Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort
Inspired by the UK's heathland classics, nearly one million heather sprigs were propagated on site in glasshouses then planted. The course is set between mature woodland and across a sand ridge. While much of the area’s golf is typical tourist fare, this is one which is also highly regarded by the more discerning golfer. Open icon Peter Thomson has created a venue he feels is reminiscent of Surrey’s heathlands.
It is not often that the European Tour visits the best course in a country to host an event. Morfontaine and Les Bordes are not in the equation for France, Holland’s Utrecht hasn’t hosted the Tour since the mid ’80s while Himmerland and Victoria are few golfers’ choice of the finest courses in Denmark and Portugal, respectively.
Valderrama, PGA Catalunya in Spain and Royal County Down in Ireland have recently bucked the trend though. And it’s fair to say that Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort’s hosting of the Turkish Airlines Open can be viewed in a similar sense.
Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort in Turkey was ranked by Golf World at No.64 in our 2015 Top 100 Continental Europe ranking in – a rise of 35 places. Despite this, Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort was unfortunate in that its final assessment took place while it was undergoing changes to its routing. This meant that it was not in the flawless condition it had been the year before.
The reason for both was the building of the onsite Regnum hotel which, even among the many sparkling examples in Belek, stands out for its comprehensive facilities and its emphasis on luxury and detail.
A few years on, the course changes have settled in well and the presentation is once again spectacular. When the 2017 Top 100 Continental European ranking was published, it had risen to 29, and in all honesty has the potential to rise further.
In that sense, it undoubtedly helps Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort that it is different. There is nothing in Belek like it and very little in Iberia too. For something similar visually to its heather and pine-lined fairways, you must look to one of the traditional courses in Belgium, Germany, France and especially the Netherlands.
For a ‘golf resort’ course to be filed alongside the Utrechts, Fontainebleaus and Hamburg is a significant achievement, even if it does not exactly play like a fast-running sandy heathland. Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort was designed by Thomson Perrett & Lobb, but following the retirement in August of Open icon Peter Thomson, it is now Reigate based Lobb & Partners who are overseeing the course.
Tim Lobb, an Australian who spent six years with European Golf Design and a dozen as principal architect with TPL, accepts much of the success of Carya was natural. “When we first visited the site in 2005 we discovered the heather was growing naturally on the lower part,” he tells Golf World Top 100.
“We wanted something different for Belek which led us to propagate the heathland inspired course. The site is a bit different from the others because it has a large ridge running through the middle, which helped to give a bit of elevation to some holes.”
This rise and fall in the land is evident as you make the short walk from the shimmering hotel, past the opulent golf residences, to the 1st tee. Looking down the hole, a gaping bunker down the right catches your eye, as do the neat arrangement of pines and the cluster of bunkers on the left, similar to Alister MacKenzie’s preferred ‘lighthouse’ collection.
The angled green is tilted back to front and left to right to add interest to the last shots on an opening hole that oozes pedigree and makes you glad you came. It is followed by a par 3 with a +distinctly two-tier green guarded by clover-shaped bunkers filled with the omnipresent white sand.
The next three holes offer an interesting set of decisions off the tee. The 3rd tempts a drive up the left to give the best approach to the green. The next requires an astute lay up and the 5th could be anything from a 4-iron off the tee to a more aggressive driver to take you past the right-side trees.
This trio of strategic two shotters are visually uplifting, their aesthetic appeal which encapulates the beauty of the entire Carya experience. Slender pines of skyscraper height; purple blankets of thriving heather, fluffy white sand in the many shapes of bunker; and fairways of velvet green.
Then comes the change from the original, a short hole over water being squeezed in before what was the original par-5 6th and is thus now the 7th. The 7th has trees eating into the left and with a bunker doing likewise on the right, it completes a super portfolio of early driving holes.
The gorgeous short 8th – set on funky terrain with a liberal sprinkling of bunkers – is a beauty while the 9th’s elevated tee offers a chance to open the shoulders. The next two march back and forth either side of a lake before the 12th takes us back to the clubhouse.
Few would argue the closing section is as good as the opening eight, but water on three of the final four holes creates much drama. One of the strengths of Carya, which is uniquely floodlit, is that it is not merely an examination of whether you can thread your ball between tall timber. No two greens are shaped, angled and sloped in the same way and their surrounds are often extremely penal.
The course is built on rolling sand hills, surrounded by pine and eucalyptus trees. It features several large lakes, numerous strategically placed bunkers and heavily contoured greens, making for challenging play.
To view the Golf World Top 100 Best Golf Courses in Continental Europe, click here.
To view the Golf World Top 100 Golf Resorts in Continental Europe, click here.