Golf in Croatia Vs. Golf in the Algarve Region (Portugal)
Golf, as a fast growing mass sport, has proven itself as a great addition to the classic tourist season because it brings guests from February until April and again from September until November, when playing golf is not such a pleasure on the main markets, the United Kingdom and Ireland, because of lower temperatures in those countries.
On behalf of the Razvoj Golf company, I hosted a group of Croatian journalists last week, and for all of them except one, this was the first opportunity to see, first-hand, how the golf industry works in the Portuguese Algarve region. This region currently has 33 golf courses (26 with 18 holes and 7 with 9 holes) out of 78 golf courses in Portugal in total. The Algarve region used to be, and still is, the Portuguese Riviera characterised by numerous holiday houses and hotels, but also by apartment complexes and a short tourist season. This was ideally noticeable in the town of Albufeira that seems like a British apartment beehive on the long beaches on the Atlantic Ocean. But, this kind of development has its use-by date and long-term limitations, so the region oriented towards golf as a strategic niche of the entire area which now makes up for 1/3 of entire Portuguese tourism.
We went to Le Méridien Penina Golf & Resort for a site inspection, the first and oldest golf course in Algarve built by Sit Henry Cotton, renowned golf player, back in 1965. The course, which was followed by all the hiccups of any pioneering project, was built on rice fields, and today, along with a 200-room 5-star hotel it also has 3 golf courses – a professional 18 hole and two less demanding 9 hole courses for beginners and less discerning golfers. You see, you can only play on the 18-hole course if you have the required otherwise, you’re slowing down other players. Villas surround this golf course too, but they are no longer an integral part of this resort. But that is why the resort has a vast amount of other facilities and services along with a full-size football pitch on which they have hosted, during winter months, numerous famous football clubs. In the last two years, the resort became a destination of choice for Formula 1 fans who come to visit the newly opened 200 million Euro race track – Autodromo internacional Algarve – with an abundant activities program for all lovers of speed.
Our second destination was Pine Cliffs Resort – a family destination with a 9-hole golf course and one of the most beautiful views in the entire region. The entire resort consists of the Sheraton Algarve Hotel and numerous building with apartments or small villas in a row that are have been carefully blended into the environment which is maintained and landscaped to perfection. So, you can choose between a classic hotel accommodation or an apartment which you can sign over to the hotel to manage and rent out for you. Of course, you can choose to use the apartment only for yourself, which is the case with most of the 21 villas in the complex, the last few are currently on sale for a price of almost 6 million Euro or which can be rented for 2200 euro a day. Along with several courts and playgrounds for children of all ages, the two main attractions of this destination are the golf course on the cliffs and beautiful beaches below the course. Golfing itself is not as demanding as the one in Penina, but it is visually attractive enough to be famous among golf players all over the world. The signature hole, the hole with the view is also very demanding – you have to throw the ball well over the cliff to the other side of the course, which you can easily see in the Devil’s Parlour Golf Course – Virtual Tour.
At the very end, we visited the last project by Oceanico Group – Amendoeira Golf Resort, 2 the newest and really impressive 18-hole courses with a large villa and apartment complex all with golf course views. Someone had a good idea to build them with a golf course view but forgot that they should also be careful of who is looking at your swimming pool at the same time. It was sort of unreal to enter this empty complex, but we will see in a few years….
Of course, in order to service all this, you need strong infrastructure, strategic support of the State and extremely good connections with the world – airport in the largest city in the region, Faro, is a service base for Ryanair and starting March it connects Algarve with 31 destinations bringing more than 1.7 million passengers, while the airport is constantly upgraded using EU funds.
So, where is golf in Croatia in this whole story? With only three “real” courses – Golf & Country Club “Dolina Kardinala”; Golf and Country club Zagreb and the latest course Kempinski Golf Adriatic we are still far from the position golf holds in the Algarve region. There hasn’t been much strategic and long term talk about golf so far (apart from some talks in Istria that not only promotes golf but they have been subsidising Ryanair for years), but maybe it’s high-time for things to get moving.Tags: Algarve, golf, golf in Croatia, Golf Park Dubrovnik, Greg Norman, Portugal
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