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Golf Tourism Statistics in Bulgaria

Bulgaria is relentless in its pursuit to become a centre for quality according to recent golf tourism statistics, which will further develop its up and coming image and bring with it additional wealth from avid fans of the sport. Golf tourism is expected to boom with a predicted growth of 10% each year and research shows that golf tourists spend anything from 400 to 500 euros per day compared to regular package tourists who spend around 50 to 100 euros - so great for rentals! Kuncho Kunchev, a large investor in the Black Sea Rama golf complex near Balchik, said that he chose to invest in golf because, “Without quality golf courses, Bulgaria will remain a cheap destination. It will continue to attract tourist flows, but without any major impact on the economy.”

Bulgaria’s potential as leading golf destination - Shrewd investors like Kunchev have seen the potential in Bulgaria to become a popular destination for golfers. Its summer climate and natural surroundings are similar to those in Spain, which has grown into one of the world’s most popular golfing destinations. Golf is also considered to be good for the environment, preserving vast tracts of natural land. Ihtimen in Sofia covers around 6,000 metres of parkland and also offers horse riding, swimming, tennis, volleyball, basketball, football and even ten pin bowling. Golf courses on Bulgaria’s northern coast will also offer a full package of sport including links to nearby yacht ports, and many courses are tying-in with Bulgaria’s vast spa resorts. Views from the courses perched on the ragged limestone cliffs across the sea are spectacular and uninterrupted. It’s no wonder that property near to these coastal courses has attracted buyers who are not even golf players!

The Bulgarian government is also considering plans to promote further construction of golf courses. One proposal is to provide investors with free government land, on the condition that they turn it into a golf course. This proposal met with some opposition and the government was criticised for failing to tackle the country’s infrastructure problems, this fact was supported by some of the would-be investors who stressed that improvements to the infrastructure were crucial to support future tourist growth.

Bulgarian’s to date have not been keen golfers, although more effort is being put into promoting the sport amongst the indigenous population. In order to encourage wealthy Bulgarians to participate in the sport, Malcolm Campbell’s book about golf has been translated into Bulgarian and includes many supplementary pictures of popular Bulgarian stars and politicians participating in the sport. Another incentive for Bulgarian’s to take up the sport is of a financial nature; golf equipment is cheaper to buy than ski gear and at Air Sofia golf courses under 18s can receive free golf lessons from a qualified golf professional.

Focus on the courses today - Currently, Bulgaria has only a handful of functioning golf courses; St. Sofia Golf Club & Spa, 15 km from the capital, Golf Club Air Sofia in Ihtiman, 40 km from Sofia and the Golf Course in Sliven. Professional golfer, Gary Player who is involved with a few golf courses in the country believes Bulgaria has the potential for 100 courses.

Bulgarian-based company, Air Sofia owns Ihtiman golf course near Sofia and another course near Sliven. Liliyan Todorov, Air Sofia’s Chairman says that they are planning to build another course close to the capital. He believes that the courses should be constructed first and then services and property developed around them. He scorns those who build property first and then construct a golf course as a secondary stage of the complex.

This year three more courses will open on the northern coast close to Balchik. The three independent courses have been developed by two of the golf world’s leading names; Ian Woosnam and Gary Player. These golf pros have developed four courses in Bulgaria. Welshman, Ian Woosnam’s courses are Lighthouse near Balchik and Pirin, which also benefits from being close to the ski resort Bansko. Gary Player’s courses - both of which are situated on the northern coast - are Thracian Cliffs and Black Sea Rama. He is also helping design a new course further South in the Black Sea resort of Primorski. Ian Woosnam - 2006 captain of the European Ryder Cup - commented on the courses he has designed in Bulgaria; “I’ve done a few golf courses in different parts of the world, but I’ll have to say these are the most impressive that I’ve seen.”

He anticipates that each of his courses will be award winners and hopes that they will, in turn, provide a lot of tourism and employment opportunities for Bulgaria. He adds, “I like to have all players of any standard play the golf course. It doesn’t matter if it’s a beginner playing golf or a professional. Age doesn’t matter. We just want people to enjoy it.” The Woosnam designed Lighthouse is due to open in September 2008, and will be exclusive to owners and those who rent property there.

The Black Sea Rama golf project near Balchik – featuring the Gary Player course - is developed by advertising tycoon Krassimir Gergov, sociologists Andrei Raichev and Kuncho Stoichev, former deputy financial minister Iliya Lingorski, and Georgi Krumov, the head of Equest fund and current Sofia garbage concessionaire. This course is an integral part of a larger development, which will include villas and town houses all within the complex. Its location is also very convenient for the all-important golf tourist; the development is close to Golden Sands and Varna International airport. The Black Sea Rama golf course is expected to open in June 2008 and is likely to be officially opened by Hollywood actor and golf fanatic Morgan Freeman.

Future developments - Terra Tour Services, a subsidiary of Agrohold JSC are set to invest 71.8 million Leva in Pravets Golf & Spa Club close to the town of Pravets, which lies 50km from Sofia. The complex will contain a five-star hotel, a sports complex, an 18-hole PGA standard golf course, a casino, a modern spa centre, apartments, single-family houses and luxury villas. The unique selling point of this resort is that it will have a lot of private spaces with access for club members only. The project was designed by Harradine-Golf, a company which has developed over 200 golf courses worldwide. Construction is due to start this year with a completion date set for 2011.

Hristo Kovachki - a Bulgarian business tycoon who has made money from the energy sector announced that he will enter into a joint venture enterprise with Karlovo municipality to construct a golf course in Banya. Banya Golf and Spa Resort is already under construction and will consist of golf courses and ‘vacation villages’. Kovachki is investing 60 million euros. British construction company RilaDev and Bulgarian company Tempo are also set to invest in Banya with a 25 million euros resort covering 16,000 sq m. The project, known as the Pirinea Complex, will consist of a five-building residential section, a four-star hotel, a conference and business centre and a spa complex. It will also include and facilities for ski, golf, tennis and bowling. The complex is due to be completed by summer 2009 and the anticipated annual return on apartments is seven to eight per cent.

Lyuben Tatarski, mayor of Razlog announced that seven golf courses are to be constructed in the municipality. The first will be in Betlovoto and will cover 90 hectares of land. Another will be located in the village of Kulinoto and will cover 60 hectares. A larger golf complex, covering over 180 hectares of land planned to be built around the villages of Dolno and Gorno Draglishte, Dobarsko and Godlevo. Razlog municipality is investing 72 million Leva over a six-year period to improve the infrastructure so that the area can better cope with the influx of golf tourists. Many more courses are planned for the southern Black Sea coast including the Kalvacha Investment Company’s 160 million Leva course in Pryaporets, near Bourgas. Panayot Reizi, Sozopol’s new mayor has made amendments to the town’s urban zoning plan, enabling the construction of three golf courses, a range of beachfront villas, an aqua park and a small runway for charter planes.

Golf and Ski! - Bulgaria’s ski resorts will also see their fair share of golf tourism with a course planned in Dolna Banya, near Borovets to be known as Ibar Golf Complex. Popular ski resort Bansko will be home to Bansko Bells ski and golf residence. A&V Building, the development company responsible for the course, has put a lot of effort into creating an eco-friendly site, which is set to develop into a year-round holiday destination. Bansko Bells will consist of 114 apartments ranging from studios to two-bedrooms and will run frequent shuttle buses to the nearby signature courses.


One of the most prestigious courses in this area is the Pirin 18-hole course in Bansko- Razlog valley. The golf offers golf enthusiasts the rare opportunity to tee off amongst tree-lined fairways in the morning and then slalom down snow-capped peaks in the afternoon. In the evening you canunwind in the thermal water spas. For investors, the Pirin Golf and Country Club combines exclusivity with affordability. Pirin golf properties are expected to reach higher-than-average capital appreciation, backed by guaranteed year-round rental yields.


More than 65 million people worldwide play golf. To some it is classed as an elitist sport and in some countries annual membership fees are in excess of 100,000 euros. Bulgarian golf membership fees will be low in comparison to the rest of the world, making it another reason why people will be keen to join here. By comparison, Scotland, which has an area of 79,000 sq. m and a population of 5.1 million people, has 400 courses.

A further 15 professional golf courses are already in the pipeline, and experts predict that Bulgaria will be home to around 40 golf courses in the next 10 to 15 years. This will have the added effect of increasing the length of the tourist season to around nine months of the year. The financial investment into golf courses in Bulgaria and the country’s active promotion is liable to increase golf tourism statistics and encourage foreign real estate purchases for a long time to come. If predicted growth and revenue is anything to go by, golf tourism will become yet another reason for tourists to make a bee-line for Bulgaria.