Elea Golf Club is at the heart of a new, luxury residential development that is set in an idyllic spot, only two kilometres from the Mediterranean Sea and the vibrant town of Paphos. Golf in Cyprus was elevated to a new level with the opening of Aphrodite Hills in 2002 but the arrival of the new Sir Nick Faldo-designed course at Elea in October 2010 has stratospherically raised the Cypriot bar.
The par four 4th is perhaps the most outrageously bunkered in Europe and this hole, named “Orchard”, tames the famous “anaconda” bunker at Chart Hills. Two irregularly shaped bunkers, which masquerade as gigantic sandy pieces from a jigsaw puzzle, need to be avoided from the tee. If you can find sanctuary on the fairway, you’ll have an approach shot to a bridged green that slopes up at the front and then cants away towards the back. The green is protected to the left by a smaller (but still vast) jigsaw-shaped bunker with a Muirfield-styled grassy mound in the centre. To the right of the green, there’s a more conventionally shaped trap. We think there’s more sand on this hole than an average desert.
I fully concur with the ranking positions of the three listed Cypriot courses, and possibly I should have waited to review Aphrodite Hills until after I had played the other two as there are many contrasts to make.
Elea clearly stands head and shoulders above the others as a ‘proper’ golfers golf club and course, everything is just right and how it should be. I was never a great fan of Nick Faldo but he has gone up in my estimation after playing Elea.
Firstly to the top 3 order. Elea first, would happily play it every week, and once accustomed to heat, you could even walk it sometimes. Proper golf course. Very good golf course.
By comparison, Aphrodite Hills is although a “must play” it has an element of almost ‘theme park’ and ‘resort with golf’ rather than ‘golf resort’!? To play this every week I would say you need to either be very (cat one maybe) good - or ironically very (28+) bad with an huge bag of range balls. As you will see from my review of it we played it just after maintenance so this mean w didn’t see it in its true playing state (the greens were worst here, heavily sanded). Great experience but too many ‘hit the fairway or re-load, and repeat’..
Secret Valley is sort of half way between the two, in that much shorter and less (but still a fair bit) of “re-load potential”. It definitely comes in at 3rd behind the other two and would be more playable on a regular basis (if you got black-balled at Elea say !!).
Anyway this review is supposed to be about Elea - but wanted to add my support to the websites rankings.
The drive to the course is impressive (just as at the other two) but the welcome is the best. Bags taken from car by very pleasant friendly staff and put onto buggie and after temp. check (COVID) you walk through into a spacious (and best of the three’s) pro shop to pay - and marvel at the view from the roof garden down to the sea, taking in the airport, the strip of hotels and Paphos itself (pity about the adjacent “industrial” but it really does not spoil things for anyone but the raging perfectionist).
The first is a welcoming wide downhill from a raised tee fairway. All the tees are good, basically four c.6m square flat well tended “lawns” that have been inserted into the rough terrain, all linked by smart pathways and furnished with simple but classy personalised tee markers.
Strangely - but definitely not in a negative way - and possibly after the dramatic landscapes at the other two, here to me the atmosphere and quality of the course stood out rather than particular holes.
I hadn’t read up on the course until after playing (!?) and strangely enough after 13 attractive and interesting holes the 14th seemed a very plain and bland “nothingy” par 3, the 16th was a bit of and odd one to work out where you were going off the tee, and then ‘what is up there at the green?’ for your second. Similarly playing it for the first time (and having left sky caddie on hotel bedside !) the 17th was a real teaser as to where you are supposed to go off the tee and having filled my head with doubt carved one into the bunkers right which, until we got up to, we still had no idea where the green was. Once you work that out a lay up out of the sand is your only option, but nick as much distance as you can because the carry for your second or third shot is quite long ! And then finally the 18th tee again has you wondering which is the best route back to the 19th.
That may all sound a little negative, and it did sort of feel that the finish let it down whilst playing it, but now I am back at the hotel and showered I think (perhaps apart from the 14th) that had we had the sky (or real) caddy, or we were not playing it for the first time, it is a very good finish to earn you your pints of Keo.
What did surprise me, upon checking after the round (!) how many shots we should have got (off 14.3 I happily accepted the “usual” 16 as reasonable) and was shocked (and delighted) to find I actually had two extra to 18 ….. meaning Elea is rated as harder then not only the short and mid-range danger Secret Valley but somehow also harder than Aphrodite Hills ??? My ball tally begs to differ ! So I asked and to be fair, it makes sense as we played after tining and light sanding (the greens - shortly after maintenance this is - were by far the most easily playable of the three ….A/Hills were like “bunkers with a flag in” and Secret Valley were like putting on Velcro. Elea did get a few bobbles - not one noticeable enough to complain about in 18 holes though - but they ran out consistently) and - apart from the bunkers - the greens are very much a large part of the protection of the course and I am sure, when they are running hard and fast I may well be less likely to rack up the 38 (enhanced nicely to 40 after) points I finished our Cyprus trip with.
So, we played Elea with its “trousers partly down” but it is still in my opinion the best of the three contenders by far and if I could stand the heat and afford to retire out here (!) I would bite the hand off anyone that offered me membership here.
Would love to come back to Cyprus one day - NOT in first week of Sept during course maintenance ! - and give Elea the chance to bite me back without today’s nice receptive sanded greens, and also to have another crack at the other two to compare the greens when in their normal condition.
Would always happily play all three but Elea would be my home if I had it as a choice.
My opinion it is bit overrated and overpriced (except twilight green fee) golf course in Cyprus. I played several times in all of South Cyprus golf courses and my ranking could be: 1. Secret Valley GC, 2. Aphrodite Hills, 3. Elea GC and 4. Minthis Golf Club. Eléa Estate Golf Club look likes is under preparation near industrial zone and many other construction around.
I played here one time in the middle of February and next in November. In general both times condition of fields was average, greens slow, fairways with laps of ground and stones areas, but playable. Clubhouse is big and spacious with nice views to ocean. Food and beer in restaurant is pretty good and prices are acceptable.
Golf course is not very challenging except few holes and when windy. The course is playable from tee to green for all golfers, even if you have just taken up the game. One of remembrance hole was No. 4, No. 9 (par 5 with possibility to reach green with second shot, but really challenging and risky) and No. 17 (longest par 4 and hardest). A piercing fade is ideal for the tee shot at 17th to land right side of the fairway and hold its line against the side slope. The carry shot to sail over the native vegetation to the green looks daunting, and is!
No doubt every golf course rating is always a subject with a lot of subjectivity, depending on various criteria. I always rating by the following criteria: course complexity or challenging, fields condition (especially greens & fairways), service (only what you can get: buggie, club rent, condition of clubs, the amount of choice and etc. except staff and other subjective things that depends on your or staff mood), surrounding views or pleasure to the eyes and definitely value for the price. All criteries will be rating from 1 to 5 stars. Concerning Eléa Estate Golf Club my personal opinion is follow:
1. Challenging - 3* +
2. Condition - 3* (could be better especialy fairways)
3. Service - 3* +
4. Surroundings - 4*
5. Value for the price - 3* +
I‘ll come back...because not a lot golf courses around Paphos to have golf trip completed with playing in 3 different courses.
A few holes in - it was the 4th or 5th - and I thought I was still at the beach. Perhaps after picking me up at the coast the taxi driver just drove around in circles for 15 mins and then dropped me off near my hotel.
I didn’t find the prominent bunkering at Elea to be window dressing though, and the course’s strategy actively makes use of all this sand - particularly cross bunkering and deceptive bunkering short of greens or cutting into fairways. They are more often than not in play. There’s usually enough width off the tee, but you need to think about where you’d like to put your ball or your next shot will be a tough one.
And it’s not all sand. There’s only 1 bunker on the engaging opening hole - a downhill dogleg where the green is blocked out if you’re on the wrong side - and there must have been 4-5 holes without a single grain of sand (excepting what I carried on my spikes from previous holes). Here the contours are used as the first line of defence, and as a bonus you do also have the option to use the ground for your approaches on some of these. I would prefer the greens to be firmer to match this though.
There was a good variety to the holes, and I particularly liked several of the short/med length par 4’s. My favourites were the dogleg 6th - a very tempting Par 4 of about 330 yards with cross bunkers (where I showed a lack of respect and came unstuck), the attractive 15th - where the fairway bunkers protect the best line and a narrow green opening is guarded by 4 imposing bunkers, and the heroic 17th which contained a 2nd shot carry over wasteland to a green hidden at the bottom of the hill.
I thought the use of the land in general was very effective - it’s quite a hilly property, but it didn’t feel like going up and down like a Yo-Yo, and many of the holes had quite subtle elevation changes or were played along the fairly flat. It was pretty hot going so I broke with my own tradition and took a buggy. As with many courses like this, you will also have the odd 40-50 yard distance to the next tee, so don’t be ashamed of doing the same. It’s an exposed property, but no wind on the day I played.
Elea is still not really my cup of tea, but I enjoyed plotting my way around trying to keep the sand out of my shoes. I felt the holes here had at least as much playing interest as the more recently visited and higher ranked Son Gual in Mallorca. I didn’t use the practice areas, but other facilities were more than sufficient (I’m a sucker for a shower after a round with complimentary towels) and the course conditioning good. A refreshing beer on the terrace afterwards provided nice panoramic views out over the course. It’s probably a 4.5 ball, but gets a benefit-of-the-doubt 5 ball because I think it deserves merit for its use of bunkering and contains sufficient variety in its 18 holes. And just maybe because it surprised me a little and taught me not to judge a book by its cover. This all serves to eleavate it above at least some of the crowd in this Golfing niche, and I’m sure it’s a must play if you are visiting Cyprus.