PGA Sultan at Antalya Golf Club, off-season experiences.

During my recent stay in Belek, Turkey, it was no question if I should squeeze some golf rounds into the family break, it was more a question of how often my wife would approve to be alone with the kids… Alone by the pool of a luxury resort that is.

I played in Belek years ago already and I was astonished by the number of golf courses and the quality at the time of my stay. Back then I remember it was May when I played five different courses during a course of a 7-day trip. This time we booked a family retreat for eleven days in July and surely some golf was on the table, too.

From experience it was difficult to differentiate quality aspects from one Belek course to the other. Back then I played Carya, Cornelia, Montgomerie Maxx Royal, Gloria New and the PGA Sultan course at Antalya Golf Club. The latter club is somewhat attached to the Kempinski hotel and as we stayed there, it was pretty obvious which course I wanted to play again. Especially as the AGC, the Antalya Golf Club, is the home to the Turkish PGA and hosted several European Tour events—so quality was pretty much given I figured. I was so wrong unfortunately.

In prep for the trip I was made aware that both courses at AGC, the Sultan as well as the little brother, the Pasha course were undergoing summer maintenance in June/July but should be finalized once we arrive.

On my first intended golf day the Sultan course was the one to tackle and what can I say, I have had some mixed feelings since my stay and my round. These are my thoughts:

The Sultan course is one of the classics in Belek. Not the oldest, but definitely around for quite a while. The course was opened in 2003 and is a European Golf and David Jones design. It is placed in the typical umbrella pine forest of Belek and features quite a number of water hazards. The greens are rather spacious but the course, or the fairways for that matter, I would categorize as more on the narrow and tricky side. In other words, it’s not the easiest course to play, not a course that you just start with one ball in your bag, but I’d say all levels of golfers will have great fun, no question.

But just looking at the first hole alone, you get a feeling for how much water is in play.

I didn’t find much water at all when I played, but I reckon that was mainly due to the fact that I clubbed down for the most part and played pretty conservatively.

Speaking of clubs: I arrived at the club by foot as it’s just a quick stroll from the Kempinski compound. To be honest I believe you never leave the property at all as the Kempinski and the ABC have quite some close bonds. Anyway, I arrived at the counter asking for a round at the Pasha, was told I should play the Sultan instead, which was fine as I wanted to play both anyway. The order was completely irrelevant to me.

After a short time I was equipped with a cart/buggy and rental clubs. The cart had seen better days for sure and the steering was weirdly off, meaning the wheel was level but the cart was going left, and when you steered straight, the wheel was turned all the time. I got used to it but it took some holes to be honest. Also, I thought that all carts were equipped with screens and GPS. That was not the case unfortunately and I was happy that I brought my Garmin GPS watch, just in case (which battery just held up for one round during the holiday).

It’s not golf season at the moment, it’s just too hot, so there was no starter, no people to hand you scorecards, pencils or even water. I believe that is different in times when more golfers are coming. On that first day I played in a mindblowing tempo until I just got into traffic on hole 12 or 13.

Some remarks on the rental clubs. These were the most rocked down clubs I had seen for a while. I asked for a set with stiff shafts and what I got was a puzzled set of stiff and regular, steel and graphite. Not even consistent in the irons. But I had two identical 3-woods instead for whatever reason. And a driver from 2007, the infamous TaylorMade Burner, a classic in every sense of the word. So a rental club, probably played daily for the last 15 years straight. It at least looked that way.

Put differently, I was not impressed with what was offered, the contrary to be honest.

I started my round, tried to get used to the clubs on the range beforehand and was in positive mood after all. The first hole has a lot of water already as you see in the video, but I placed a good tee shot (with one of the two 3-woods) in the fairway and was good to go to attack the flag with the second.

The woods were difficult to handle but I felt quite comfortable with the Mizuno irons, irrespective of the various shafts they had. But it was unfortunate that I needed quite some time to adapt to clubs in general, rather than tackling the course alone. So the scores suffered a little, but I played bogey golf, was quite quick and made good progress. By the turn I just had a 60 minutes on the clock.

One aspect to mention when you play a nice course just after summer maintenance, you will definitely find a course that looks maintained, in the sense that somebody just did some major work with it. In the Sultan case the fairways and the greens were punched and at least the fairway looked like Swiss cheese. Also, to equal out inconsistencies, greens were leveled with sand. Some more, some less, but sometimes quite substantial, see below.

From a pure aesthetics perspective that was a bummer, but of course the architecture of the course speaks for itself and the course, all in all, looked super nice as you can see in the other pictures.

Punched fairway, punched green, leveling sand on the green.

Pin positions were really difficult that day I have to say: very close to the edges, sometimes on corny ridges, so difficult to putt; one due to the position, two on a pinched surface, three with a putter you never touched before. Only three 3-putts for the round are actually not too bad in that sense.

I finished the round with mixed feelings, sub-optimal scores, only 28% GIR, in difficult conditions with sub-optimal equipment but with some good mood for the other attempt to play the Pasha course.

Two days later, when I stood in front of the very golf desk again to play the Pasha, I was told that the course was spontaneously closed for the day due to maintenance and sanding. So the Sultan it was again. Same cart, same clubs, same course, but a bit more experience how to tackle both clubs and course what ultimately translated into better scores than two days before.

Still I wasn’t comfortable to play the weird set of clubs, but in all fairness back home I’m not comfortable to play driver too at the moment. So I took my fate and enjoyed the round even more. Still 28% GIR, still some 3-putts, still some lost balls but much better scores overall with some great tee shots and consistent approach game. I really hit some nice seconds into the green from outside 150 meters. That’s always good for the mood, at least for me.

As a sort of roundup, the AGC is definitely worth a visit, the Sultan course is beautiful, the Pasha unfortunately is still a mystery to me, but supposedly is easier to play, not as ball-sucking as it’s famous brother. Would I play there again, of course. Is this my favorite course in Belek, probably not. There are just too many good alternatives to check out. But one hint if I may, bring your own GPS device and if you can also your own clubs, because unless AGC is changing something on that front, it will be a pain to rely on their stuff alone.

You’ve been informed.

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