Where fairy tales become reality — the Carya Golf Club

At the end of March, representatives from GOLF magazine decided to visit one of the most unique golf courses in Turkey, or even in the whole world — Carya golf course. The Publisher of the magazine, Monika Kuzmina, and the International Relations Manager, Marko Saag, were able to become acquainted with the course and to meet the club personnel.

Although we had thoroughly prepared for our visit, the things we saw and experienced in Turkey exceeded everything we had ever imagined. We were also impressed by what the CEO, Hasan Ceylan, and the Head Pro, Mehmet Ceylan, later told us about. Our interviews with Hasan and Mehmet can be read below.

Although warm smiles can be seen on many golf courses, and the majority of the big names in the world of golf are polite and friendly, the warmth, cordiality and inspiring reception that our editorial board received from Mehmet and Hasan, the gentlemen responsible for the Carya Golf Club, is rarely encountered.

From the moment we entered the club, it was as though we were a part of a fairy tale that was beyond our imagination. Later on, when leaving the club, we were both silent because there were no words that could convey our feelings and thoughts. Well, what happened during our visit?

Fairy tale forest on a golf course

Surely you have, at least in your childhood, imagined or dreamed that somewhere on another planet there is a fairy tale forest where the trees talk to you, the water and the grass shimmer, and friendly, peculiar-looking animals wander around. And that you can half run, half float in the air just like in the film Avatar. This is not a fairy tale — this is Carya. From the moment the sun sets and the lights go on, it is as though you are a part of a fairy tale that has 18 parts and where golf balls and silvery golf clubs shimmer in the light. Wherever the golf ball lands (except, of course, in the waterholes and fountains), you are still able to continue with your game. Although you are in a forest in the middle of the night, there is not a single place that is not lit up in a romantic and dreamy way. It’s magic!

Hasan told us that every day, a couple of hours before dark, they test all of the lighting systems, so that no guest should ever see an extinct lamp on any of the holes. This is because, according to him, all of the guests come to play on this course especially for this experience. From the way they have planned and constructed the course, it definitely seems that this is true. All of the surroundings, fairways and the greens are polished to perfection.

They are waiting for you

Yes, we had experienced Turkish hospitality before, but Carya exceeded even our expectations. From the moment we stepped into the club house, we had the feeling that we were expected. Although golf clubs may often seem to be closed institutions, Carya definitely leaves the opposite impression. The employees at the club are very friendly and accommodative. Hasan explained that this is their priority, and that they pay a great deal of attention to ensuring friendly service.

Make sure to put Carya onto your travel list. The things you will see and feel there are just magical.

Read the interview with the CEO of Carya, Hasan Ceylan. Here Hasan talks about the establishment of the lighting system, and the commitment that the team put into their work and the testing of the systems so that guests would enjoy their game. He also speaks, among other things, about the friendliness of the Turks and about how he himself discovered golf.

Read an interview with Mr Hasan Ceylan (CEO of Carya Golf Club)

Hasan Ceylan, please give us a short overview of the Carya golf course, and tell us what makes it the best and the most unique course in the world?

On TripAdvisor, the Carya golf course is listed as the number one golf course. The main reason why our course is so highly appreciated by different guests is our friendly approach.

The golf course is also unconventional because on the one hand, it is a simple course, but on the other hand it offers a number of challenges. When we designed this course, we kept in mind the possibility for golfers to lower their HCP, so we removed all bushes from the course. This means that the course can be played from any angle and at all times. We do not think that people should be punished with bushes — golf should be enjoyable, fun and freely playable.

When people come to play in this region, Carya is always the first golf course that they visit. Although all of the golf courses in this region offer friendly and pleasant service, the Carya golf course is determined to make this one of its top priorities — our mission is to be friendly and pleasant with every visitor and make the golfing experience unforgettable for all of our guests. Many golfers have returned here several times. The fact that some of our guests have visited us for years, and keep coming back, makes us work even harder to offer them a fully satisfying experience.

In addition, we are the only fully lighted golf course in Europe.

Tell me about the unique lighting on the course.

There are some golf courses in Europe and some in Dubai which are equipped with a lighting system, but their concept is totally different. The majority of the other golf courses with lighting have lamps that are positioned lower; and therefore the whole flight of the ball cannot be observed.

The height of our lights is 18 metres, and the lamps are placed at the angle which allows the golfers to follow the whole flight of their ball. No matter how high the ball goes, its flight can always be seen.

The lights are also directed downwards, so the balls can be played from anywhere. There is not a single dark corner on our golf course, and playing here under the lighting system can be an extraordinary experience.

The lighting system was designed by Korean engineers. After the lamps were installed, our team inspected the whole course in order to be certain that there were no dark corners, and at the same time to ensure that the lights would not dazzle the players. We intensified the lights, tested the angles and had many test swings with both pros as well as amateurs. We repeated this on all of the holes. As a result, our team has completed something absolutely incredible, and it is possible to play on our golf course even until midnight.

If the course is open for so long, how difficult is it to maintain?

We close the course at midnight in order to start the maintenance work. By 6 a.m. the following morning, everything has to be ready. We only have 6 hours at night to complete the maintenance work, and it would usually take 11 hours to water the course, so we have also built an additional pumping station in order to ensure there is sufficient pressure in the pipes. This allows us to water different holes in parallel.

Also, due to the fact that the course is open for a long time, the human pressure on the golf course is larger than normal. There are approximately 195-220 golfers daily on an average golf course, but we host approximately 300 players every day, which results in an extremely large load on the golf course. Therefore, we have made large investments into ensuring its maintenance. While an average golf course has 4-5 green keepers — we have 27. In total, we have over 90 employees. We need so many people because our golf course is open for 18 hours a day (twice as long as other courses), so the employees need to work in shifts. It would be a very easy task to open the course at 7 a.m. in the morning and to close it at 5 p.m. (laughs).

Since we are specialists in excellent service and we want our guests to have an unforgettable experience, we must ensure that all of our systems are working flawlessly. Every day, several hours before the sun sets, all of the lamps on the course are checked and tested. It would never happen that the lighting system is not operating when it becomes dark outside, or even that any of the lightbulbs has gone out. We do our utmost not to have any defects. If you think that a person has flown for 3-4 hours to experience night golf on this course, and to get good service and then it is ruined just because some bulbs go out, they would be so unhappy. The worst nightmare for me would be a situation where the customers are playing on the course, and something happens which does not allow them to enjoy the course and their game. We also have our own generators, so that even if power went out in the whole country, our guests could still play golf on our golf course.

You established the lighting system after the course was already completed. Did this make it even more complicated?

We established the lighting system in two stages: 9 holes at the beginning of 2013; and 9 holes at the end of 2013. It took approximately 27 km of cables to establish the power supply to light 9 holes, and often during the digging process we would hit a drainage pipe or the irrigation system. In order to fix such accidents, all of the water had to be pumped out of the pipes, the hole had to be fixed and then water was let back in, all before the course had to be watered in the nighttime.

What kind of resort is formed by Carya and the adjacent Regnum?

It is a perfect resort because in addition to golf, the whole complex can offer comprehensive services for the whole family. Our hotel has a Children’s Club for kids, an adventure park, heated swimming pools, a fitness club, a 4.5 km walking trail around the complex, live music, parties, bands, shows, an amphitheatre, a nightclub and many different restaurants.

This is all surrounded by ultimate luxury and friendly service.

We also keep in mind not to have the same things recurring day after day. Additionally, all of our guests are offered an hour-long complimentary golf lesson.

Which is the best time for playing golf?

It is possible to play on our golf course all year round, and you can usually play in just a T-shirt because even in December and January the weather is very agreeable here. With regards to temperature, the best months for playing golf are March and April. But the best time to come here to have a vacation with the whole family is in May and the summer months afterwards, because then the sea water and the swimming pools are warm, so the family members who do not play golf can enjoy the water or relax at the beach. In May, the ideal situation is that you can be at the beach with your family for the whole day, and since the Carya golf course has this unique type of lighting, you can then come and play golf in the evening when it is dark outside.

Is there anything else special about playing golf and having a vacation in Turkey?

Luxurious and high-quality service is inherent to Turkey — as well as sincerity and kindness. The Turks have this in their blood. If anyone knocks on a Turk’s door in the middle of the night, saying that they do not have a place to sleep, then they will be invited to come in and will be offered accommodation. We treat all visitors as our guests, and we want you all to enjoy your stay here.

The package holidays that the agents sell include every detail, so you do not have to worry about anything. As soon as you step outside the plane at the airport, it is the last time you will touch your suitcase. You will be picked up by a transfer vehicle that will take you to the hotel, and they will look after your suitcase; if you bought a package which allows you to play on golf different courses, then the transfer vehicle will also takes you to each course, bring you back to the hotel and then later take you to the airport. Guests do not have to worry about anything. All of the travel agents work very hard to ensure everything is very luxurious. Our package holidays may be somewhat more expensive than some others, but having an all-inclusive holiday where everything is arranged for you will still make it cheaper than playing golf in many other countries. If you buy a golf trip package for Turkey, then you can in theory leave your wallet behind, because absolutely everything is organised in advance.

How did you find your way into golf?

My older brother Mehmet (who is the Head Pro in Carya) worked as a caddy at a golf club near our home, and I too became fascinated by working there. Although initially, I could not work there since the course was mountainous and I did not have much strength as I was too young.

Then one day the club decided to form a youth team and one of my friends, who was 5 years older than me, asked whether I would like to come and try out for the team. I did not tell him that my brother worked there and that he might get upset about that. I had already practised golf a little bit because my brother had brought home a golf club and a ball, and there was an empty field next to our house where I could practise with that one club. Since this land was very uneven, I played by choosing some large rocks in the field and imagining that they were the places (like the greens) where I had to hit the ball. Although I was too young to apply for the team, the coach said to the others that I could try out too. The other candidates were about 16 or 17 years old and I was only about 10. They had more strength, and they could hit the ball as far as 150-160 metres, but their balls flew unevenly, to the right and then to the left. My strikes were short — only about 80 metres or so — but all of my balls flew directly to one and the same place. The coach liked this and he asked me to join in the lessons. So it all really started with me practising in that small field.

At some point they started to assemble the youth team, and I was chosen to be a part of it. Soon I became the captain of the team, and after that my life revolved around golf — I would rush to the golf course straight after school, while still changing my clothes, and my mother would give me half a sandwich to eat on the way. Every day, I ran for half an hour to get to the golf course and then practised there for an hour. I was 11 at that time, but I was a member of the team and I trained every day. I also saw many successful and rich golfers and thought that maybe one day I too could be a good golfer. After two or three years, I was elected to the national team where I played for five years, and right after graduating from school, I started working here. I graduated in 2013 and I have worked here ever since. In 2014, I became the head of this golf club.

Have you been to Estonia and do you know any players from here?

I have been to Estonia and I played golf on Saaremaa. I also have many friends in Estonia, one of whom is Erko Täht.

Also, read an interview with the Carya Head Pro, Mehmet Ceylan. Mehmet talks about the different types of training programmes offered at Carya, and gives recommendations about training techniques.

Read an interview with Mr Mehmet Ceylan (Head Pro of Carya Golf Club)

Mehmet, when visitors come to Carya to play golf for a longer period of time, what kind of training can be undertaken here, in addition to playing rounds of golf?

We have a large variety of training packages — you can sign up for intensive training that will last for several hours, or you can take a longer training session that will last for a couple of days. You can also participate in group training and go onto the course with a pro.

If a person chooses a longer training programme, for instance, one that lasts for three or four days, then we will definitely encourage this person to go on the course together with a pro. If you only play on the range or on the training course, it may become a little boring. I think that the most important thing, as a part of the training, is that the person also plays on the course because this is where you truly fall in love with this game.

How long does a tourist usually come here to play and to train?

The average duration of a learning and playing visit is a week; however, I have many students who come here for two or three weeks as well. Those who come here for a week or longer will usually book a specific tee time for each day. Prior to playing on the course, they will have a couple of hours of training with a pro. Additionally, we go onto the course together every couple of days. To my mind, the best way to learn is to practise for 1-2 hours, and then go on the course to play a round.

So there is 1-2 hours of practising and after that a round on the course with a pro?

Yes, you should definitely go and play on the course after a training session. When I go onto the course with my students, I never teach them too much; the only thing I say is “stand, focus and aim”. If I started to teach them on the course, it would interfere with the game and the game would not be enjoyable. Instead, on the course I observe them playing, and I make a note of their weaknesses and the things to improve in the upcoming training sessions. If I see that someone on the course is stuck in some earlier instruction, then I will say “play golf the way you can”. The training session is the time to polish your technique, and the game on the course should be enjoyable and without any tensions. Playing on the course together with a pro is also essential because every person is different, and these differences are revealed much more clearly on the course. I cannot teach every student in my group to use a uniform swing, I have to teach each of them individually. In the training session, we focus on individual things that need to be improved.

But what about other training activities? What else can the golfers do besides playing golf?

One thing that I would definitely recommend is some fitness activities. Without fitness, it is extremely difficult to improve and to change your golf swing. Also, the most important thing is stretching, because muscles can become tense and in order to play well, the golfer’s muscles have to be well stretched and relaxed. I also recommend Pilates for golfers. Their overall physique must be good in order to play 18 holes without becoming tired.

I would say if you combine fitness and golf training, a golfer will achieve the best results.

Generally speaking, how much will a person improve their skills within a week, and how much will their HCP decrease?

That can be very different for different individuals. For many golfers, their HCP decreases substantially. However, one thing is certain — after a couple of days of training every golfer will definitely notice important changes in their game. Some people may acquire new skills quickly and internalise them within a couple of weeks, but for others it may take a month or even longer. One thing I always recommend is that when the training is finished, the golfers should make sure to keep practising and internalising their knowledge. Often, I also give my students notes about the things they could practise at home.

When is the best time to come and play golf in Turkey?

The best times are from the end of February to the end of May, and again from September to December. My own favourite month for playing golf is in April. Although it is quite hot to play golf in Europe in the summer, we have one great advantage — our golf course has lighting. Therefore, you can also play on the course when it is dark and cooler outside. It is great to play golf on our course, even in the summer!

How many coaches do you have?

Besides me, there are 4 other pros. My schedule is mostly full and this is mainly because of the fact that many of my friends from different countries, who I have studied and played with, have recommended me to others. Also, I am the only official TaylorMade fitter in Turkey, and this is one reason why so many golfers come here. The official TaylorMade centre at the Carya golf course is one of only four such centres in Europe.

How would you popularise golf and make it more popular among children?

Yes, golf is not very popular in Turkey, and people tend to think that it is a sport for old people. In Germany, however, golf is very popular and there are different clubs that compete against each other in different leagues. By the way, often whole teams of golfers come to play here from Germany.

I think that different kinds of competition series should be created, in order to popularise golf and to create interest in children. This is very important for children because they like to compete. If golf instruction only included playing on the course and teaching techniques on the range, children would quickly become bored. Children also find it interesting to play together with adults. I personally really enjoy playing golf with children, because as you play, they learn just by watching you. I have some 4-5 year old students in my classes.

How long have you played golf?

I have played golf for a total of 19 years. I started when I was 11, and I played as an amateur for the first 9 years. I have now been a pro for 10 years, and I have worked at the Carya Club for 6 years.

Do you have time to play golf yourself?

Yes, I really like to play myself, but it is quite difficult to find the time. I try to play a game at least once a week, and always try to improve my skills.

Have you had any students from Estonia?

Not that I recall. But I do have very many good friends in Estonia, one of whom is Erko Täht.

More details about the Carya Golf Club

The first classic, heathland style golf course

Carya Golf Club, in Antalya’s Belek Region,is the first classic, heatland style golf course to be built on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.set on undulating sand hills, Carya is a championship golf course at the heart of Turkey’s golf coast.

Grown in an exensive nursery on site, Carya’s heather shapes define the course into a truly magnificent spectacle. The 7,186 yards, par 72 course, is a demanding test of golfing strategy with free flowing holes rhat run between pine and eucalyptus trees and across a dramatic sand ridge.

Carya boasts a Player’s Course, a world class Gold Academy and spectacular new Club House.

Golf day & Night Carya Golf Club

Being one of the most popular country clubs of Turkey, “Carya Golf Club” has launched the first lighted golf course of Europe with a major investment.

By lighting the last 9 holes out of totally 18 holes, Carya Golf Club offers the opportunity of playing golf at night with the comfort of daylight. In this way, the guests can enjoy playing golf under the warm climate of Mediterranean Sea up until late at night. Having been selected as the best golf destination in 2008, Belek Resort has been literally flooded by golf lovers since then.

It is nearly impossible to find place in the courses during intense golf seasons in Belek that is preferred thanks to its attractive facilities offered by luxurious hotels.

Moreover, there was the problem that some games couldn’t be finished due to short days between the months of September and May in Belek resort especially for the games that start in the afternoon. Thanks to this particular project, not only such problems are eliminated but also there is the chance to discover the advantageous and joyful sides of playing golf at night.

The ball is clearly visible since lighting is provided from 36 meters high up to 250 Lux and the background is darker. Furthermore, players feel like they play in completely different 9 holes since the course turns into a whole another environment with the lighting.

About Course

The course is inspired by the traditional old English style heathland courses in the surrey area outside of London such as Wentworth, Sunningdale, Walton Heath and The Berkshire.

The construction of Carya Golf Course has involved the planting of close to 1 million heather plants to strengthen the heathland environment that already exisits.

Carya Golf Club is open to golf lovers of any age and skill level. The Course is designed to challenge the best players, but at the same time be a throughly enjoyable experience for people at all levels.

Carya adds a new concept and raises the bar even greater to the already popular and high standards of golf in Belek.

Technical details of the course

Design THOMSON PERRETT & LOBB Golf Course Architects
Construction Start August 2007
Planting Start April 2008
Grand Opening November 2008
Location Belek – Antalya
Surface 260 acres (104 ha), heathland course set in pine forest
Handicap Women 36
Handicap Men 28
Greens Average per green approximately 600 m2
Tees Five tees per hole
Fairways Challenging and undulating with plenty of strategic options
Bunkers 75 with heather covered edges
Lakes 3
Driving Range Double ended with a unique two story Academy building with 22 bays and two teaching studios.
Putting Green 2300 m2 – 130 meters long!
Chipping & Pitching Green Yes
Golf Cars Yes
Rental Clubs Yes
Golf Lessons Available by Fully P.G.A Qualified Professionals Spikes Carya Golf
Spikes Carya Golf Club is a non – metal spike facility
Proshop Golf equipments for rent and sale, Golf clothing available from well known European and local brands.