Welcome back to The Shoestring Golfer’s blog! As you know, the focus of this blog is to highlight the many affordable golfing destinations in the World and to destroy the global misconception that golf is only a game for those with loads of money.
While planning my most recent adventure, a six week backpacking trip through Turkey and Greece, I found very little in either country in terms of budget golf options, so decided, instead of taking my entire golf bag, I would pack my own ‘Golfer’s Survival Kit’.
This idea came to me in the last few years, while guiding on one of my tours through Southern Africa, all my guests had gone off for the day at Victoria Falls, partaking in whatever crazy, adrenalin filled activity caught their fancy and left me, with a very unusual day to myself. Once the menu, shopping list and planning for the following week had been arranged, the shopping done and the paperwork balanced, I toyed with the idea of heading off to the Livingstone Royal Golf and Country Club, and while the US $ 30 (ZAR200) Green Fee & Club Hire was very affordable, not having any balls, tees, markers or a glove with me, would mean I would need to buy all these things and possibly double the cost. And so, from that day forward, I decided to always travel with my ‘Golfer’s Survival Kit‘, comprising of two Ziplock bags; one with 6 golf balls; and the other with; a glove, tees, ball marker, pencil and pitch mark repairer. Neither bag taking up much space in my backpack and both vital to an impromptu game of golf on the road.
Once I arrived in Istanbul and started my journey through Turkey, my research proved accurate and no golfing opportunities presented themselves. After almost two weeks, I started getting close to the first potential golf courses, the resorts near Antalya on the Mediterranean Coast. While sitting overlooking the beach in a small resort town of Kizkalesi, I went online again to see what I could find and unfortunately two things became clear; one – I hadn’t won 1 Million Pounds in the British Lotto (which I didn’t enter) like the emails had told me, and two – the cheapest of the thirteen resort courses was going to set me back at least 80 Euros (ZAR780) for the Green Fees alone. Looking through the websites of the various resorts, with courses designed by the likes of Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie and David Feherty, I was reminded how lucky I was to play, for free, at the Country Clubs where I had worked in the USA.
What all this meant, was that I still wasn’t going to get a game and as my bus past the area of Belek, just outside Antalya, I sat staring longingly out the window at the massive billboards advertising golf and pointing to the coast.
Another two weeks passed and on my final stop in Turkey, I came to the coastal town of Bodrum. The two guys at the Bodrum Backpackers were not very helpful, actually, pretty useless and declared that there was no golf to be played. Not trusting the, I only went to bed three hours ago and had way too much to drink last night glaze in their eyes, I went online to research it out anyway……and found two options. Again the resort option turning out to be too expensive, but the Bodrum Golf Club looked like it might just be affordable enough and relatively close to the bus route.
Having decided I was going to go check it out, I drew my own version of a map, using a Google Earth image and Google Map, and was sure I would find it easily enough. The reality of it was that the road I had seen on Google Earth was actually a dry river bed, but after being pointed in that direction by one of the locals, I followed it anyway. Finally coming to the top of a hill, I spotted a flag fluttering between some trees in the distance and started making my way in that direction. Some relief came as I got closer, I spotted a sign on the side of the road, pointing me in the right direction and giving me some hope.
When I finally arrived, the small bridge leading into the club was as significant for me as if I were crossing the famous Swilcan Bridge on the 18th Hole of St Andrews Old Course in Scotland.
The few people that were bustling around in the club area finally managed to get me some rental clubs and onto the course. The course was only 5 Holes, with the longest being the 155m Par 4 1st Hole, which doglegged around the river (dry river bed) and was not visible from the tee, so I decided not to go for it. The other four holes ranged between 90 and 120 metres, so I didn’t need much more than the pitching wedge from the set they had loaned me.
Fortunately the Green Fees of 60 Lira (ZAR250) were on a daily basis, and I could play the 5 Hole loop as many times as I liked. My first loop was a bit of a disaster, but I managed to get used to the rough, sandy greens and by my fourth and final loop, I managed a one over par, 17.
The next big task was to try find my way back to the bus stop and to town. The adrenalin that had been pumping through my body while seeking for the course, seemed to have gobbled up all the mental breadcrumbs I had left behind, but when I spotted the dry river bed again, I knew I was in the right place and followed it back to the main road.
This would unfortunately be my only golfing experience of the trip, the Greek Islands of Kos, Santorini and Mykonos providing many activities other than golf and the next available course I found was the Glyfada Golf Club in Athens, which again worked out to be too expensive, at around 90 Euros (ZAR875) for Green Fees and Club Rentals.
I was disappointed not to be able to play more golf, but knew as ‘The Shoestring Golfer’ that I would be able to turn this disappointment into a convincing ‘Turkey & Greece is not the ideal shoestring golfer destination’ blog and until the general public take up the game and some local courses are developed to cater for this market, the high end tourist resort courses will be the only option.
This being said, if you have any other reason for travelling, be it nature, culture, food or whatever tickles your fancy……neither of these destinations will disappoint! I had an absolutely amazing time, saw some incredible things, met loads of awesome people and had all expectations blown out of the water.
For now, the quest for the world’s cheap golf courses continues, and don’t worry, I’ll be sure to tell you when I find them!