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277 kilometres SW of Athens
Bernhard Langer with Ross McMurray of European Golf Design
In 2010, the Dunes course was the inaugural signature 18-hole layout to open in Greece, the first of several intended courses to be constructed at the spectacular new Costa Navarino resort. Designed by Bernhard Langer in association with European Golf Design, the course debuted one year ahead of “The Bay,” a Robert Trent Jones II layout.
Costa Navarino is the upmarket creation of former shipping magnate, Vassilis Constantakopoulos, who formed the TEMES development company to transform his plan for the area into reality just before he died in 2011. Achilles, the son of Captain Vassilis, is the man now entrusted with further expansion of his father’s vision.
Much of the course has been shaped to create the ambience of a links course with tall 'dunes' shaped to separate the holes closest to the sea. Undulating greens and steep faced pot bunkers emphasize the links feel, but as the routing moves inland, the character softens to fit in with a typical Greek landscape of olive trees and citrus groves.
EGD Lead Designer Ross McMurray commented as follows:
“The inspiration for The Dunes was its spectacular location. It is one of the most beautiful places you could be asked to design a golf course and frankly the waterfront views are just breathtaking. Our ambition was to create a resort golf course which would be fun for average players but provide enough of a challenge so that better golfers would feel that they had been properly tested. Despite the generous playing areas the design of the greens and the positioning of the bunkers still reward accurate shot-making, which is made trickier by the windy conditions you often get being so close to the sea.
Navarino Dunes is characterised by generously wide fairways and large greens. However, the bunkering is very strategic and there is a lot of movement on the putting surfaces, so there’s plenty of interest and excitement. Many of the greens are divided into plateaus with some quite steep slopes between the different levels, so, although their size makes the greens relatively easy to hit, if your approach shots don’t find the right part of the green then you are going to be looking at a few three putts.
There are a great variety of holes and each has its own particular character which makes them easy to remember. We’ve included three or four short par fours, at least one of which (the 6th) is drivable, so there are lots of birdie opportunities, but we have balanced that with some longer, testing par fours, like the 4th and 11th holes. The par threes are pretty strong as well, but I think the par fives, as a group of holes, are my favourite. None are too long, so you always think you have a chance, but they test you in different ways, really making you think about each shot.”
I played the Dunes course at Costa Navarino last week, immediately after the conclusion of the International Team Championships that were taking place during the 2017 PGAs of Europe annual congress, so you can imagine the course was in absolutely immaculate condition for that event.
A buggy is absolutely essential (but not mandatory, as at the nearby Bay course) as it’s rather an expansive layout to get around on foot. I don’t know what sort of budget Ross McMurray had when designing the course, but it certainly wasn’t miserly because everything seems to have been done on a grand scale.
The outward half is laid out on higher ground to the north of the resort, with great use made of the rolling topography. Characterized by wide, links-like rolling fairways, large bunkers set within skilfully sculpted mounding and imaginatively contoured greens, these holes are easily the better of the two nines.
The 2nd, playing down to the beach, is a terrific par four, as is the short 6th, which plunges sharply downhill to a brilliantly sand-protected green, where the wavy putting surface made this my favourite hole on the card – only until after I played the uphill par five at the next hole and finally reached the fabulous three-tiered green benched into the hillside!
The back nine holes on the lower ground are not as open, offering a different feel to what’s gone before with lush vegetation flanking many of the fairways. I liked the downhill short par four 13th, played from an elevated tee position, but the very best is kept until last at the uphill par five 18th, which is intimidating to play but you can plot your way up to the green by studying the yardage book carefully.
I gave top marks to ten holes (1 to 4, 6, 7, 13 and 16 to 18) on the Dunes course and all four of the par fives were included in this list – now that’s really saying something, actually, as three of these longer holes play uphill and what could be more difficult for an architect than making a long, uphill hole both interesting and engaging?
Even though I haven’t played the other three courses that are currently ranked in the Top 5 for Greece, I can understand why the Dunes and Bay courses at Costa Navarino are nationally ranked number 1 and 2. Indeed, the Dunes course must surely be a contender for a Top 100 spot in the Continental Europe chart as it’s way better than a handful I’ve recently played in that particular listing.
I played the Dunes last week whilst on a short holiday at Costa Navarino. It is a superb resort style course with spectacular views. Like many resort courses there is no real rough, if you hit a wild shot it is a lost ball. The fairways were generous but the greens were very well protected with strategic bunkering and slopes. It was easy to get around providing the driver was working but scoring required very accurate approach play. It was in a very good condition. I would recommend a taking a buggy as it is a long way between some holes.