Greece is the birthplace of democracy, philosophy and literature, and of course, of the Olympic games. Considering this heritage and all its natural attributes it is somewhat bewildering that the noble sport of golf not yet has caught the fancy of its population.
In fact Greece is still the Western European country with fewest golf facilities. Through times there have been no lack of plans to develop golf facilities, but politics and water restrictions have proven to be insurmountable obstacles.
The Greek Golf Federation was established in 1981, and today the country counts only some 2000 golfers. Making the existing courses fully reliant on visiting golfers.
Currently Greece have one 9-hole course and seven 18-hole golf courses. Of wich two have opened the past eight years. With such widespread and meagre number of facilities, Greece is not the country golfers flock to.
Lights at the end of the tunnel
Fortunately there are lights at the end of the tunnel. Lights that have been lit for a while, but stronger bulbs are about to be mounted.
Among them one undertaken by the illustrious Costa Navarino on the west coast of the Peloponnes, in the commune of Messinia. But to boot; this project is on such a grand scale that when completed it will enhance the current sublime facilities into a real world-class golf destination.
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Costa Navarino is the brainchild of a local lad making good in the world of ocean shipping. The late Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos visions, ambitions and drive must have been quite extraordinary seeing the results so far. Not to think of what this destination will become once fully developed.
His vision was to create a unique tourism facility that would provide jobs for the local community; outlets for local produce and at the same token protect the environment in all respects. And he has succeeded.
Existing facilities include two top-rated hotels, two golf courses and a plethora of other improbable activities. The project already employ some 3000 people in the peak season. In order to achieve all this Constantakopoulos diligently worked for more than 20 years to acquire land around the coastal site that he had identified early on.
1600 contracts and 2500 hectares later construction work was started. By November 2017 more than 500 million euro has been invested. Creating an extraordinarily extensive resort that is unique in the world of tourism.
Environmental protection is taken seriously, and the sea captain seems to have been well ahead of current environmental mania. Care been taken in designing the building facilities by using materials that minimize negative impacts on the environment in all aspects, aesthetically and factually.
Also great care is taken to protect and preserve the wild life. Inclusive of migrating turtles, stray cats and dogs, birds and all other conceivable species.
Greece offering world-class golf courses
To golfers the most interesting part is the fact that Captain Vassilis early on had become an avid golfer. And therefore made golf course developments one of the cornerstones of his grand scheme.
In May 2010 he opened the first course, The Dunes (hole 7 pictured at top of the article), adjacent to the existing two hotel facilities, Westin Resort and the Romanos, a Luxury Collection Resort. He assigned Bernhard Langer, in collaboration with European Golf Design,to design the course.
The result is a world-class facility. So is also the second golf course, which opened in October 2011. The Bay Course, is designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., situated 8 kilometres from the Dunes Course.
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It does not stop here: In the hills above the Bay Course, construction of another two golf courses is set to startin February 2018. With estimated opening in 2020. The plans are to make this part the hub of Costa Navarinos golf activities.
The courses will each be complemented by a club house as well as two new hotels. When the new courses opened, the number of visiting golfer is expected increase to a number that keep the hotels running all year.
By 2020 it is also expected that the nearby Kalamati airport will be served on a full year basis from most major cities in Northern Europe. The alternative international flight access to this part of Greece is through Athens International airport, with an in-season connection to Kalamati by Aegean Air.