The game of golf continues to expand into new markets all around the globe, and Bulgaria is one of the latest countries to explore the potential of golf tourism. Its latest investment project is the new Ibar Golf Club & Spa, the first course in this part of Europe to be designed by Nicklaus Design. The contract to provide a complete irrigation system and equipment has been won by Rain Bird, the world’s leading irrigation equipment company.
Central and Eastern Europe: growth potential for golf
Central and Eastern Europe is predicted by many experts to become one of the principal leisure regions in the world. Located in south east Europe next to Turkey and Greece, Bulgaria has already seen what golf can do for tourism in Turkey, and with around 8 million tourists now visiting Bulgaria every year, the country’s government is moving fast to emulate its neighbour and attract golfers from around the world.
With only two golf courses in the country, the Ibar Golf Club and Spa is ideally placed to attract golf tourism. The complex is located in Dolna Banya, a well established spa resort town some 70 kilometres south east of Sofia, and which well served by a nearby airport. €20m will be invested in the project and the golf course itself will be ready at the end of 2007, with 300 adjoining villas completed by September 2009.
In common with a small number of progressive leisure developments, and in keeping with the heritage of Dolna Banya, the complex will include both golf and spa facilities. Ibar Golf Club & Spa will comprise two courses:
– an 18 hole championship-length course which will be personally designed by Jack Nicklaus, and which will be 7,071 metres long
– and the Bear’s Best, a Par 3 course replicating some of the best short holes in the world in Jack Nicklaus’s opinion.
The main course is aimed at the market for golf tourism, and may well become a focus for professional tournaments when mature. The second course is aimed at providing a facility for learning and practice. With barely 500 golfers estimated to live in Bulgaria, golf is still very much a minority sport.
Residential and hotel property opportunities
The 300 detached villas will all have 3-bedroom and are based on approximately 45,000 sq.m. plots around the course development, with prices ranging from €160,000 to €200,000. A small five-star hotel with a spa centre is expected to be built, and which will be managed by a world class hotel brand. The investors are planning to turn the complex into a family-oriented club. Besides the golf courses and villas and hotel, other plans include two sports centres and a shopping centre.