Rocky site for Olazabal Design’s Navarino Hills courses

  • Navarino

    The par-three twelfth hole of the in-progress Olazabal Design layout at Costa Navarino in Greece

  • Navarino

    A view across the Bay of Navarino from the new course site

  • Navarino

    The rocky site means construction work has been necessarily slow (pictured, the par-three sixteenth)

Adam Lawrence
By Adam Lawrence

The Costa Navarino destination in the south-west of Greece’s Peleponnese will expand from two to three resorts and from two to four golf courses when the Navarino Hills development opens in 2022.

The Hills site, which lies above the Navarino Bay development, with stunning views of the Bay course and the Bay of Navarino itself, is the largest of four parcels of land acquired by developer TEMES and planned, eventually, to constitute four separate golf resorts. The design firm of double Masters champion José María Olazábal is in charge of the project, which involves two courses, currently with working titles of West and East, being built simultaneously, though construction of the West course is further advanced than the East. A second large reservoir, this one capable of holding 500,000 cubic metres of water, is being built as part of the project, and eventually the Hills site will also include villas and a small ‘eco-retreat’ hotel.

Construction has been on the go for not far short of two years, but there is still no sign of any grass, and indeed quite a few of the holes are still shaped in the rocky subsoil, waiting for the loamy imported topsoil that will serve as a growing medium. This confirms what a quick look at the site makes obvious; this has been, is and will continue to be a difficult build. Although the site is not as mountainous as it might seem from the very steep access road – it is more like an upland plateau with a steep escarpment at one side – it is fundamentally mostly rock. On top of this, for environmental reasons, no blasting has been permitted, so once the hole corridors are cleared of the indigenous vegetation (which is mostly olive trees, rosemary and other aromatic plants, what would be known in the south of France as ‘garrigue’) they are followed by rock hammers. This is necessarily a slow process. Construction work is in the hands of Greek contractor AP Maragakis, the same firm that built the Dunes and Bay courses.

It is a little early to start opining on how the courses will play. The West, which will be the ‘championship’ course, stretching to 6,423 metres (7,024 yards) from the black tees, occupies the prime real estate, the stretch of escarpment on the western side of the site. Two spectacular par threes, the twelfth and sixteenth, will hang off the edge of these cliffs. The East course is designed to be a little more rough and natural, and will work its way into the interior of the site, with about 75 metres of elevation change in total. Grassing is expected to start on the West later this year, with a potential soft opening in late 2021.