By Giorgos Tsiros
Even if you’re not a golf enthusiast, you’re likely to guess the countries home to the world’s top golf resorts right: obviously the United States, then Scotland, with its long history as the sport’s homeland, followed by England. If you’re a little more familiar with the sport, you might guess Australia and Canada (and you’d be correct). However, ranked at number seven in the list of the best golf resorts in the world, is a destination that will likely surprise you. And it is in Greece.
“If you’d said to someone 15 years ago that a Greek golf resort would be the seventh-best in the world in 2023, they would have looked at you quizzically,” writes Chris Bertram, editor-in-chief of the annual Golf World Top 100 Courses and Resorts. “But Costa Navarino is the real deal and, trust us, this position does not flatter it in the slightest.”
So how did they arrive at this ranking? Every year, a panel of experts who travel, play, test, and evaluate hundreds of potential destinations votes based on four basic criteria: the actual golf courses (graded on how well maintained they are, the facilities they boast, the overall player experience, etc.) are given up to 40 points (with extra points awarded for resorts with more than one golf course), while up to 20 points each are awarded for accommodation (graded on range, quality, and capacity of available options); non-golf amenities (additional facilities and services that may make the resort more attractive to families and couples); and setting. The last criterion speaks for itself, given that more than half of the pleasures associated with golfing have to do with nature and the beauty of the landscape. If a shuttle is required to get from one golf course to another, points are deducted.
“Golf is clearly still the key category in all of this, but we take accommodation and non-golf amenities into account fairly strongly, because we didn’t want a list of ‘courses with rooms’ and to end up with a list of Top 100-ranked courses with a dormy house,” it is explained. “We wanted to include rounded resorts that could appeal to couples and families as well as those for absolute golf nuts.”
Costa Navarino gathered an impressive 90 points out of a possible 100. In the brief text accompanying the distinction, the editors of Golf World Top 100 refer to its four different golf courses as being of “exceptional quality.” In fact, all of them, The Dunes Course (designed by Bernhard Langer), The Bay Course (designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr), The Hills Course, and the world’s only International Olympic Academy Course (both designed by Jose Maria Olazabal), also rank in their top 135 in Continental Europe. Special mention was made to the ease of access to all courses via the Costa Navarino transportation services, and the “gorgeous views from all four courses, but especially on Τhe Bay Course and the Olympic Academy Golf Course.”
In addition, the range of accommodation options on offer – the family-friendly The Westin Resort Costa Navarino, the opulent The Romanos, a Luxury Collection Resort, the chic W Costa Navarino, and the exquisite Mandarin Oriental, Costa Navarino – is singled out for praise (“whichever you choose to stay in, you’ll have chosen very wisely”), as is the range of non-golf amenities. In conclusion, “Costa Navarino is more a complete destination than a mere resort, and it is a thoroughly-deserved World No.7 among these illustrious names.”
Some observations on the Golf World Top 100 list help us understand the importance of this distinction. Costa Navarino is the highest-ranked of the 20 Mediterranean resorts included; the next is Verdura in Sicily, in 16th place. Among the leading resorts, only the sixth-ranked resort, Streamsong in Florida, has been in operation for fewer years (12 compared to 14). However, Costa Navarino’s courses and hotels have doubled since 2010. Pebble Beach in California (5th place, 91 points) has been operating since 1919, Turnberry in Ayrshire, Scotland (4th place, 92 points) since 1906, Pinehurst in North Carolina (3rd place, 93 points) since 1895, Gleneagles in Perth, Scotland (2nd place, 94 points) since 1924, and the top-ranked Bandon Dunes in Portland, USA (97 points) since 1999. These are the heavyweights we alluded to earlier, located in countries where the sport has a long history and remains extremely popular, and which have hosted the world’s largest professional championships and tournaments. The fact that Messinia has joined them in such a short period of time is yet another testament to Captain Vasilis Konstantakopoulos’ vision, which continues to improve Greece’s overall tourism quality.
Costa Navarino will operate its first full season this year, with four hotels, four golf courses, and the Agora, which opened last year, starting with The Westin Resort Costa Navarino and the resort’s golf courses on February 18th.
Photo Credits of the hero photo: © Peter Corden