Play Away : Greek Golf hits a sweet spot

The Dunes Course 12

Costa Navarino in the Greek Peloponnese has bucked the austerity to be found in much of the rest of the country. Two golf courses and a brace of luxury hotels are proving hugely popular with visitors as well as providing a much needed boost to the local economy.The situation is idyllic, with white sands, the crystalline Ionian sea plus gloriously unspoilt scenery and, with regular Easyjet flights now leaving Gatwick airport for Kalamata, it has never been cheaper to get there.

Westin has both hotels on the site: the superb Romanos and its sister hotel The Resort although further around the bay, the Banyan Tree hotel is expected to develop the ultimate in eco-tourism with its accommodation built completely into a nearby hillside.

Both courses are excellent tests of golf with stunning views out to sea and across the pine groves and forests. The first- the Dunes, is hard by the Westin hotels and was designed by former Ryder cup star and captain, Bernard Langer. It is Greece’s first signature designed golf course and stretches to 6,780 yards off the tips and a far more accessible 5,480 yards of the forward tees.

There are also wide open spaces off a number of tees making it an ideal holiday course, albeit one in first class condition under Troon Golf’s management.

The Dunes has some breath taking holes, none more so than the second when, after a quiet opening hole, a coastal panorama opens up in front of you on a glorious down hill par four.

In the heat of the day a buggy may be advisable for this par 72 track but it is not a difficult walk, and it is also possible to have a break after playing nine.

The clubhouse, itself the size of a small hotel, is also extremely welcoming with an excellent menu and a wide range of beers, wines and spirits to cheer the most jaded of palates and no matter how bad the round.

The Bay course, further round the coast, and hard by where the Banyan Tree will be located, has received rave reviews since opening in 2011. Designed by Robert Trent Jones II the par 71 course is shorter at, 6,299 yards, but equally spectacular with two holes that overlook the historic Navarino Bay where a combined British, Russian and French fleet defeated Turkish invaders in 1827.

This is a tighter 18 with a much greater premium placed on accuracy but still in the same top-flight condition. Plot your way round sensibly; relax and enjoy the scenery rather than getting over ambitious with your golf and you will score well here.

And as well as the golf there is the delightful nearby town of Pylos to enjoy by visiting its friendly café-restaurants, strolling up to the historic castle or doing a spot of bird-watching with the flocks of flamingos down on the salt water marshes. Or simply relax in one of the Westin’s superb spas. There is much to enjoy at Costa Navarino.

For more information of Costa Navarino simply go: www.costanavarino.com

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