On February 2, 1953 an 18 year old Vassilis Constantakopoulos embarked the ship for the very first time. He had taken up a 6-month unpaid job. 21 years later he had made it up to Shipmaster and decided to start his own shipping company. He named it Costamare and this would be the foundation to make the dream of Costa Navarino – today one of Europe’s best golf resorts – become reality. A group of Leadingcourses Ambassadors experienced this dream type venue in May 2019.
Costa Navarino Dunes
Not only formed by high-end hotels, but also two outstanding golf courses (so far –two new ones are in the making and will be ready by 2022) Costa Navarino is something special and we are glad that Captain Vassilis got to see the opening of these two fantastic courses before passing in 2011.
The comfortable 7-minute walk from the Westin Hotel to the stunning Dunes clubhouse makes a great start to the day. A statue of Captain Vasillis is ready to welcome players from all over the world at the round-about in front of the club house.
The views from the clubhouse are exceptional. The quality of the turf, the building and even the food served by a great trained staff make the whole experience special.
World-renowned golfer Bernhard Langer, former US Masters Champion and Ryder Cup Captain, is currently using his vast experience in the field to design spectacular and challenging golf courses of the highest standards. Once again he has done a splendid job fitting 18 outstanding golf holes in this land. The name of the golf course says it all: Very elegant dunes form the roughs and fairways of a technical and beautiful, yet quite open course. Even though it is narrower than the other course at Costa Navarino; The Bay, it is still fairly wide. Wide enough for long hitters to have fun, but it also demands even the scratch players to have a clear strategy on each hole.
“The Dunes Golf Course is not as scenic as the Bay Course” we kept hearing from the very first day. Fair enough. The Bay has views to the sea from at least twelve holes, but The Dunes is fantastic from the very first tee shot. A demanding par 4 welcomes every level of player, together with a quite big green and strategic sand traps well positioned through-out the fairway, just like the rest of the holes. The course definitely has it all in order to be beautiful.
We were surprised with the comment just mentioned, because the second hole is already downhill into the Mediterranean Sea. We truly asked Nuno, the General Manager: “What do you mean not scenic!? This is stunning!” It is easy to get distracted with these views and miss judge the distance to the bunkers.
The last three holes, par 5 – 3 – 5, have an intriguing design which make the end of this round a great for everybody from beginners to professionals.
Afterwards you can enjoy a well-prepared dinner at The Flame Restaurant, which is another highlight of the facility.
Here you not only have a beautiful sunset overlooking the course and the ocean but also amazing Greek salads and steak dishes that are expertly cooked from the finest quality locally sourced meat.
The challenging Dunes Golf Course and the scenic Bay Course, together with the upcoming new Olazábal course that is being designed at the moment (on top of a big hill) makes the Peloponnese a great destination for families, couples, friends, big teams and even company events. Costa Navarino is ready to welcome everybody, since they have the facilities ready to do so.
The most impressive thing? They keep it at such a low-key environment that the guest feels like he is the only one around.
Costa Navarino Bay
Evaluating Costa Navarino’s Bay Course is not easy having played it only once. On this course numbers and facts become less important. The challenge, excitement and fun when playing, are much more important. The impact from the scenery and distant views is so big that you hardly even notice the temporary construction site, which is there for the future routing and new clubhouse.
Some facts: The (yellow tees) Bay Course is a PAR 71, of 5232 meters. It’s challenge is clearly marked by a slope of 132. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. the course follows the architect’s central theory of “a difficult par, an easy bogey” and fits well in the natural circumstances Trent Jones JR was given. The use of a buggy is a must, not because of long fairways but due to long distances from greens to tees. Additionally one has to surmount a height of almost 400 meters following the holes. Many of us might find this a little bit to exhausting…
The surrounding infrastructure in may 2019: The reception area does not (yet) meet high expectations on the first view. It is located in some combined temporary shipping containers, but offering everything for a short stay before starting the game. Very well trained and friendly staff take care for the golfers needs. There is a coffee bar, a small pro shop and (warm) snacks on demand afterwards. The proximity to the hotel – only a 10min free shuttle – makes it easy to just have a shower in your hotel room. However, the remarkable new clubhouse will be opened early summer 2019.
Today’s training area still lack some options. Just behind the bar, there is a small putting green. It takes a much longer drive with a golf cart to get up to the driving range which is located on a hill. Not long from now this will all change though.
The Bay course offers everything a golfer wants: fun, excitement and the challenge. The first two holes guide the golfer to the beach, easy to play and good to warm up. The 3rd ends with an outlook into the Bay while making the final putt. And fairways 4 and 5 are just parallel to the beach with the whisper of little waves in your ears. Leaving the waterfront, the walk/drive uphill and downhill will reward every player with breathtaking views on the Navarino Bay.
The Course’s face changes a lot when passing the eleventh hole and getting an impression of the rocky “inland” Mediterranean landscapes. The Bay Course is a diversified and challenging course and the greenkeepers do a hell of a good job. Fairways, bunkers and greens meet highest standards and expectations. Indicators clearly show the way and buggies are equipped with all necessary supplies. This includes a very easy to follow navigation system to support any golfer who is doing his very first round.
The nearby future
The Team of Leadingcourses was invited to visit the construction site in detail, getting access to the unopened clubhouse as well as getting an image of the upcoming routing and infrastructure changes. The new clubhouse is embedded into the mountain’s top. It’s terrace and wide window are offering an even better overview of the fairways down below to the beach, the scenic bay and the whole surrounding area. It will become a luxurious place just like the accompanyin Westin Resort and The Romanos, and it will meet even the highest expectations. No doubt about it.
The new routing will be perfectly adapted to the new infrastructure: Tee boxes #1 and #10 are close to the club house, the 9th and 18th hole end just below the terrace and invite spectators to watch. The practice areas will be easily accessible in the near future and there will be enough parking space without affecting the overall space.
My personal review: I enjoyed the course a lot, mostly the green of the 5th and the way up to hole 8. It was not too hard to hit the greens in regulation but to stay on two putts was a big challenge. I did not play my hcp that day – too many outstanding views forced me to take the camera first and then change to the clubs.
I will play the Bay Course again for two reasons: To enjoy the incredible course and its breathtaking views of the Bay again – I could not get enough of this. And to experience the new routing which comes into play with the clubhouse opening. These factors both promise to catapult an extraordinary course to an even higher level.
Captain Vassilis’ dream
In 1974 the Captain acquired his first ship, it was small, only a thousand ton. But from here he went on to create an empire. In 2006, Costamare celebrated 32 years in the maritime business, employing more than 2.000 people.
It wasn’t until the mid 1980´s Captain Vassilis dream about Costa Navarino was born. The idea was to show the world what the Captain thought was one of the most beautiful places on earth, and during a retreat in Switzerland golf also became a part of this dream. By this time the Costamare had become the largest independent cargo company in the world and using some of his profit he founded a new company named Temes.
Using Temes Captain Vasilis wanted to build a unique structure in his birthplace to help the local economy. Before passing away in 2011 he had spent more than 1.2 billion Euros and employed more locals than ever imaginable in order to make his dream come true.
But at least he got to see some of his dream materialize and we are very happy to have enjoyed his creation.