One of the great pleasures of golf is taking in the surrounding scenery as you play. Traditional destinations, such as Scotland and the United States, often offer a stunning backdrop to their courses, which is why punters regularly go back for more. But what of the hidden gems that we barely talk about? Sometimes it’s good to check out an alternative location that offers similar levels of beauty and often for a much lower price. Here are some of golfing destinations that you may not have heard of, and that might just become the next big thing.
Bulgaria is a country that makes great use of its coastline. A string of great resorts lies along the Black Sea shore, and they provide ideal accommodation for golfers looking to explore the underrated courses there. The jewel of the crown is surely the Thracian Cliffs course, nicknamed ‘Gary Player’s gem’ thanks to the golfing legend’s personal design. Each one of its 18 holes take in incredible sea views, but be warned: it’s very tricky for beginners. The sea wind can play havoc with tee shots, and it’s easy to lose the ball on some of the more difficult holes. Further along the coast, the seaside town of Balchik has three superb courses within a 15-minute drive of its marina. Here, you’ll find top-class accommodation and fantastic restaurants for very low prices. As value-for-money destinations go, they don’t come much better than Bulgaria.
If you haven’t visited Patagonia, on the southernmost tip of South America, then you might have heard nature documentaries marvel at its breath-taking natural beauty. Its lakes, fjords and glaciers provide the ideal backdrop for a golf course, and the good news is that there are some great options to check out, should you be ready to venture that far south. The Chapelco Golf Course, for example, is in a spot that you wouldn’t believe possible for a round of 18 holes. But, with Jack Nicklaus’s vision, it manages to use the stunning landscape to serve up a unique golfing experience, with its soaring mountains in the background. The setting for the 2020 Neuquen Argentina classic, it may cost a fair bit to enter, but the price is well worth paying for a round of a lifetime.
Not many would think it, but Costa Rica is one of Central America’s leading golfing hotspots. Six excellent courses are dotted along its Pacific coast and Central Valley, and its unique blend of towering mountains and dense rainforests provide the perfect setting for an afternoon’s play. Perhaps the pick of the bunch is the Reserva Conchal, designed by Robert Trent Jones II in the mid-90s. Its lakes, rivers and ocean views take the breath away and it is often chosen for prestigious golf tournaments. It’s part of the luxury Conchal Beach complex, which while expensive for Costa Rica, doesn’t exactly require you to win the Costa Rican lottery to afford a long weekend there. Other courses, such as the Hacienda Pinilla and Valle del Sol, provide enough variety to keep you going back for a while, and with amazing weather to boot, they may just help the nation become one of the major golfing destinations in the Americas.
This gorgeous nation in Southern Africa is often overlooked in favour of its illustrious neighbour, South Africa, and particularly when it comes to golfing. But when crossing the border, you’ll be on the way to finding some spectacular courses, for a very low entry fee. Take Leopard Creek Country Club, for example. Perched on the banks of the Crocodile River, this beautiful location showcases the very best of the local wildlife – it’s not that unusual to see elephants as you walk around the course. However, it’s important to take into account that accessing such a place is not easy. Even in non-pandemic times, golfers normally had to fly to South Africa and then organise cross-border transport to arrive there. Several companies do offer this service, but it’s a journey of several hours by road. Still, if you’re prepared to put the time in, the rewards are truly magnificent.
North Island NZ
You might be thinking that New Zealand isn’t a particularly unusual place for golf. While it’s true that statistics show that over half a million Kiwis play the game regularly, there are still some courses that may have escaped your attention. Cape Kidnappers on the North Island, for example, is one such place. Apart from its unusual name, the course immediately grabs your eye with its stunning pictures on social media, of lush green scenery and rugged mountains. Going there in person is just as jaw-dropping, according to several reviews. If you can avoid the wind, then it’s a hugely enjoyable round of golf, and regulars recommend sampling the great selection of local wines afterwards. North Island’s climate provides the perfect conditions for golf, and the great thing is you can visit all year round without too much variation in temperature.
Indonesia makes the most of its exotic charm to be one of the leading Asian golfing destinations. Capital Jakarta boasts over thirty courses dotted around its surrounding area, and they’re often designed by ex-golfers and experts on the sport. Perhaps top of the lot, is another Nicklaus creation – the Damai Indah Bumi Serpong Damai, or the BSD if you don’t feel like saying the whole name. The dramatic mix of jaw-dropping beauty and its sense of almost total calm makes it one of the most fascinating golfing adventures around, and it’s also located within an hour of several luxury resorts. Venture out to one of the local islands and you’ll find the Ria Bintan on Bintan island: a tropical gem designed by Gary Player. It’s etched into a native rainforest and offers 18 truly exciting holes. It’s also very accessible from neighbouring Singapore, and most of its clients come from there. A golfing trip to Indonesia wouldn’t be complete without it.
Photo by Noah Rosenfield on Unsplash