The Dunes golf course at Navarino, located in a beautiful unspoilt part of the Greek mainland, is seriously good and has set it’s sights high. The aim is to create a golf course that is fun and challenging to the average holidaying golfer, whilst also a real test for the better player. Bernard Langer was engaged to design such a course, and given his thoroughness and attention to detail as a player, who is surprised that he has succeeded? The only surprise to me is that The Dunes only just makes the Top 100 Golf Courses in the Continental Europe listing. Perhaps not enough golfers have visited this part of Greece to discover it for themselves!
I played The Dunes three times in my stay at the Resort, and found that I got to like it more after each round. In my view, the front nine holes are sensational and holes 10 to 15 give the golfer some respite before an exciting yet daunting challenge over the last three.
Langer has created three magnificent, downhill and shortish par4s at 2 (is there a more inviting golf hole anywhere, framed as it is by the Ionian Sea?), 6 and 13, as well as an easy-looking one at 15 which is all about landing the approach shot in the right part of a wickedly-sloping green.
I found the par5s difficult, there are no easy approaches for the 3rd shot onto the green for this mid-handicap golfer. The selection of longer holes includes to my mind the best hole on the course at 16. After landing one’s drive on a plateau fairway, the hole descends into a valley and then a beautiful green, fronted by a large bunker. The par3s are all a good test and importantly very different, and when you add some long, tough but fair par4s, you have a potent mixture.
The greens are large and undulating, the fairways wide and most of the bunkers very much in play and very strategic, on a golf course where the standard of maintenance is exemplary.
Greece is seen as many things but no one would regard it as a ‘Mecca’ for golfers. The Greeks themselves prefer more athletic sports and struggle to see golf as more than a strange pastime enjoyed by others, but when it comes to boosting tourism through golf, the founder of Costa Navarino had no doubts. He has now passed away, but his vision is still very much alive. There are two new Olazabal-designed courses opening in 2022, and one more course in the planning stage, to complement existing courses at The Dunes and The Bay.
In my view, golfers are going to hear a lot more about this inspiring and unheralded area of Messinia in Western Greece.
Date: September 11, 2021