Long heralded as the place to travel for affordable winter holidays, Bulgaria has begun to emerge as Eastern Europe’s next big golf travel destination. Golf may still be in its infancy here, but a cluster of world class resorts on the Black Sea coast have placed the country firmly on the golfing map.
Gary Player has played a substantial role in the rise of the sport in the region. The South African has had a hand in the design of two of Bulgaria’s top courses, including the highly acclaimed Thracian Cliffs.
An ancient heritage coupled with top-class golf courses makes Bulgaria a beguiling golf destination. Here are four courses you should be sure to check out on a visit to the Balkan nation.
It’s fair to say that Thracian Cliffs, opened in 2011, is among the most talked about courses in Europe. Set upon the clifftops of Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast, the course affords the golfer ocean views on every hole. Described by designer Gary Player as ‘twice as good as Pebble Beach’, the course played host to the Volvo World Matchplay championship in 2013, only two years after opening its doors. Despite its dramatic setting, the championship course has been designed with a variety of teeing options, making it accessible for players of all abilities.
The resort’s outstanding facilities matches the quality of the course.
The clifftop accommodation at Marina Village is centred around an ornate piazza with boasts several restaurants, bars and boutiques. Meanwhile guests at the Hillside Village are treated to spectacular coastal vistas. As well as access to three infinity pools, visitors can enjoy a spa, beach, an array of watersports, and numerous dining options.
The Black Knight’s first Bulgarian design, Black Sea Rama is located close to the historic city of Varna. Widely acclaimed following its opening in 2008, the high quality of the par-72 championship course has gone a long way to popularising Bulgaria as a golf destination.
Occupying a stunning oceanfront position, Player has done an outstanding job in moulding what was relatively flat ground into a prime clifftop links course. Despite the terrain, large hillcocks, sand and lakes have been used to separate the course, creating the impression that each hole is a world onto itself.
Voted the Best New Golf Course in the World for 2009, Black Sea Rama’s proximity to the ocean means the wind often a factor.
Characterised by its breath-taking scenery, the course is a must play for any visitor to the region.
The addition of this Ian Woosnam design in Cape Kaliakra has made this small Bulgarian destination somewhat of a golfing mecca in recent years. It’s little surprise considering the Mediterannian-like weather and the stunning clifftop views afforded down the coastline of the Black Sea. Despite its position on the limestone cliffs, Lighthouse plays more like a parkland course. It boasts lush fairways and large undulating greens.
At 6,720-yards and with a par of 71, Lighthouse is not the longest of courses. Don’t be fooled though, a fickle wind can often be a vital factor in a player’s round. Good ball striking is essential in carving out a score here.
There is now a 5-star hotel on site, 174 opulent rooms and suites, as well as dozens of serviced villas. An impressive clubhouse provides a focal point of the resort. The building boasts all the amenities you would expect from a top-class golf resort.
Pravets is situated against the stunning backdrop of the Stara Planina mountain and is just 40 minutes from Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia. A Peter Harradine design, the par-72 championship course hugs the shores of Lake Pravets. As a result, water plays a prominent role throughout, with golfers needing to navigate numerous lakes and streams.
The standout hole is the par-three eighth, with its challenging island green. The double green shared between the 9th and 18th, is reminiscent of the classic Scottish links courses.
Opened in 2011, the course plays regular host to the the Unicredit PGA Professional Championship of Europe. The property offers a state of the art golf academy, 4-star hotel, spa, conference facilities and leisure facilities.