By Alexandros Spyridonos
“It’s very rare to see a golf tourism destination develop in the way Costa Navarino has […] The amazing courses and resort facilities it has to offer are simply world class,” said Chris Frost, Managing Director of the World Golf Awards, last November at the 9th Annual Awards Gala Ceremony held in Abu Dhabi, a global gathering of golf industry pioneers, influencers and leaders, adding: “I believe we are experiencing the emergence of a new and exciting era for golf tourism at this jewel-in-the-crown location.”
Following a year-long search for the world’s favorite golf tourism and hospitality brands, Costa Navarino won the World’s Best Emerging Golf Destination award, and its International Olympic Academy Golf Course was honored with the distinction World’s Best New Golf Course distinction. This double accolade from the WGA was the high point of yet another year of global honors for the destination. To date, it has received 36 separate awards, including the Number 1 spot in Golf World magazine’s updated list of the “Top 100 Golf Resorts in Continental Europe.” Chris Bertram, chairman of the Top 100 panel, said: “Two years ago, we said that the addition of not one but two new courses at Costa Navarino would likely make it an irresistible number one, and so it has proven…”
He was speaking, of course, about the opening of The Hills Course and the world’s first International Olympic Academy Golf Course, both designed by two-time Masters champion José María Olazábal. Along with the resort’s two established signature golf courses, The Dunes Course (designed by Bernhard Langer in association with European Golf Design) and The Bay Course (created by Robert Trent Jones Jr.), guests at Costa Navarino can now enjoy the challenge of four signature golf courses; 72 holes of superior-standard golf within a 13km radius, with contrasting natural landscapes and sea views. A distinctive characteristic of all courses is how they provide challenges to even the most experienced of players while still proving playable for beginners.
We turned to Chryssanthos Diakou, Head PGA Professional Costa Navarino Golf, for insider tips on how to handle some of the more exciting holes on the courses:
The Dunes Course – Assessing the breaks
2nd HOLE /PAR 4 /350 YARDS
The course’s second hole is the most scenic of them all, and a favorite among visiting golfers. The white tees are 30 yards behind the yellows, but from there you can see the hole the way the course architect, Bernhard Langer, envisioned it, with three wisely placed bunkers on the fairway. If your driving distance is above average, the aggressive option of a driver could prove rewarding, as the green seems reachable. Note that the bunker on the left-hand side of the fairway is the only obstacle preventing your ball from rolling out of bounds and onto the grounds of the incredible suites of the Romanos, a Luxury Collection Resort. Heading to your second shot, be prepared: you’re closer to the sea and the wind usually picks up here. You need to focus on club selection and distance control in order to land your ball in the right spot on the green; a variety of pin positions makes this hole even more exciting. Make sure you concentrate on reading the break on this undulating green and try not to be distracted by the beautiful surroundings.
6th HOLE /PAR 4/306 YARDS
Easy at the start, even for beginners, but challenging at the end, this is definitely the most exciting hole on the Dunes Course. The view from the tee, which is 26 meters higher than the green, will take your breath away. A driver seems to be the only choice and could be very rewarding as this is the shortest par four on the course: reaching the green in one shot is not something that happens often in golf. Be prepared, however, to deal with sloping terrain and make sure you really focus on reading the breaks.
The Bay Course – A challenge by the sea
2ND HOLE /PAR 3/163 YARDS
This is the most beautiful hole on the Bay Course. It plays directly along the coast, with the sound of the waves making it difficult for the player to focus. The wind in this particular spot is unpredictable, so make sure you read it carefully. There are three bunkers protecting this relatively easy green: two on the left side and a very large one on the right.
17TH HOLE /PAR 4/308 YARDS
Every hole on the Bay Course offers sublime sea views but the par-four 17th is the loveliest of them all and a favorite among visiting golfers. The hole plays directly along the Bay of Navarino, with the town of Pylos appearing faintly in the background. The white tees are 30 yards behind the yellows, affording an overall view of the course as architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. envisioned it. Landing your ball on the fairway from the tee doesn’t look to be easy, as the water on the right-hand side and a light breeze from left to right – pushing the ball towards the sea – makes the fair-way appear quite narrow. Playing a three wood off the tee or a high-lofted hybrid may be the smartest option. Be sure to keep your second shot on the left side of the green and be prepared for a difficult putt on this undulating green.
International Olympic Academy Golf Course – Taking note of the wind
12TH HOLE /PAR 3/187 YARDS
One of the nicest and most challenging par-three holes you’ll play anywhere. This hole embodies the vision that the course designer and two-time Masters Champion Jose Maria Olazabal had for this course. The green is surrounded by native landscape features, including olives trees and bushes, and gives way to a cliff on the left-hand side. The prevalent wind from the right makes it challenging to keep the ball clear of the penalty area. Players will generally hit a mid to shorter iron on this green and might have to consider hitting the ball more towards the right side of the green in order to avoid any costly mis- takes. If you find yourself heading to the next tee having made par on the 12th hole, it will feel like a great score. Before you leave this hole, don’t forget to have a look over the cliff on the edge of the green for a great panoramic view of the Bay of Navarino.
16TH HOLE /PAR 3/198 YARDS
Probably the most stunning tee shot of all the Costa Navarino Golf Courses, this one offers a breathtaking view over the whole Bay of Navarino. Use a mid to long iron in most cases for what might be a tough tee shot, depending on the wind direction. That green is well protected by bunkers and the cliffs on the right side of the hole. It’s better to be smart on this hole and not try to go for the aggressive play. Any tee shot that finds the center of the green, regardless of the pin position, is a great shot.
The Hills Course – Uphill hazards
11TH HOLE /PAR 5/ 556 YARDS
One of the longest holes on all four courses in Costa Navarino and the hardest-rated hole on the Hills Course means that a decent score here is truly impressive. Playing uphill all the way makes the hole feel even longer than 556 yards. It’s crucial that your tee shot finds the fairway and it’s especially important to avoid the penalty area on the left-hand side. You should try to hit your tee shot to either the left or right of the oak tree in the middle.
of the fairway in order to have a clear second shot. That second shot will not be easy in any case as bunkers are placed just where your ideal landing point would otherwise be. If things do go to plan, a mid to short iron will be in play for the 3rd shot.
15TH HOLE /PAR 3/204 YARDS
It’s one of the nicest yet toughest holes on the Hills Course. Hitting a mid to long iron from this elevated tee to a very well-protected green makes achieving par challenging. Wind direction will play a huge part in club selection on a hole that generally plays downwind. On a day where the hole is playing against the wind, a long iron will be needed in order to reach the green. You should make sure that you’ll carry that distance and clear the penalty area that surrounds the green short and to the left; regardless of pin placement, the smart play would be to go at the center or even the right-hand side of the green.