Travel News 28th Jan, 2020 by ukclubgolfer.co.uk
When did Bulgaria truly become a big player on the golf tourism scene?
Bulgaria is well known in the UK as a beach vacation destination and has been for the last 50 years. The golf history of the country is no older than 20 years. The first-ever golf course, named after the small city of Ichtiman, opened for players in June 2000. Located an hours drive from the capital Sofia it welcomed the small (at that time) society of Bulgarian golfers for 3-4 years. The first proper course opened in 2003, a 15-minute drive from Sofia. With a subsequent redesign by Paul McGinley in 2010-2012, St. Sofia golf course became a big player on the golf map. In 2008 two courses were opened on the Bulgarian coast – Lighthouse, designed by Ian Woosnam, and Gary Player’s Black Sea Rama. In the same year, next to the Pirin Mountain, well known to the British tourists for its skiing slopes, a second Ian Woosnam golf course opened inland – Pirin Golf & CC. With its alpine type design and spectacular views over the surrounding mountains, it has become a very popular destination for many local golfers. 2010 saw the opening of the latest golf course close to the capital Sofia – Pravets Golf club, designed by Peter Harradine. It has also had the pleasure hosted the finals of the EGA’s club Pros championship. In 2011 opened the second Gary Player course – Thracian Cliffs. This is the golf course everyone is talking about. Some are comparing to it Pebble Beach or Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand but it still is one of a kind and is only a three hour flight from the UK.
The first big boost the sea coast destination received, was in 2013 when Thracian Cliffs hosted the Volvo World Matchplay. Over 200 televisions broadcast live and Graeme McDowell defeated ThongchaiJaidee to win the title.
What does Bulgaria have to entice tourists that other countries do not?
Well, the country is a mix of many things, but one stands that out from the rest is Thracian Cliffs. Everyone knows the amazing course and have seen the enthralling pictures of it. Thracian Cliffs has to be played at least two times – first time for taking pictures and the second time for focusing on golf.
The Bulgarians as a people are warm and ready-to-help. The cuisine offers a wide variety of local dishes, Mediterranean and Balkan food. The wine is well-known worldwide and you have to try it. Spirits are also famous in Bulgaria. The local brandy called “rakia” will warm you up quicker than a 15-minute routine on the range.
What is the best time of year for tourists to travel to Bulgaria to experience golf in nice weather?
We warmly suggest coming from early April as temperatures sit at around 15-25 degrees during the day (same for October). The best option will be May, June and September with 25-30 degrees sunshine, while in top summer months like July and August you can throw in a relaxing beach and golf vacation.
Bulgaria continues to win lots of tourism awards, tell us a bit about those.
Tourism in Bulgaria represents some 12% of the country’s GDP. This number represents many travel activities like – beach tourism, mountain and ski tourism, cultural tourism including the famous rose-blossom picking in May and June (Bulgarian rose oil is one of the top ingredients used in the perfumery industry), wine tourism, gourmet tourism, and last but not least the golf tourism. British tourists are one of the largest incoming groups to Bulgaria.
As for the awards, yes – Bulgaria is holding and continuing to receive many awards in almost all areas of tourism, including golf.
Bulgarian golf course and resorts are awarded as follows:
– Bulgaria won the prize “Undiscovered golf destination of the year 2012 ” at the IGTM (The International Golf Travel Market) in Belek
– Bulgaria was nominated for “Undiscovered golf destination” at the IGTM (The International Golf Travel Market) 2010 in Valencia.
– BlackSeaRama Golf was awarded as “The best new golf course in the world” for 2009.
– Thracian Cliffs was awarded – “Best new golf resort of 2014” by IGTM.
– Thracian Cliffs golf course was awarded best Golf Course Experience Award 2019 by IGTM.
– Lighthouse hotel was awarded best Golf Hotel Experience Award 2019 by IGTM.
Not to be forgotten is Bulgarian Golf Tours, the largest golf travel operator in Bulgaria, awarded six times in a row as Best Inbound Golf Operator of Bulgaria (2014-2019) by World Golf Awards.
For golf, does Bulgaria offer value for money? What is the average cost of golf and accommodation? Is there a wide variety?
It all depends on the package. There are number of budget hotel options plus golf that can fit in the average golf travellers pocket. The Thracian Cliffs course will cost the walk in golfer some €140 including a shared buggy. However, when included in a package, the game at Thracian becomes much more reasonable. A standard golf package in Bulgaria which includes transfers will be priced at around £520-550.
Tourists are encouraged to venture out of the golf resorts to experience the local culture and cuisine. It is in the hundreds of small restaurants around the area that guests can enjoy a pint of top local beer for a price as low as 90p, while decent dinner with drinks will hardly go over £10-12.
What are some of the stand-out hotels you can suggest?
It all depends on the guests’ mood.
When visiting the sea coast destination – for those looking to play more golf, we will suggest staying in Lighthouse resort. The resort offers unlimited golf packages and optional play on the Thracian Cliffs and BlackSeaRama. This resort is also offering an All-inclusive meal board with local wine, beer and spirits.
Still on the coast if you are looking to combine golf with some nightlife, we would suggest stay in some of the small hotels located on the yacht harbour in the town of Balchik. For guests looking to enjoy serious nightlife we will suggest a stay in the Golden Sands resort (All-Inclusive and BB hotels are available), located half-way between Varna and the golf region. Go one better and stay in downtown Varna for easy access to the numerous night clubs and bars. When coming to the capital, there are still two options to consider – downtown Sofia owns hundreds of restaurants and bars within walking distance, while Pravets Golf Resort is there for those who prefer regular golf on their vacation.
How can tourists reach Bulgaria?
To visit the Sofia golf destination our guests can fly from Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London (Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted and Luton), Manchester and Newcastle.
To reach the sea-coast destination one can visit by flying to Varna from Liverpool, London Gatwick and Luton, and Manchester.
Flying to Burgas one can fly from: Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Doncaster/Sheffield, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Humberside, Leeds Bradford, Newcastle and Norwich.
Interested in visiting Bulgaria? visit www.golfinbulgaria.com for more.