleeding seamlessly into the surrounding vegetation.
With umbrella pines flanking most holes, it can get a little tight in places – which is no bad thing because it keeps big hitters on the teebox in their place, perhaps even getting one or two people to think about using a club other than driver on some of the holes.
The two par threes on holes 1-9 are wonderful short holes, requiring forced carries across small gullies to raised greens, but the best holes for me were the par fours at the 4th and 7th, where the first doglegs right and up to a semi-blind green and the second narrows off the tee before veering right and down to the green.
I thought holes 10-18 formed the better back nine, with the short par three 12th – pictured – an exceptional short hole (despite the unsightly floodlights of Gloria’s sports stadium behind the hole) and the uphill par four 15th beautifully framed by majestic pine trees.
For me, holes 19-27 rely too much on water to dictate the strategic test on the inward half, and this nine culminates rather disappointingly in a home hole that sports a massive water fountain in the centre of a lake flanking the left side of the fairway.
Still, if you arrive early enough, there’s nothing to stop you playing all three loops in whatever order you like then making your own mind up about which two combine best as an 18-hole layout. We might not agree about which two nines are best but we’ll surely be similarly minded about the overall quality of a very stylish golf complex.