The golf course at Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort is located on the northern Black Sea Coast of Bulgaria and it’s a Black Knight signature design that opened in 2011.
BlackSeaRama was Gary Player’s first Bulgarian ensemble and the layout has already received positive accolades. But his Thracian Cliffs is set to become the most talked about and the most photographed golf course in Europe.
The course is routed, hole after hole, along the cliffs on magical land of the once powerful Thracian kingdoms. The setting is pure theatre and Gary Player is quite rightly enthusiastic about the site.
“You will not find another golf course like this anywhere on the planet”, commented the Black Knight. “Pebble Beach is renowned as the best site and I would say Thracian Cliffs is twice as good as Pebble Beach.”
“I have to say, without a question of doubt, that I have never before played on a golf course where you can see the ocean on every single hole. When people come here, they are going to say Thracian Cliffs is the best golf course they have ever played in their life. I have been playing for 56 years and I never knew there was ground like this on the planet for a golf course.”
Every new golf course requires a period of settling and growing in, but Thracian Cliffs headed our Bulgarian golf course rankings soon after it opened and it featured prominently within our Continental European Top 100 rankings soon after it opened. The club's hosting of the 2013 World Match Play Championship, won by Graeme McDowell, certainly did the club no harm, showcasing the course to an appreciative worldwide audience.
What a crazy, spectacular, brilliant and unforgettable golf course! The photos you see are real, but can't really do justice to the vistas actually on the course, or to the layout of the course when you play it. Go there. Go there now!
I started with equal parts fear and delight on the first tee, but had one of those wonderful days where the ball was going where I wanted and that meant not a single one disappeared over a cliff (one did take off and hide in a thicket on the 14th or 15th): happy days! Used every club in the bag, took a million photos, enjoyed the challenges the shotmaking required, and just generally loved every moment of my game. The smile on my face this day may have been second only to the one on my face when I finally managed to play the Old Course at St Andrews.
Most course ranking lists use a combination of design, conditioning and aesthetics in their process. Thracian Cliffs rates very highly in all of those areas and is clearly the number one course in Bulgaria.
The course is quirky to say the least and Gary Player has done extremely well to fit 18 holes in given the nature of the terrain- it is built into the side of a cliff face. Maybe it was because we played it at the tail end of the season but the greens were average at best and the tee boxes downright poor. Factor in that you can lose sleeves of balls that either tumble down the cliff face into the Black Sea or disappear into swathes of thorn bushes and this is certainly no place for the average holiday golfer with a high handicap. Given the layout, with some extremely long rides (this is a buggy only track) between green to the next tee box not helped by the lack of on course signage, this is also a course that will take at least five hours to play. A group of Rumanian businessmen took seven hours to reach the 14th tee the day before we played. Our group of eight, with three single figure handicappers in, contrived to lose over 80 balls on our first round. Fortunately the drinks buggy, which routinely sold out of beer and chocolate before it reached us, never runs out of extra sleeves of balls.
For a really enjoyable, fair and well designed course I much preferred Player’s first venture on the Black Sea coast, namely BlackSeaRama which may have a number of largely, ugly buildings dotted around its perimeter but is altogether a far better and fairer test of golf.
Thracian Cliffs is a fun one-off experience with some stunning tee shots as well as a couple of downright daft ones, no more so than the long par three sixth where one launches a ball over the side of the cliff and watch as it plummets either onto the green or else is lost forever. Vertigo sufferers may well want to skip it completely and head for the seventh where one simply has a 175 metre carry over the sea before reaching the fairway.
Finally, there is the soulless clubhouse that is situated in the residential village where most players stay. There are plans to move this to a bigger property that overlooks the course and this would certainly improve things. The current establishment is a good par four length walk from the 18th green which wholly negates Thracian Cliffs’ biggest asset, namely the stunning beauty of its setting. I am happy to have played it but disappointed that I was not more impressed with what could and should be a remarkable golfing experience for the better player. Maybe October is simply too late in the year to see the place at its best.
If you want spectacular golf on a course the like you will never have played with the sea visible from every hole then this is the place for you, this course provides everything you could wish for. the tee boxes are generous to allow all standards a good game of golf, the fairways are generous but do require accuracy to score well and the greens are heavily bunkered and are quite literally huge at least two clubs front to back. In essence though it is the nature of the course that makes it so exhilarating the cliffs, the sea, the feeling of beauty that you get from playing here, it is a marvel and as Gary Player says on the promo video before starting out its going to be a lot of fun, he’s not wrong.