Described recently as an ‘untapped’ golf destination of the highest quality, Bulgaria is very much considered one of the serious rising stars of European golf holiday destinations.
The game may be in its infancy here, but there are world-class courses dotted around this Eastern European haunt, including along the Black Sea coast, which should be reason enough to give it some serious consideration for your next break.
One major box-ticker for travelling golfers is that it’s a much cheaper alternative to the heavyweights of Portugal and Spain. Its capital city, Sofia, is one of the best value cities to visit in Europe. It is known for its excellent food offerings, local drinks – give Rakia a try – and history-laden architecture.
Golf in this Balkan republic is split into two main areas: Cape Kaliakra and Sofia. The latter, in its own right, is a very popular destination for tourists in Europe. Sitting at the foot of Vitosha Mountain, there is much to see and do in Sofia, including golf.
Currently, it is home to three courses, of which St. Sofia is one. It opened in 2004 and later the same year staged the first Bulgarian Amateur Championship. The course was redesigned in a decade ago by Paul McGinley.
There is also the Peter Harradine-designed Pravets Golf and Spa Resort, only 40 minutes away from Sofia that hugs the beautiful shores of Lake Pravets.
Lastly, we have Pirin Golf and Country Club, arguably the best in the area. Designed by former Masters Champion, Ian Woosnam, the course is set against the backdrop of the towering Pirin Mountains.
Cape Kaliakra, meanwhile, is very different to Sofia, but it is home to some of the best courses in all of Europe. If you can fly into Varna airport, the good news is that it is only 45 minutes away. But if you fly into Burgas, next to Sunny Beach, then it is unfortunately just under three hours away.
Despite that, it is absolute worth the extra travel. Three brilliant courses sit side-by-side up against the Black Sea Coast on top of steep cliffs that will give you a day on the course like no other.
Thracian Cliffs is, by some distance, the most famous of the trio and really sets the standard for golf in Bulgaria. A Gary Player Design, it has been described as ‘Europe’s Pebble Beach’. It hasn’t been a stop on the European Tour since the Volvo World Matchplay in 2013, where Graeme McDowell came out on top, but it’s surely only a matter of time before they return to Bulgaria.
Another Gary Player course awaits visitors at BlackSeaRama, its majestic ocean views with their on-site accommodation and leisure facilities combine for a truly memorable experience. It's also the only links-style course in the country.
Last, but definitely not least, the award-winning Lighthouse Golf and Spa Resort is a must try for any golfer visiting the area. It is at the heart of Cape Kaliakra’s signature golf coast and is arguably the best place to see the breathtaking views of the glittering blue Black Sea.
Affordable, different, exciting and bursting with quality, it will be hard to overlook this Eastern European hideaway when planning your next trip.
Local lingo Bulgarian
Time difference GMT+2
High season May to October (20˚C - 27˚C)
Price of pint £0.95 (Varna average)