Marion Ainge visits a five-star luxury golf resort and also finds a host of ancient Turkish treasures.
More and more Britons are aiming for that elusive perfect round at a world-class luxury golf resort in Antalya, Turkey.
And of the 60 per cent of UK residents who head off to the five-star, all-inclusive Cornelia Diamond Golf Resort and Spa in Belek, every year, the majority are in the over-50s age group.
Named by Golf World magazine as one of the top 100 European golf resorts, the Cornelia Diamond Golf Resort and Spa, offers un-matched luxury and has much to boast about.
Situated in a natural environment, with lakes and strategically-placed bunkers dotted around the course, the area includes umbrella pine forests and sandy ridges.
Top professionals such as Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and Tiger Woods have played here in competitive tournaments. Guests choose from packages which include two rounds to unlimited play, depending on the time of year – it’s a pleasant 18 degrees C in winter.
This experience combines with wonderful facilities to offer a fantastic holiday.
There’s a private beach, 10 swimming pools, superb accommodation in garden-facing family rooms, lake houses and villas, with high end dining in one main restaurant and five a la carte restaurants.
Renovated in 2008, this exclusive beach and spa resort hotel is the ultimate in luxury. It has 575 rooms and covers an area of 200,000 square metres. There are 10 bars, a nightclub, evening entertainment, a games room, bowls, billiards, tennis, a fitness centre, facilities for children, and, of course, the superb, relaxing Spa and Wellness Centre.
The impressive presidential suite features four bathrooms, two terraces, sea view Jacuzzi and stunning indoor pool.
On checking in, guests get in the swing with a complimentary glass of Champagne.
The three inter-connecting, nine-hole courses comprise the 72 par and 6,373 metre King Course; the 72 par and 6,411 metre Queen Course and the 72 par and 6,324 metre Prince Course.
The Cornelia Diamond Golf Resort and Spa is 21 miles from Antalya town and 28 miles from the airport.
If you can tear yourself away from this golfing paradise, there’s much to see in the area.
In the picturesque old town of Antalya, or Kaleici, which is a fusion of classical and modern style, you’ll find honeyed stone buildings, Roman architecture, a 13th century minaret, interesting alleyways and markets, fragrant, stalls selling multi-hued spices and an old harbour where you can take a mini cruise on a wooden gulet. I spotted the most amazing modern Turkish carpet in the old town. I loved it and wanted it but didn’t have the chance to look at it properly, so maybe next time.
In the evening, this stunning town glows with soft lighting, the scent of sweet jasmine fills the air and on balmy nights visitors and locals dine, al fresco, at one of the many restaurants, where food is good and wine, plentiful.
About 18km from Antalya, and originally founded by Greek colonists, is the site of Perge, the ancient Roman city.
It was surprisingly quiet when we visited, perhaps due to the holy period of Ramadan, but more likely because some visitors to Turkey are just not switched on to finding out about the fascinating clues to the way of life in the ancient world.
Excavation at Perge, which started in 1946 and is still ongoing, revealed a gymnasium, colonnaded streets, a theatre, stadium, majestic city gates and public baths, including a frigidarium or cold water room. A shame it was empty, as it was a hot day and we could have jumped in and cooled off.
Many of the statues found here are now on show in the Antalya Museum. Within the old Roman theatre of Aspendos, I stared transfixed at the spot where lions, tigers and other wild beasts were let loose from the tunnels beneath the stage area. The entertainment programme included animal fights, bloods sports, gladiatorial combat and theatrical productions.
Aspendos, built around 1800 AD, is 315 feet high, can hold more than 15,000 people, and is one of the best-preserved Roman theatres in the world. A sheltered walkway accesses stepped seating areas. Important judges, senators, etc, sat in the front rows. Women were designated the uppermost seats, quite a climb. The Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival takes place in the theatre in spring and early summer.
The extensive Antalya Museum includes 13 exhibition halls and an open air gallery. Huge statues found in excavations at Perge include those of Emperor Hadrian and Emperor Septimus Severius plus mythological Greek and Roman gods and goddesses such as Aphrodite, Zeus and Apollo. I’m sure I saw one of them blink.
The theme of the International Antalya Sand Sculpture Festival 2017, known as Sandland, is the Seven Wonders of the World and Mythology.
Russian artists, mainly, take around three weeks to create giant sculptures of such as the Taj Mahal, the Sphinx and the Pyramids.
Mythological characters and gods include a Cyclops, Poseidon, Thor and Hercules. A special sand of square grains which stick together, is used.
Situated in a national park about 20 km to the north east of Antalya are the breathtakingly beautiful Kursunlu Waterfalls.
Just inside the entrance, at the side of a pathway, two camels lazed on the ground next to a young boy hoping to make a few Turkish lira from people wanting to be photographed with these unpredictable ships of the desert. When someone stepped a bit too close with her camera, the camel snapped at her hand showing its large, yellow, tombstone teeth.
Kursunlu is a shaded sanctuary of tranquillity where foaming waterfalls falls fringed by greenery drop into a clear, green iridescent pool. One can stand beneath the canopy of the falls. Water spray glitters in the sun so it’s often possible to see a rainbow here.The walk winds through sub-tropical vegetation where visitors can see such as bay, carob, wild olive, willow, pine and fig trees.
More and more people with a passion for golf are heading to one of several outstanding golf hotel resorts in top golfing destination, Belek, Antalya.
With the additional attractions of a lovely climate, friendly people, culture and history, beautiful beaches, clear turquoise waters, shopping and beautiful nature spots, it’s no wonder that British golfers are teeing off to Turkey.