Scotland Keeps Building Courses, While Bulgaria Makes Up for Lost Time

Thracian Cliffs course, Bulgaria ( Image:Thracian Cliffs)

The Gary Player-designed course at Thracian Cliffs Golf and Beach Resort in Bulgaria. (Image: Thracian Cliffs)

A few years ago during a media day at the then brand-new Castle Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, I played a few holes with the great Scottish golfer Sam Torrance, perhaps most famous on this side of the pond as the captain of the victorious 2002 European Ryder Cup squad. Scotland, Torrance told me, had no choice but to keep building championship courses. “There are so many emerging golf destinations around the world we have to build just to stay competitive. Really, it’s a question of survival.”

Since then, the birthplace of golf has celebrated the launch of Castle Stuart and Trump International Golf Links, both of which numbered among the world’s outstanding true links the moment they opened. And now comes news that construction will start next spring on the Wyndham Grand Angus golf resort, set by the sea just outside of Dundee.

Offering views toward Carnoustie, the Tay Bridge and Fife, the $96-million development will include a five-star hotel and a residential community. Scottish architect Graeme Webster is designing the course in partnership with golfer Darren Clarke, another longtime European Tour standout. Completion is scheduled for autumn 2014.

Sam Torrance (Image: PGA Tour)

Sam Torrance (Image: PGA Tour)

Torrance talked of the threat posed by emerging golf destinations. But I doubt he imagined that Bulgaria, long regarded as a communist-ruled European backwater, might one-day number among Scotland’s emerging rivals.

Bulgarian tourism officials say there are at least 11 golf course developments currently being planned or under construction throughout a nation that attracts about 7.7 million tourists annually. In fact, one of the world’s most acclaimed new courses is found at Thracian Cliffs Golf and Beach Resort in the coastal resort town of Kavarna. Opened in 2011, the Gary Player-designed stunner, which will host the European Tour’s Volvo World Match-play Championship May 16 to 19, sweeps along cliffs jutting dramatically into the Black Sea. “You will not find a golf course like this anywhere else on the planet,” Player boasts.

Keep building Scotland. The rest of the world is catching-up fast.