Gary Player Design is targeting 2020 as a soft opening for the Luštica Bay layout in Montenegro. The course – which will be the country’s first – is currently in construction, with nine holes expected to be completed in 2021.
The golf course is part of a development project between Swiss-Egyptian firm Orascom Development and the Montenegro government, which includes a hotel, marina, on course villas and marina village residences. The site is a few miles from the walled town of Kotor, which dates from the fifth century.
“I was amazed by the beauty of the property, wildlife and natural terrain with the incredible views over the Adriatic Sea,” said Gary Player. “That’s something quite rare these days for a golf course design project, being able to see the water from almost all of the holes. And from the other holes, golfers will have breath-taking views of the Kotor Bay and the mountains beyond. No doubt it will be a spectacular course when it opens.
Senior designer Steven McFarlane added: “The course has dramatic elevation changes throughout the layout. The topography is quite steep so the shaping and contouring will be very bold and dynamic with stepped fairways, small cavernous bunkers, and small putting surfaces that will nestle into the steep topography. We are going to manufacture our own capping sand from the excavated rock by crushing it to the appropriate specification and all the irrigation water will be treated effluent from the nearby town.”
Player said: “We were absolutely thrilled to secure such a beautiful piece of property for what is going to be an outstanding course. We think of designing a golf course as a privilege to work with nature and a way of introducing people from all over the world to places they would possibly never visit. This particular part of the world is so incredibly beautiful and tranquil, and the view of the Adriatic Sea and Kotor Bay enhances the whole visual appeal.
“It is my understanding there are not many local golfers, but already the locals are interested. The practice driving range, which opened last year, is being used just as if the course was open for play. So, it’s nice to see the excitement building as we get closer to opening day.”
The Chedi Luštica Bay hotel was completed and opened in 2018, and the marina village residences are also open.
“The Balkans is a beautiful part of the world,” said Player. “We would be delighted to start another project in Montenegro or the surrounding countries, but Luštica Bay is the one we are focusing on at the moment. Our design team is working on some feasibility studies for projects in Albania, Bosnia, Serbia and Romania so it’s a very active part of the world for us right now.
“What really stands out to me is Montenegro’s overall tourism potential. Not that I have explored the country in its entirety, but it has a very undeveloped old world feel. We look at that as a positive attribute. The sky is the limit. What is the saying, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’? Speaking of Rome, Montenegro had this unique historical feel to it, which can help with tourism and we hope we can also help by designing and building some wonderful golf courses and resorts.
“My goal is to grow the game of golf globally. A task I have undertaken since my golfing prime when ‘the big three’ were playing all of the world. And we’ve seen golf take off in countries like Japan, India and China. Several Top 100 players in the world now hail from those countries. As a country, you have to believe that if you start making golf a priority and develop talent at the youth level, you will find the gem that becomes a Major champion. Think Henrik Stenson from Sweden or Novak Djokovic from Serbia.”