The English summer is officially over and it’s time to look further afield to enjoy a top up of sun induced vitamins, so it’s off to Cyprus, the island of Aphrodite, goddess of love. Funnily enough, they even have a golf resort by that name...
My flight, courtesy of Monarch Airlines from Gatwick, is a reasonable four hour duration that guarantees sunshine at the other end. We land at Paphos International Airport, conveniently located a short drive from all four championship courses to be found here.
With bags stowed in the hire car, I am soon on my way. The journey could not be easier; simply drive out of the airport and at the first junction turn right. Within minutes you will pass Elea golf course and then Secret Valley, shortly followed by my first destination: Aphrodite Hills.
STUNNING LOCATION. I wind my way up the road to Aphrodite Hills and the five star Intercontinental Hotel, located next to the golf course, where I’m staying. It’s with a fondness that I find myself returning here after a hiatus of two years and I know well that I will be in receipt of some excellent service in a truly stunning location. After checking in at front desk, I’m whisked up to my room on the seaward side of the resort which guarantees views over the ninth hole and the sea beyond.
I awake early the next day to take some pictures of sunrise over the eighth hole, a stunning par-4 with more of those views of the sea. I follow this with a big breakfast back at the hotel as today is going to be very busy. Bizarrely, my first port of call is not Aphrodite; I will play here later. No, firstly I am off to Minthis Hills.
SKILL VS LUCK. Minthis Hills Golf Club is located just north of Paphos, nestled in the mountains above the town and a short distance off the road to Polis. On arriving at the impressive clubhouse I meet up with Maro Kazepi from the Cyprus tourist board. We are soon joined by a Finnish couple, Markus and his wife Marit who run a travel company, and we make our way to the first tee. Maro and I soon discover that our Finnish companions are quite proficient golfers while we tend to be more of the hopeful variety. This is going to be a game of two halves: one an exhibition of technique and skill, the other mainly luck with the odd rummage in the rough for that elusive lost ball.
The course is in exceptional condition and the surroundings are inspiring. Being located in the mountains guarantees a cool breeze which, although it’s October, is still welcome. The round begins with our Finnish friends playing some exceptional shots while Maro and I have our odd moments of brilliance. But the real joy here is just to be out on such a beautiful course with the sun shining and the breeze coming off the mountains.
By the time we reach the twelfth, a par-4 over a valley filled with thorny bushes, I have had mixed results, but on this hole I play one of those shots to be proud of. Not that I would have attempted to retrieve my ball if it had gone astray.
The par-3 thirteenth is a lovely follow-on hole with a shot over water to an island. Again, I rather excel and manage to hit, what is for me, a good drive to place myself in a convenient position on the green.
This is a delightful course in tranquil surroundings accessible to anyone staying at the Intercontinental or at any hotel in town. Our round ends all too soon with a relaxing downhill par-5 on the eighteenth and we retire to the clubhouse for a well earned meal.
FAVOURITE HOLES. I arrive back at Aphrodite Hills with a little over three hours to go before sunset and so waste no time in getting out on the course. Time may be a little short but this is a course that I have some knowledge of, having visited before.
I work my way around to the first of my favourite holes, the fifth. This is an interesting par-3, over scrub and uphill. My ball lands safely on the green, which in my books is a successful shot. Unfortunately it’s followed by a 3 putt! Never mind, plenty more to come.
The seventh is a quirky number and the buggy ride down the cliff to the tee can be quite exhilarating. This is another par-3 and the type of shot that we all make on a regular basis, however the trip down to the tee gives a hint as to what is in store: a shot over a ravine. The green looks tempting on the far side of this abyss. It may be best to shut my eyes.
I land on the right hand side, not the safest shot but I survive. Then it’s off to the eighth, a par-4 looking out to the sea far below. Beware, the undulating fairway slopes quite considerably to the left with a drop into a valley. This is a picturesque hole with the remnants of an old olive press in the middle of the fairway just to give you something to aim for.
LOTS TO DO. But Aphrodite Hills is not just for golfers. This is a resort with many opportunities. Other facilities include a spa, a tennis academy and a plethora of activities for adults and kids alike, not forgetting the swimming pool and the beach located only a short shuttle service from the hotel. Add to this the excellent restaurants, kids’ activities, shops and entertainment and you have something for everyone.
BEWARE OF BUNKERS. The following day I take a trip to Elea Estate. This Nick Faldo designed golf course is wonderfully deceptive and a good contrast to both Aphrodite and Minthis Hills. From up in the clubhouse the course seems relatively flat, but once you get out there you will find that the terrain is quite varied.
While preparing to tee off, I am joined by a Canadian gentleman and his wife, both veterans of this course. They happily inform me that they both have landed in almost every bunker, of which there are many. While I think that their record is safe, I almost begin my tally on the first hole by landing dangerously close to one.
This par-4 has a slight dogleg left, with a set of bunkers set rather sneakily just before the turn and about the distance of an average drive. I head off and leave my newly found friends to their day in the bunkers. As I work my way around the course, I realise what they mean and how easy it could be to land in any of the profusion of these obstacles. You really need to have your game hat on.
ENJOYABLE. For me, the first and ninth were particular favourites, both with serious bunkers in play and I am not ashamed to say that I spent some time in one on the ninth, still content with my form and thoroughly enjoying myself. It’s always a good feeling to begin your round on an interesting hole and the first, with the tees from a raised position and excellent views over the front nine, does set the scene.
After my game, I retire to the clubhouse for some excellent food on the terrace. Three golf courses down and one more to go: Secret Valley, which I shall play in the morning. But before then I am going to move my centre of operations to one of the Thanos Hotels. Tonight I shall stay at the Almyra in Paphos and then a further night at the exclusive Anassa in Polis.
THANOS ALMYRA. The Almyra is located in the town of Paphos and, you could say, quite literally on the beach. Oozing charm and sophistication, it is well placed for those wanting the convenience of the town whilst also having direct access to the seafront. My hotel room has doors leading directly out to a terrace and then straight out onto the sand.
The hotel has been a landmark since the 1970’s, but upon being acquired by the Thanos group it underwent major works to create what is now one of the most opulent hotels in town with an attention to detail that creates a feeling of calmness and order.
I wake up the next morning to the sound of waves lapping on the shore, which in my book is almost heaven. After breakfast on the terrace, I am taken on a tour of the hotel and its facilities which include pools and a spa complex.
From a golf point of view, this location is well situated for all four courses and plans are underway to provide a shuttle service so as to remove the necessity for guests to drive. If you are here with the family then there is plenty to amuse all.
SECRET VALLEY is so close to Aphrodite that you can see it perched on the hills above. As its name suggests, this course is located in a valley and winds its way between the hills. The course has undergone extensive work and a further eighteen hole course is now under construction. The fairways and greens are looking superb, and while it was not possible for me to play here due to ongoing works, this is a course not to miss.
ANASSA. My final night is at the Anassa which is located in Polis about 45 minutes drive to the north of Paphos. The journey takes me very close to Minthis Hill and on up over the foothills of the Troodos Mountains. A thunderstorm breaks and the rain falls in torrents but luckily it’s one road almost all the way to the hotel as my vision is severely limited.
Upon reaching the town of Polis, the rain stops and the evening sky clears. Anassa is located to the south of the town on the coast and it’s not long before I reach my destination.
People told me to expect to be in for a treat staying here, even if just for one night, so it is with a certain interest and expectation that I arrive. I must say that I am not disappointed; opulent is too shabby a word for this hotel. From the moment you pass through the security gates and walk into the building you enter another world. The word Anassa means queen in ancient Greek and this five star resort would not leave a queen wanting. The hotel has an immediate calming effect on the weary traveller.
THE BASILIKO. I am greeted at reception and, after a brief chat with the manager, taken up to my room. From my balcony I have a view out over the gardens, beach and Mediterranean Sea. I’m booked in for a meal in the Basiliko, Anassa’s signature gourmet restaurant and so, refreshed, I make my way there.
I am not going to say too much about the food as it deserves an article of its own, which is what we intend to do in an upcoming issue. Suffice to say that the food was excellent and service was impeccable. Anyone staying at the Anassa and not dining here is missing a real treat. The only thing to be done is to write that article soon.
The hotel has a classical air to it with a large atrium and grand rooms. At the front there is a recreation of a traditional piazza along with a church. Entertainment takes place here and even marriages are conducted in the church.
THALASSA SPA. Located not far from the piazza is the Romanesque Thalassa Spa which covers the full spectrum of wellbeing from an hour long treatment to a gentle detoxifying or holistic programme. The spa boasts eighteen treatment rooms, saunas, steam baths, a seawater exercise pool, squash court, fitness room and hair salon.
My journey back to Paphos Airport is in glorious sunshine as the road takes me through small villages and past vineyards. I have visited four exceptional courses, each quite different from the others. It’s hard to imagine there not being something for everyone, unless that is you want to be wet and cold!
Whether visiting Cyprus purely for golf or for a family holiday, everything that you could want is here: golf, food, sea, mountains and so much more. The only thing that you have to do to experience it is make the time to visit.
Good to know
Fly with Monarch to Pafos. Aphrodite Hills Intercontinental is roughly 20 mins drive from the airport.
Elea and Secret Valley and Minthis Hills which is set up in the mountains are are all within minutes drive from either the Aphrodite Hills Intercontinental or Thanos Almyra. Minthis hill is the further of the courses but still within 25 mins of either hotels.
A good option is to play Minthis hills and then drive 25 mins further north to the town of Polis to stay and the Thanos Anassa. Without doubt this is a stunning hotel and well worth a vist.
All accomodation and golf and flights can be booked direct at;