Given its spectacular setting and the glorious weather my group enjoyed it sounds almost churlish of me to disagree with these other reviews of fulsome praise for the course. But disagree I must.
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.
Date: November 10, 2014