Golf: Cyprus Star
With only a handful of courses scattered across its parched, garrigue-carpeted landscape, the Mediterranean island of Cyprus is not the first place that comes to mind as a warm-weather golfing destination for Europeans. Overshadowed by Spain and even Morocco and Tunisia, this divided 3,572-square-mile island—Cyprus is split between the Greek-controlled south and Turkish-occupied north—has a trio of resort-style tracks that, while fun and picturesque, lack real teeth to challenge low-handicappers. But the recent debut of Eléa Golf Club, located outside the ancient capital of Paphos, has helped bring the island up to par as a destination for serious golfers.
Like Cyprus’ existing courses—Aphrodite Hills, Minthis Hills Golf Club, and Secret Valley Golf Club—Eléa is located in a scenic setting on the Greek side of the island. But the Nick Faldo design, which opened last October, can be rigorously demanding, despite its relatively short distance of 6,800 yards. "We tend to design courses that concentrate on strategic golf, where a player has to think and plot their way around the course," says six-time major champion Faldo. "Eléa is a shotmaker’s course in that you are rewarded for great shots and presented with opportunities to play a huge variety of [them]."
Faldo routed Eléa through scrubland and limestone outcroppings on a hillside dotted with mature carob and olive trees just minutes from Paphos, Aphrodite’s mythical birthplace. Paspalum-covered fairways are flanked by massive amoeba-shaped bunkers and lead to sprawling greens. The greens’ dimensions, however, can be deceptive: The surfaces are surrounded by roll-away areas and false edges, and are virtually imperceptible from the fairways.
Always visible, however, is the azure Mediterranean in the distance. Complementing the ocean views is a dun-colored, Hart Howerton–designed clubhouse, which, in about two years’ time, will be joined at Eléa by a 40-room boutique hotel and 250 residences, sited on the fringes of the 285-acre estate.
For now, those who make the journey to Cyprus have a range of suitable lodging options, including the Byzantine-style Elysium; the 299-room resort Azia; the waterfront Amathus Beach Hotel; the Thalassa Boutique Hotel & Spa; the sleek, whitewashed Almyra; and Almyra’s sister property, the Annabelle, near Paphos’ harbor. The Eléa hotel, however, promises to set a new standard for quality in Cyprus—as the estate’s golf course has already done.
Eléa Golf Club, +357.26.202004, www.eleaestate.com; Almyra, www.almyra.com; Amathus Beach Hotel Paphos, Cyprus, www.amathus-hotels.com; Annabelle, www.annabelle.com.cy; Azia, www.aziaresort.com; Elysium, www.elysium.com.cy; Thalassa Boutique Hotel & Spa, www.thalassa.com.cy