With an average temperature of 24˚C, Cyprus boasts one of the warmest climates and warmest winters in Europe. Coastal locations on the Mediterranean island have around 180 hours of sunshine in December, and that’s as much as London during the month of May.
It regularly ranks as one of the world’s top holiday destinations and more people are beginning to realise its quality as a golfing paradise.
Four of the best facilities – Minthis Hills, Eléa, Aphrodite Hills (above) and Secret Valley – are all within a 20-minute drive of the popular resort city of Paphos, making the game incredibly accessible to avid golfers in search of differing challenges.
The first course built in Cyprus was Minthis Hills (below) in 1994. Set in a picturesque valley overlooking an unspoilt panorama of rolling hills and encircling a 12th century monastery, the championship course lies 550 metres above sea level and is a course for all seasons, enjoying cool breezes and mesmerising mountain views.
Elevated tees invite everyone to ‘have a go’ but beware of the narrow tree-lined fairways, making some tee shots requiring a lot of thought.
The signature 13th is a tough par-3 that has to be played to be appreciated. The green is on an island and, although it seems straightforward, it requires precision to reach the heart of the green.
What’s more, now is an exciting time at Minthis with the development of two new holes by architects Mackenzie & Ebert, who were behind the redesign of both courses at Trump Turnberry. There will be a new par-5 hole boasting dramatic views of the Troodos Mountains, which is set to open in 2019, and a par-3 that requires great skill with pines to the left and a deep bunker to the right in 2018.
To top it off, Minthis is a looped course, with each nine returning to the luxurious clubhouse where the lounge, golf terrace and sports bar offer the perfect space for pre and post-round drinks.
Eléa, meanwhile, is widely acknowledged as Sir Nick Faldo’s ‘Mediterranean Masterpiece’. The six-time major winner’s course forms part of the prestigious Eléa Estate, which commands a breathtaking location just 8km from Paphos International Airport.
Since opening seven years ago, the 6,900-yard course (below) has established itself as one of the Med’s true gems, meandering through groves of mature carob and olive trees, while dramatic outcrops of weathered limestone contrast with the dark green fairways.
Eléa offers not only strategic golf in a beautiful setting, but is also very sympathetic to its environment with minimal water – usage and a concentration on native plant species. This is a golf course that sits comfortably and in harmony with its landscape.
Eléa’s designs present situations that may not be what they seem at first glance. This course rewards those who consider their options and experiment with very different ways to play some holes due to the well bunkered nature of the course.
The course is supported by the Eléa Golf Academy, which features a full length driving range complete with target greens and bunkers, a short game practice area and putting green, which commands an imposing location overlooking the whole course.
Another one of the delights in the Paphos area is Aphrodite Hills, which spreads out over 6,877 meters and overlooks the site where Aphrodite, the goddess of love, is said to have emerged from the sea.
The course, which opened in 2002, was designed by architect Cabell Robinson, whose vision for the course was for it to be the perfect mix of challenging pot bunkers, manicured fairways of lush Bermuda grass and generous tiered greens.
Visually spectacular, the course is built on two plateaux, separated by a dramatic ravine with outstanding views over the Mediterranean. The staggering 130-metre gorge dividing tees at the seventh hole is an enticing challenge for all lovers of the game.
Like Minthis Hills, Aphrodite Hills is also in the midst of undergoing some renovation work in order to enhance its golf offering to visitors, with a €2.5m investment involving the complete reconstruction greens and bunkers.
The full unveiling of what is already a fine venue is scheduled for February 2018 with the upgrades promising to maintain the resort’s position among the top, if not one of the very best experiences in Europe.
Aphrodite Hills was also recently the first golf club in Cyprus to be awarded the ‘Green Club’ eco-label of the year by the Cyprus Marine Environment Protection Association (CYMEPA) for its care of the environment.
Last, but by no means least, is Secret Valley. The golf course celebrated its 20th anniversary last year and is nestled in a scenic valley with spectacular brightly-coloured rock formations where legend says Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was born.
Designed by architects from Golf and Land Design with input from two-time major winner Tony Jacklin, the 5,307-yard layout utilises the steep hillside terrain for spectacular tee locations and long views towards valley and ocean.
And, to add even more golfing excitement, a floodlit three-hole loop for evening play has been conveniently located at the lowest end of the golf course where the beach development links with the golf course.
Now managed by Troon Golf, the world’s largest golf management company, Secret Valley is often chosen by visiting golfers for its stunning setting, and friendly, relaxed atmosphere, as well as sheer playability.
With its diverse golf offering, great gastronomy, culture - Paphos being the European Capital of Culture 2017 - quality hotels and hospitality, Cyprus is an attractive option. And just over 20 years after its first course was built, Cyprus is still relatively new as a golf haven, but if you want a change from European spots like the Algarve in Portugal or Andalucia in Spain, the Mediterranean isle is lying in wait, with flights direct from Glasgow to Paphos through various airlines including easyJet, Jet2 and Thomson.