Tee Thursday: Turkiye a terrific golf destination

At Cullinan Links Golf Club, you play right up next to a roller coaster. (Photo by Moira McCarthy)

Last fall I hopped a plane and headed off with some golf pals for a solid week and a half of new courses every day, fabulous meals from morning to night (oft part of an all-inclusive stay), where the sun shone warm on us every day and where there was enough culture, history and fun to leave us wanting to come back for more.

Believe it or not, I’m talking about Türkiye (formerly spelled Turkey). Along the Mediterranean coast in the region known as Belek – you may be surprised to know – you’ll find one of the best setups for a full-in golf escape out there. Even better? The prices beat most other big-time golf destinations.

Belek is located way down in southern Türkiye close to the ancient city of Antalya and is home to 16 of Türkiye’s 20 golf courses as well as 30 four- and five-star hotels, setting it up as a golf vacation haven. With added VISA requirements dropped last spring, more direct flights from major cities and the price difference, Türkiye is fast becoming a top golf trip choice.

We flew there via Turkish Airlines ( whose first class experience – should you be able to upgrade to it or splurge for it – gives a Pam Am in the 1970s vibe. The on-board chef, complete with toque, stopped by my seat to discuss menu choices, and it got better from there. I meandered back to coach and saw good leg space, excellent food and that same special touch of service. It’s a comfortable ride.

We arrived at Istanbul and stayed a night and then repeated that on the other end; giving us a chance to both adjust to time changes and see the fascinating sites of Istanbul while in the area. The connecting flight to Antalya was barely an hour and my home base, MAXX Royal Belek ( was a quick drive from the airport.

That all-inclusive resort – a huge complex with multiple restaurants (super high quality for all inclusive, even the buffet restaurant), an upscale shopping mall, pools and beaches – is a perfect home base. The courses we played – thankfully a pal with more experience picked them out for us – were all within a few minutes driving or shuttle.

One thing I loved about the golf: The variety. We played lush, long, championship level courses like those at Antalya Golf Club (AGC), where Tiger Woods last played in Turkey at their PGA Sultan course back in 2013.

We played flatter courses with wide open fairways, seaside courses that looked over that Mediterranean sea, and even a course that abuts an amusement park (My friend had the fun of yelling “Fore!” when his tee shot careened toward a roller coaster line. How often can you do that?

Many courses offer free lunch pre or post rounds, along with free beverage cart and snack choices while out there, something rare in the golf world.

And then there was the night golf. Night golf is rare around the world – there are a few spots in and around Vegas with a few holes lit – and the Belek region is home to almost all of them.

I was a skeptic. A lifelong skier, I’ve never adored night skiing so I had doubts.

What fun! Not only was the course well lit (picture bright, strong, even lights like in an MLB stadium), but it was easier to find balls should they go astray. In the warmer months – and it gets quite warm there in the summer – night golf is a great option. For us, visiting in October when the weather is still near perfection, it was a way to fit more rounds into our trip, as well as a kind of “things you can only do here” memory-builder. Doubter no more; I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

It wasn’t all golf. We toured the town of Antalya (guides are available and strongly suggested to get the best background), visited beautiful waterfalls and drank delicious Turkish wine. And the coffee – Turkish coffee is strong and sublime.

It’s not as familiar a name as, say, Myrtle Beach, but Türkiye has plenty of golf, amazing food and wine, a spectacular setting, lower prices and best of all: Wow factor. Consider it for your next golf adventure.

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