Ten years ago Turkey didn’t exactly spring to mind when thinking about the world’s great golf destinations.

Yet 2008 saw the country crowned ‘Best Golf Destination Of The Year In Europe’ by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO).

Sitting outside the Eurozone and only a short flight from the UK, astute players are now realizing that world- class golf in the Mediterranean doesn’t just mean Spain and Portugal.

With the construction of international class courses well underway and more planned, Turkey really is golf’s next big thing.

The Turkish Golf Federation has ambitious plans for 100 courses nationwide in the next 15 years, up from just 17 today. Big names in the world of golf design are already active in the country, driving up the quality of design and facilities.

The challenging 18-hole Montgomerie Course, which opened at the Papillion Golf Club in Belek, Antalya in October last year, was designed by legendary Scottish golfer Colin Montgomerie. A Nick Faldo signature course, the 27-hole Cornelia Faldo, has been operational since 2006 nearby.

With an estimated four million golfers in the UK and Ireland and around 60 million golfers worldwide, the Turkish government is keen to tap into this huge market as part of its plans to diversify the country’s tourist industry, which is already one of the fastest growing in the world.

The Association of British Travel Agents reported a 20 percent increase in holiday bookings for Turkey in 2008 compared to the previous year.

Turkey appeals to British golfers thanks to its pleasant Mediterranean climate, with ideal playing conditions throughout the year.

“The country offers year-round golfing with the mild, sunny winter weather making a particularly attractive alternative to the cold, wet British weather. Even in the hottest months of July and August early-risers can get a round in and be relaxing by the pool before things get too hot,” said Laurence Kaye of Alternative Travel, a specialist Turkish golf travel operator.

Ease of accessibility with plenty of charter flights and flying time of only three-an- a- half hours also recommend the country.

Traditionally golf in Turkey has been centered on Istanbul and the resort of Belek, 30 kilometers east of the city of Antalya. However, the cosmopolitan Aegean resort of Bodrum now has three courses open or in the final stages of construction, with four more planned for the area.

This has encouraged development to meet the demand for quality accommodation from golfers, be it for rent or purchase. In the Tulza area, for example, the first of two classically designed 18-hole golf courses opened earlier this summer at the Vita Park Golf Club, with the second course due to open in 2009. Surrounding the courses are a number of residential developments offering affordable property to purchase.

The Hilton Hotel Group’s decision to create a €100m luxury resort around an 18-hole golf courses at Sarigerme, just 15 kilometers from Dalaman airport, is another indicator of the growth of golf in Turkey. Scheduled to open in 2009, the Hilton Dalaman Golf and Spa Resort will be a major boost for tourism locally and cause a healthy rise in property values in the areas of Sarigerme, Akkaya and Dalaman.