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Golf Arrives in Bulgaria

Posted: 05/03/2013 18:12

A decade ago Bulgaria didn't have a single 18-hole golf course. That though, has changed, and from 16-19 May the Thracian Cliffs course will host the Volvo World Match Play Championship, featuring 24 of the world's top players.

The Thracian Cliffs Golf and Beach Resort runs 4.5 km along the Black Sea coast near Kavarna and is arguably the most scenic of Bulgaria's seven golf courses. Gary Player designed this challenging course, 49 km north-west of Varna, and has been quoted predicting Thracian Cliffs will become regarded as "one of the top three golf courses on the planet."

The sixth hole of the 6,452 yard, par 72 course requires golfers to tee off from a clifftop, driving onto the fairway 40 metres below. Slicing the tee shot means your ball will plop down into the sea, hooking means it's likely to smack against the cliff to the left.

At Balchick--also by the Black Sea and less than 8 km from the Thracian Cliffs course--the fairways of the Lighthouse Golf Course appear broad and lush, which may lull some players into a false sense of security. Admittedly, I was one such player; the bunkers which Ian Woosnam designed into the 6,170 yard course seemingly had the effect of pulling my ball towards them.

The Lighthouse Golf Course is part of a five star resort and situated adjacent to the Black Sea Rama course, another of Gary Player's creations.

Bulgaria's first 18-hole course was opened in 2004 on the edge of Sofia, the country's capital. Despite being barely five years old, the course of the St Sofia Golf Club and Spa underwent a major redesign in 2009.

Ireland's Paul McGinley--who sank the winning putt in the 2002 Ryder Cup at The Belfry and the man who'll captain Europe in next year's attempt to retain the prestigious trophy--designed the new 6,600 yard, par 71 course, making it "more modern and more challenging" in the view of Prolet Yordanova, the public relations manager of the Bulgarian Golf Association.

The new look St Sofia course opened in May last year. At present many of the trees on the course's rough are still young and small, so the course will mature to become more challenging over the years ahead. It's already a championship course, as St Sofia hosted the 2012 Bulgarian Open as well as the Balkan Challenge Trophy, played for by teams of amateurs from 14 countries.

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  • Tee off at Thracian Cliffs Golf Course

    A player tees off from the cliff-top signature hole of the Thracian Cliffs Golf Course near Varna, Bulgaria. The Thracian Cliffs Golf Course will host the 2013 Volvo Open Match Play Championship. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Tee box at Thracian Cliffs Golf Course

    Thracian style tee box at the Thracian Cliffs Golf Course near Varna, Bulgaria. The Thracian Cliffs Golf Course will host the 2013 Volvo Open Match Play Championship. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Tee box in the Black Sea

    A golfer tees off over a water hazard at the Thracian Cliffs Golf Course near Varna, Bulgaria. The tee box is set in the Black Sea. The Thracian Cliffs Golf Course will host the 2013 Volvo Open Match Play Championship. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Flag at Thracian Cliffs Golf Course in Bulgaria

    A flag flutters at a cliff-top hole at the Thracian Cliffs Golf Course near Varna, Bulgaria. The Thracian Cliffs Golf Course will host the 2013 Volvo Open Match Play Championship. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Golf course by the Black Sea

    Looking towards the Thracian Cliffs Golf Course near Varna, Bulgaria. The corse is by the Black Sea. Thracian Cliffs Golf Course will host the 2013 Volvo Open Match Play Championship. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • A clifftop golf course

    The dramatic coastal scenery of the Thracian Cliffs Golf Course near Varna, Bulgaria. The Thracian Cliffs Golf Course runs along the Black Sea coast and will host the 2013 Volvo Open Match Play Championship.Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Pro-shop at Thracian Cliffs Golf Club

    Pro-shop at the Thracian Cliffs Golf Course near Varna, Bulgaria. The Thracian Cliffs Golf Course will host the 2013 Volvo Open Match Play Championship. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Flag and putting green

    Flag and putting green at Thracian Cliffs Golf Course near Varna, Bulgaria. The Thracian Cliffs Golf Course will host the 2013 Volvo Open Match Play Championship. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Putting at Thracian Cliffs Golf Course

    Golfers putting at the Thracian Cliffs Golf Course near Varna, Bulgaria. The Thracian Cliffs Golf Course will host the 2013 Volvo Open Match Play Championship. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Teeing off at Thracian Cliffs Golf Course

    A golfer tees off over a water hazard at the Thracian Cliffs Golf Course at Varna, Bulgaria. The scenic Thracian Cliffs Golf Course runs along the Black Sea coast and will host the 2013 Volvo Open Match Play Championship. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Putting Green

    Putting green at the Thracian Cliffs Golf Course near Varna, Bulgaria. The Thracian Cliffs Golf Course will host the 2013 Volvo Open Match Play Championship. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Greens at Thracian Cliffs Golf Course

    Putting greens at the Thracian Cliffs Golf Course near Varna, Bulgaria. The Thracian Cliffs Golf Course will host the 2013 Volvo Open Match Play Championship. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • St Sofia Golf Club

    Crest of the St Sofia Golf Club and Spa at Sofia, Bulgaria. St Sofia Golf Club and Spa was developed as Bulgaria's first golf course. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • 1st tee at St Sofia Golf Course

    Sign pointing to the 1st tee at the St Sofia Golf Club and Spa at Sofia, Bulgaria. St Sofia Golf Club and Spa was developed as Bulgaria's first golf course. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Clubhouse at St Sofia Golf Club in Bulgaria

    The 18th green and club house of St Sofia Golf Club and Spa at Sofia, Bulgaria. St Sofia Golf Club and Spa was developed as Bulgaria's first golf course. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Sunlight over the Black Sea

    Sunshine dapples the Black Sea at Balchik, close to Varna, Bulgaria. The scene is viewed from the Lighthouse Golf Course. The sky is overcast and grey, and the sunlight falls on the calm surface of the sea. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Lighthouse Golf and Spa Hotel, Bulgaria

    Hotel at the Lighthouse Golf and Spa Resort at Balchik, Bulgaria. The luxury resort lies close to Varna. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Pool at Lighthouse Golf and Spa Hotel

    Swimming pool at the Lighthouse Golf and Spa Resort at Balchik, Bulgaria. The luxury resort lies close to Varna. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Playing Lighthouse Golf Course

    A man plays golf on the Lighthouse Golf Course close to Balchik, Bulgaria. The course of the Lighthouse Golf and Spa Resort was designed by Ian Woosnam. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Lighthouse Green

    Green at the Lighthouse Golf Course close to Balchik, Bulgaria. The course of the Lighthouse Golf and Spa Resort was designed by Ian Woosnam. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Pravets Golf Course

    Bunker at the Pravets Golf Course at Pravets in Bulgaria. The course, 50 km from Sofia, is designed and maintained to championship standards. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • A ball at Pravets Golf Course

    Golf ball at Pravets Golf Course at Pravets in Bulgaria. The course, 50km from Sofia, is designed and maintained to championship standards. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

  • Teeing off at Pravets Golf Course

    A golfer tees off at the Pravets Golf Course at Pravets in Bulgaria. The course, 50km from Sofia, is designed and maintained to championship standards. Photo © 2012 Stuart Forster.

Pravets, the birthplace of Todor Zhivkov, who led Bulgaria for more than 35 years until 1989, lies 50 km from Sofia and is the home of Pravets Golf Club. The green of the par 72 championship course's signature eighth hole is on an island. Water features providing scenic character and challenges along the course's 18 lakeside holes.

Peter Harradine is the architect of the course at Pravets, which is managed by Braemar Golf. In an echo of the Old Course at St Andrews the ninth and 18th holes converge to form a double green.
In a nation where golf is a relatively new sport, the Pravets Golf Academy provides opportunities for golfers to begin playing and to improve their skills.

They can watch and learn from some of the top professionals when the pros tee off in the Volvo World Match Play Championship at Thracian Cliffs in mid-May.

Further information
For more information about travel and tourism in Bulgaria visit www.bulgariatravel.org.

 

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