Ahead of this week’s Volvo World Match Play Championship, europeantour.com looks into the new host venue for this year’s tournament, the spectacular Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort in Bulgaria.
Perched on the soaring rugged cliff tops high above the picture-perfect blue expanse of the Black Sea in Kavarna, Thracian Cliffs is surely one of the most dramatic settings seen in the history of not only the World Match Play Championship, but The European Tour.
Described by some as “Europe’s Pebble Beach”, Thracian Cliffs certainly retains elements of the renowned Californian layout as The European Tour this week visits its 40th different country, and 67th across all three tours.
Just as Jack Neville attempted to take as many holes to the rocky Pacific coastline as possible at Pebble, the Black Sea borders eight of the holes at this year’s World Match Play Championship, meaning that wind speed and direction will certainly be a major factor for the 24 players to contend with this week.
Opened just two years ago in 2011, you could say that Thracian Cliffs was always destined to become a World Match Play venue.
Designed by legendary Gary Player, winner of five World Match Play Championships between 1965 and 1973 and a beaten finalist in 1974, the famed South African’s Signature course is clearly exposed, often undulating and boasts numerous stunning changes in elevation from tee to green.
At 7,291 yards and playing to a par of 72, Thracian Cliffs certainly offers plenty of risk and reward opportunity for the likes of Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell to take on this week in the 48th edition of the Volvo World Match Play, 50 years after Arnold Palmer triumphed in the inaugural edition in 1964.
The most distinctive section of the layout perhaps comes towards the conclusion of the outward nine, as players reach the 231-yard eighth, a simply breath-taking par three that features a 40 metre drop in elevation from the teeing area to a green cut out of the craggy cliff edge.
This is followed by the iconic ninth, where drives are struck from a magnificent island tee box built into the Black Sea and reached by a small bridge, offering incredible views down the Cape Kaliakra.
With the drama of Match Play golf set to meet head on with the dramatic location of Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort, the 2013 Volvo World Match Play Championship promises to be a fascinating occasion.
WHAT THEY SAID
The Course Designer – Gary Player
“They are going to get such a beautiful surprise; they are going to see one of the most beautiful golf courses on the planet. I don’t know many golf courses where you can see the ocean from every hole and you play along the cliffs. You will not find a golf course like this anywhere else on the planet. They are in for a great treat.”
The Head Professional – Vesselin Savoia
“We obviously have the signature holes of the eighth and the ninth, but there is also the third hole, which is almost 700 yards long, too. But I think one of the most challenging things about playing this course for the first time is concentrating on playing golf because the golf course is so beautiful and so spectacular that everyone spends almost six hours a round. Taking pictures on every tee box, where there are amazing views everywhere. Sometimes people come back having lost six or ten golf balls in their round and yet they are still happy.”
The Tournament Director – Jose Maria Zamora
“One of the most picturesque golf courses to be found in Europe. Volvo have been famous for breaking new grounds and coming to Bulgaria is another example. They did it in China a very long time ago and are doing it again this week coming to a place where there is very little tradition of golf, but they are putting down a footing and you have to admire Volvo’s ambition in that sense.”