The course architects at Golfplan-Fream, Dale & Ramsey have broken ground here on 18 new holes in the exclusive resort town of Bodrum amid Roman ruins, flocks of flamingos and stands of olive, palm and oak trees. Golfplan has designed more than 160 courses in 26 different countries, but this project – slated for a spring 2009 opening – will be the firm’s first in the emerging golf destination of Turkey.
Bodrum is sometimes referred to as Turkey’s St. Tropez, its Mediterranean climate, upscale shops and quiet perch on the Aegean having served Istanbul’s old money elite for many decades. Golfplan’s 18-hole design at the as yet unnamed resort, with its large hotel component and 4,000 planned villas, will cater to this established crowd while also serving Bodrum’s growing numbers of German and British tourists.
“This community has long been the quiet, moneyed alternative to Turkey’s more commercial tourist region down the Ionian coast, and when you see the climate and terrain here in Bodrum, it’s easy to see why they kept it quiet,” says Kevin Ramsey, a partner with Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Golfplan-Fream, Dale & Ramsey.
“Both are perfectly suited to golf. Our site in Bodrum combines a sort of high-desert vegetation – rocky, sandy soils with olive trees, scrub oak and sage; very dry – with tropical temperatures in summer and serious elevation change.”
Ramsey explained that half the routing extends down to the property’s salt-water estuary, home to the palms and flamingos. Several corners of the site – including the 18th tee complex – are festooned with ruins from the ancient Greek and Roman cultures that thrived here for centuries.
The other nine winds up into several valleys flanked by steep, striking rock outcroppings – site of the hotel and most of the real estate lots, which look down on the course. The hotel (developers are considering Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton) has been designed to resemble a Roman ruin that stair-steps down these rock plateaus. On the final, lowest step sits the clubhouse and 1st tee, Ramsey noted.
“We’ve been very careful with the routing and construction of the golf course,” the course architect continues. “This entire area has tremendous history and areas adjacent to the golf course have been designated an archaeological preserve, so our intent is to keep things right where they are and let people experience the history. It’s quite something to be standing beside a column or bit of masonry that’s been in place for more than 2,500 years.
“Water is another big issue here, as everywhere these days. The regulations aren’t as strict as they are in California, but they are one reason we’ve designed a paspalum golf course,” says Ramsey, noting that this salt-tolerant grass allows course irrigation options that include both effluent and groundwater too brackish for normal turfgrasses. “We’ve specified Tifeagle greens [bermudagrass]. We also plan to revegetate some portions of the property with oaks and palms from other parts of the property.”
This is the first golf resort project for developer Agaoglu, a veteran, Istanbul-based builder of high-rise apartments and office buildings in the city; so far they have done everything right, Ramsey says. The owners are doing the general earthworks, while Golf International out of Istanbul has been hired to construct the course. Golfplan brought in one of its elite shapers, Jimmy Stevens, to do all the feature work. Stevens handled Golfplan designs at Eagle Ridge in Gilroy, Calif., and Guam International, among others.
“The folks at Golf International have been building courses in Turkey for 20 years; they built Nick Faldo’s course at Cornelia and they are building a Colin Montgomerie course, so we were confident of their abilities and they’ve proved very capable,” Ramsey explains. “They are also distributors of course products, which is typical of companies in countries where golf is still relatively young.”
It’s nothing Ramsey and his colleagues haven’t seen before. Golfplan-Fream, Dale & Ramsey are golf’s most cosmopolitan course designers, with projects now in some stage of development in 11 different countries.
Since its founding in 1973, the firm has built some of the world’s most celebrated courses, in some of golf’s most exotic locations: Pezula, on South African cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean; Korea’s feted Club at Nine Bridges, now firmly ensconced on the world Top 100 lists at both Golf Digest and Golf Magazine; Bali Handara and Jagorawi, in the tropical jungles of Indonesia; Shore Gate, in the storied sand hills just a few miles from the boardwalks of Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the United States; the 27 holes at Disneyland Paris; the mountainous resort course at Bonari Kogen GC, home to the most beautiful par-5 in all of Japan; and the Serapong Course on the Island of Sentosa, host to the Barclay’s Singapore Open and recently named the top tournament course in all of Asia by Asian Golf Monthly magazine.
Bringing world-class golf to a still-fledgling golf market, like that of Turkey, is nothing new for Ramsey and the Golfplan team. Still, they see particular promise for golf here.
“The Bodrum course will be about the 10th in Turkey, so golf is still in its infancy. But we see this market growing faster and going further than most. The area has so much to offer,” concludes Ramsey, “We did a course in Poland six years ago and now they have six or seven courses, but golf will always be limited by the climate there. Turkey is different. It’s a place Europeans want to go, a place that attracts them all year around. A place like Dubai is fine in winter, and there is duty-free shopping – but what else? There is such great boating and diving to be had in Turkey, the Aegean islands are so accessible from here, and it’s so culturally rich – past and present.”
Golfplan-Fream, Dale & Ramsey www.golfplan.com