When the Crete Golf Club was officially opened by the Greek Minister of Economy and Finance in 2003, the spectacular, 16million euro golf course on the Mediterranean island of Crete was the result of many months of negotiation by the club’s first President, Michael Vranas, a local lawyer and hotelier.
He successfully steered a group of local hotel owners and investors through the legal and bureaucratic procedures involved in obtaining land, engaging architects and appointing building contractors to create the first full size golf course on the largest of Greece’s islands.
Designed by Bob Hunt from PGA Design Consulting in the UK, the course at Crete Golf Club was laid out to USGA standard over quite difficult, rugged mountain terrain. Stretching to a sensible overall length of 6,430 yards, the course offers five sets of tees at every hole with generously proportioned fairways allowing golfers of all abilities to enjoy a round with minimum time wasted in the hunt for lost balls.
Playing to a par of 71, Crete has a quartet of memorable par threes on the scorecard, two on the front nine and two on the back. In the eyes of many, the best of these short holes is the (stroke index five) 6th, playing to a length of 198 yards from the back markers. With the tee shot having to carry a deep gorge to reach a two-tiered green cut into the foot of a hillside, it’s little wonder a three here feels like a birdie!
Bob Hunt PGA Design Consulting / International Golf Design writes:
The Crete Golf Club was the first to be constructed as part of the Greek drive to attract golf tourists. Sadly the target of 24 other courses by 2005 never materialized and golf remains an unusual sport in Greece.
We met a group of investors after the first Greek development conference. Having visited the site we explained that the cost of building in pure rock would mean that the course would be unlikely to ever make a significant profit.
The 43 local investors were lead by two major hoteliers with underutilized hotels and conference centres. They also had the benefit of a government grant which altered the finances enough to start work. Hundreds of small pieces of land were purchased to enable a course to be routed together with a double-ended range and a huge reservoir to be constructed.
By far the largest proportion of golfers are German (around 65%) and although the course is short by modern standards it still stands the test of golf well. As planned by the investors, the golfers have filled hotel rooms and now make the area an attractive conference destination.
Located in the hills in the area of Hersonnisos, the course has spectacular views and as a “resort” design, the setting makes an enormous difference to the majority of golfers.
Constructed of crushed stone with a sand capping, the course was grassed a seeded Bermuda with bent grass greens.
Many superlatives are used by designers about the sites and their work, we prefer to listen to those who play including the participants in the Aegean Open which has been played there many times. The result of listening? A smile on my face every time.
The title page for Greece on this website asks the question why golf is such a minor sport in that country. I suspect I know why after trying to play three different courses. The main reason is the 'non-tourist' season in Greece which is the period Nov-Mar every year. Golf is not a sport embraced by the Greeks and is reliant on tourists, yet for 40% of the year it seems barely supported at all.
The one course in Athens is poor, the supposed 'best' course (Costa Navarino) was closed when I tried to play it, and this Crete course left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Let me explain: I knew it was low season when there was only two other vehicles in the carpark when arriving, but the course was open. After poking about the clubhouse trying to find someone for a couple of minutes the 'pro shop' was unlocked so I could pay my green fees and collect a handle for the trolley.
There is no reduced green fee during the low season, which makes me wonder how the course survives, as I only saw three other players in the five hours I was at the course (wanted to spend some time on the practice green). The green fee is a quite substantive 80 Euros, which also makes me wonder how the course fares with the social or occasional golfer during high season. That's quite a substantial outlay.
Anyway, once I got to playing, I found the fairways had been partly scarified, the bunkers full of stones, large sections of fairways had been poisoned off (either to kill weed infestations or to allow overseeding with a different grass type I guess) and the greens had been cored / hollow tined. Hence the sour taste...
There are some nice views and the 6th, 7th and 13th were standout holes that were challenging yet fair. The driving lines are quite tight, which is understandable as the course had to be hewn out of rock, so there's no spare space for wide fairways.
This did lead me to use 3 wood significantly more than driver due to the premium on accuracy. In summary, it's a pleasant course, but conditioning wasn't up to scratch. My tip: if you want to play golf along the Med, stick to Spain, Portugal or, as a new option, Turkey.