CYPRUS IS SO MUCH more than an island beach resort. With over 10,000 years of civilisation behind it there are some outstanding cultural highlights including Byzantine churches and a World Heritage site at the ancient city of Paphos to enjoy, alongside the opportunity to sample the island’s varied and many gastronomic delights. And for an off-season golfing break Cyprus is the ideal destination.
Whilst Nick Faldo’s Elea Course outside Paphos has been receiving many plaudits since its opening in 2010, the course that really put golf in Cyprus on the map is Aphrodite Hills, a hotel and resort complex sitting up on two plateaus with glorious views out to the Mediterranean and bisected by a deep wooded valley. It was here, in 2002, that five years of hard work by US golf architect Cabell Robinson reached its fruition.
Right from the first hole there is something different at Aphrodite Hills. For a start how many holes do you encounter where an 18th century brick kiln sits in the middle of the fairway? The course guide recommends that we play to the right of it.
However the start of real drama awaits us at the third which can play either as a demanding, uphill par four or, off the black tees at the back, a monstrous 573-meter par five demanding a drive of over 200 meters across the valley. If time allows, even if we are playing off one of the four more forward tee boxes available to both men and women, it is fun to peg up an old ball and see if our drive can make it over the ravine. If the wind gets up, not many will.
Drama is never in short supply at Aphrodite Hills as we work our way along the lush fairways of holes four, five and six fringed with ancient olive and carob trees, although sufferers from vertigo may well struggle on reaching the par three seventh which re-unites golfers with the valley. From the back tee, there are 210 meters to fly to reach the green which sits up like an island on the other side of the gorge.
Even if the green is of a generous size it does not look much bigger than a picture postcard away in the distance. From the forward men’s yellow tees it is a mere 128 meters, but the drop is still pretty terrifying! Simply aim left of the flag and try not to look down until you return to the comfort of your buggy.
Having climbed from the green to the second plateau we can relax and enjoy the panoramic views down to the sea where, according to local legend, the goddess Aphrodite appeared from the waves in her scallop shell. There is still much good and testing golf to savour and lots more hazards to avoid, including a large lake on the left hand side of the par five 10th that runs all the way to the green. We shall encounter it again when we come back up the hill on the last, another wonderful par five.
But until then we must endeavour to play sensibly, keeping the ball in play even if it means sacrificing a shot and try not to be bold and ‘Go for it’, as the numerous white, sandy bunkers dotted about the fairways and surrounding the greens devour balls hungrily. The greens, apart from at the height of summer when the grass is allowed to grow longer to avoid burning, invariably run well and true.
There is so much to enjoy and appreciate that one round on Aphrodite Hills is simply not enough which is what makes it such a perfect resort course, as well as having the advantage of being competitively priced, especially when compared to clubs of equally high standard in the Algarve or on the Costa del Sol. As a perfect base from which to explore southern Cyprus with a terrific course on the doorstep, Aphrodite Hills takes some beating.