The Turkish Airlines Open has been referred to as the latest and most exciting addition to the European Tour calendar, becoming the penultimate event of the high profile International golfing tournament in 2015.
A report published by auditors KPMG during the Turkish Airlines Open identifies Turkey as a rising star among golf destinations, following a phenomenal surge in the country's golf tourism over the past decade. The Open is set to continue as part of the European Tour's Final Series for at least another three years and KPMG's research reveals considerable potential for golf to continue to grow in Turkey as more courses and facilities are created.
According to the report, golf has played a pivotal role in the remarkable growth of tourism in Turkey, particularly over the last decade, moving from 12th in the world in 2004 to sixth in 2014 in terms of the number of tourists the company welcomes. Turkey now receives 12% of its GDP through the travel and tourism sector and golf plays a significant role in the country's appeal to tourists. The report states: "Turkey has led the way among emerging markets in developing a competitive and attractive golfing offering".
The report shows that golf in Turkey remains focused on the area known as the 'Golf Coast', which is located around Antalya. Belek has become particularly popular and is an area that has experienced 'extraordinary growth' in the past ten years compared to the rest of Europe. Since 2004 the number of golf clubs in the area has tripled and the number of rounds played is now over two and a half times higher. In 2014 a whopping 513,000 rounds of golf were played in the region and KPMG found that Belek now ranks as the top performing destination in the Mediterranean.
The growth of the game in Turkey, although primarily fueled by tourism is also stimulating golfing talent among Turkey's population – in particular with younger golfers. The Turkish Golf Federation has a 45% junior membership, representing the highest proportion of young players of any federation in Europe.
Ahmet Ağaoğlu, the president of the Turkish Golf Federation, said: "It has been my pleasure to see the growth of this great sport in my country over the past few years. The report's findings are no surprise to me, as I see every day the enthusiasm and excitement people get from playing golf in this beautiful country. I look forward to seeing the continued growth of Turkey as golf's rising star".
The global head of sport at KPMG, Andrea Sartori, said: "Our findings show that Turkey has great development potential. With a progressing tourism industry, fantastic climatic conditions, a highly successful junior program, and the commitment of stakeholders and sponsors to continue to support the game, golf in Turkey looks to have a very bright future".
Golf tourism remains a significant pull for visitors throughout Europe, particularly in Spain and Portugal where there have been many world-class golf courses attracting tourists for decades. However, the emergence of Turkey in the international golfing calendar as a destination for world champion players is set to place the country very much under the radar of golfers around the world seeking new challenges at the exciting courses available there.