As the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, the island of Cyprus is synonymous with divinity, desire and seduction — in its stunning natural beauty, rugged mountainous terrain and picturesque sandy beaches. Forming the crossroads of three continents — Europe, Africa and Asia — the island mixes thousands of years of ancient history and traditional village life with modern hotels, shopping malls and luxurious resorts.
Hilltop winemaking villages, citrus farms, shepherds and olive groves are largely unchanged by time. Yet venture to the towns of Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos — once sleepy fishing settlements — and you’ll discover bustling holiday destinations complete with glitzy hotels, bars, cafes and city shopping and an expanding golf scene and state-of-the-art marinas. Million-dollar yachts and schooners adorn a coastline famous for its diving, fishing, snorkelling, swimming and marine life and calm, warm, predictable seas. Designer stores and stylish boutiques rub shoulders with shops selling local honey, cheese and lace.
Inland landscapes are perfect for rock climbing, abseiling and caving with numerous sign-posted nature trails that lead through scented pine-forests, eucalyptus trees and vineyards past dramatic waterfalls and raw expanses of wilderness scattered with jasmine, geranium and orchids. Cycle along the coastline, kayak around rocky promontories and sandy bays, or embark on a trek along the European long distance path, E4, which starts in Cyprus and ends in Gibraltar, stretching for over 398 miles. More than 50 of the beaches in Cyprus have been awarded the prestigious Blue Flag. Similarly, golf clubs in Cyprus have attracted their fair share of glittering accolades which, combined with a long playing season (340 days of sunshine), has rightly secured the island’s reputation as the home of the Mediterranean region’s finest golf.
As the island’s oldest golf course, the 18-hole, par-71 Minthis Hills Golf Club (green fees from £95) enjoys a stately location, at 1,804ft above sea level, surrounded by vineyards and orchards, and encircling a 12th-century monastery. Panoramic views of the striking Troodos Mountain range are as striking as the redesigned 13th hole, which provides an excellent crescendo to a set of good par-threes, with water surrounding the green.
Named after the Goddess of Love herself, the alluring Aphrodite Hills Golf Club in Paphos (green fees from £112) has become the showcase for Cypriot golf as a truly world-class venue. Voted one of the Top-20 Most Popular Courses in Europe 2011 by website 1golf.eu, a striking 18-hole Cabell Robinson design is packed with challenges, running 6,878 yards over two expansive boulder-strewn plateaux rich in pot bunkers and natural theatre. A dramatic gorge divides tees at the par-3 7th, making the hole a truly heart-stopping showstopper, which is reached across a skinny path. Thankfully, there is a peaceful spot in which players can regain composure, gazing out to sea from the grass-fringed edge of a cliff-top (look down and you’ll see plenty of shredded score cards at the bottom of the cliff).
The Eléa Golf Club (green fees from £83) is another Paphos course with legions of loyal fans who adore the tactically unique conception of the original, Sir Nick Faldo desert-style design. Voted in the Top Ten New International Golf Courses 2010 by golf.com, this 18-hole par-71 runs over an elevated hillside, peppered with highly-visual bunkering and blessed with some beautiful vistas out to sea. As the name suggests, the renovated Secret Valley Golf Resort (green fees £72) winds its way through an east-west river gorge not far from Aphrodite Hills. All 18 holes have been carefully laid out in the natural landscape within the mature vegetation in the lower part of the valley — the steep hillside terrain offer superb tee locations and long views towards valley and ocean.
What does 2019 have in store for golf in Cyprus? After the challenge of droughts and an economic slowdown that delayed more than a dozen in-principle permits for Cyprus’ new golf courses, plans for the Limni Bay Resort and its two 18-hole courses, designed by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, are forging ahead as part of the Strategic Tourism Plan of Cyprus, in which golf tourism plays a major part. Golf tournaments on the island now includes the Cyprus Amateur Open Championships, which attract more than 100 golfers from 16 countries each year. Cyprus also successfully hosted the PGA EuroPro Tour Final Championship 2010, the Aegean Airlines Pro-Am 2012 and the EGA Men’s Club Trophy 2012, signifying the island’s huge surge in popularity since the first course, the Minthis Hills Golf Club, opened just 25 years ago, in 1994.