The National Golf Club opened for play in the autumn of 1994 and the course has been thoughtfully routed across gently rolling terrain and through mature pine and eucalyptus trees. The snow-capped Taurus Mountains provide a provocative backdrop especially as the course is bathed in hot sunshine for the vast majority of the year.
European Ryder Cup star David Feherty put his name to the National but we suspect David Jones did much of the work. Nevertheless, this is certainly perhaps Feherty’s finest creation and possibly the best work yet from David Jones (but his new PGA Sultan course is pretty good too, and getting better all the time).
The National stretches out to almost 6,300 metres from the tips and it was the host venue for the 1996 and 1997 Turkish Seniors Open. If you choose the right tee box for your standard of golf you will have a whale of time. We bet you won’t be able to contain your smile as you sip a cool post-round drink of your choice on the wonderful terrace that overlooks this superb course.
In October 2016, the National Golf Club unveiled a third 9-hole loop named "Ada" (holes 19 to 27). The original 18-hole course is now known as "Irmak" (1-9) and "Tuna" (10-18).
I hadn’t planned on visiting the National during a recent short trip to Belek but when three different people with good local knowledge suggested I should check it out then I just had to make the effort to have a look around. It’s now owned by the same person who owns Carya so expect further investment in a property that’s just had an additional nine holes appended to it last year.
On arrival, the first big surprise is finding a “lived in” clubhouse with a really homely vibe that feels like a “proper” meeting place for members and guests, as opposed to some of the more modern, yet soulless buildings you might find elsewhere within the region. National was the first golf facility established back in the early 1990s so it’s a little more mature than its competitors.
The second shock to the system is the rolling topography of the property and the way the holes have been routed to take advantage of the mildly undulating terrain. A natural waterway runs through the layout and this is cleverly integrated into the design at holes 2, 8, 12 and 13. Water also comes into play at the 4th and 18th but the aquatic interference never feels too severe.
The course’s main defence is its lack of width – it’s a really tight track, with trees pinching into the fairway on many of the holes. Sometimes that means having to drive through a chute of trees off the teebox, other times it means threading an approach shot through a narrow entrance to a green. Keeping the driver in the boot of the car might be your best decision of the day when playing here.
On the front nine, I really liked the right doglegged, roller coaster 7th and par four 9th, with a split fairway leading to the green. The par five 12th was one of the best holes that I saw (out of more than one hundred and fifty) during my brief time in Turkey. Swinging left from the tee, with a ditch crossing the fairway to threaten the tee shot, the hole then rises steadily to a wickedly sloping 2-tier green perched on top of a ridge – a real 3-shot hole if ever I saw one.
The new 9-hole Ada course has only been in operation since October so it’s still a little rough around the edges in places (the 3rd is a very intimidating par four, veering left over water then uphill to the green) but it’s an excellent way to warm up for the more strenuous test on the original 18-hole course.
I'm sure Belek is one of the greatest loactions for golf in Europe and the National is a cracking course which is exacting and thoroughly enjoyable. The location is stunning and when I come back to Antalya, the National will be near the top of my play list.