Costa Navarino: Liquid gold and fields of green beside a sea of blue

By Brandon TuckerJune 1, 2012, 3:05 pm

MESSINIA, Greece -- Headlines in the U.S. about Greece these days usually have words like 'austerity' and 'default,' accompanying stories of disgruntled bondholders and helpless politicians.

But an ambitious new development is quietly unfolding about a three-hour drive southwest from Athens, Costa Navarino.

The mood here, along the sunny shores of the Mediterranean Sea, is upbeat. In the past year, the development has doubled up on the existing Westin hotel and Dunes golf course with the new The Romanos luxury hotel and new 18-hole Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Bay Course that further solidifies Greece as a golf destination ripening on the Mediterranean vine.

Captain's orders at Costa Navarino

Voidokilia Beach

Like so many places in Greece, Navarino's legend dates back millenniums. It's most recently known by Greeks as the home of the battle of Navarino Bay in 1827, which took place in the midst of the Greek war of independence against the Ottoman Empire. The battle, eventually won by the allied powers, was waged in an unbelievably picturesque, crescent-shaped bay that is minutes from Costa Navarino. Today, you can visit the sandy beach or hike or drive up to a lookout point to gaze upon the setting from above, picturing 19th-century naval ships firing cannons at one another in the name of independence.

Costa Navarino's vision of the future stems from beloved local Vassilis Constantakopoulos. Known simply to most as 'The Captain,' he was raised in Messinia and established a successful Greek shipping company, Costamare, as well helped pioneer new environmental practices in his industry.

In the years before his passing in 2011, he had turned his full attention to revitalizing his home with a world-class, ecologically- sustainable resort. Over 90% of the property will remain indigenous, Many buildings are earth-sheltered and have 'living roofs' to assist with the natural cooling of buildings, while many restaurants and other public areas are predominantly open-air.

For food & beverage, as much produce will be grown here locally as possible to support every dining venue. Throughout the property, there are thousands of living olive trees. During construction of the golf courses and resort, about 6,000 were successfully transported and replaced - a tall order considering many of these fragile trees are centuries old.

Golf at Costa Navarino

Dunes Course, No. 2

The second hole on the Dunes Course at Costa Navarino. 

While Navarino has been a top summer getaway in recent years, golf will help bring a cooler-season audience to Messinia, where the game can be enjoyed year round in temperate climes.

There are just a handful of golf courses in the country, but Troon Golf-managed Costa Navarino boasts two world-class courses that deserve a seat at the table among the best one-two punches of the Mediterranean's more-trafficked golf hotspots like the Costa Del Sol or Algarve regions.

Bernhard Langer designed the flagship Dunes Course in association with European Golf Design. The course presents a handful of holes tough enough to command attention from Europe's best players, though considering the majority of Greek residents and central Europe is in its golfing infancy, there are plenty of shorter, breather holes from forward tee sets. The second, for example, is a drivable par 4 that tumbles downhill to a green overlooking the Mediterranean -- and presents the confident, downhill kicks and beauty that will make any new golfer think this game may be worth playing awhile.

Jones had even more bayside property to work with on the Bay Course, which opened in the fall of 2011. The mission, in Jones' words, was to 'not design a Top 100 course, but a Top 100 'fun' course.' With more gentle shaping than the Dunes, landing zones are large and green complexes often come equipped with backstops or sidehills that may yield a friendly kick toward the pin.

On both courses, smells of fertile flowers and plants remind golfers not to lollygag too long on the course; dinner reservations await.

View more photos of the Bay Course and Dunes Course

Starwood's Westin and The Ramanos at Costa Navarino


Guests can choose between two new Starwood-operated hotels located side by side at Costa Navarino, the Westin and The Romanos, a Luxury Collection property. Westin and The Romanos suites have the option of private patios, pools or even sandy walkways to the beach.

The two hotels share a common village area, where there are a handful of restaurants, pools, an outdoor dinner theatre and shops. Culinary options, as you'd expect in Greece, steal the show. Omega, for example, doubles as both a cooking school and dining room by night, teaching students the benefits and ways to have a rich diet in Omega-3s. Local ingredients are used in restaurants that offer Asian fusion, Italian or traditional Greek. Or, for breakfast or a post-lunch pick-me-up, guests can enjoy a thick, strong Greek coffee that boils beans strained through sand.

Olive oil is abundant no matter where you dine, as the Messinia region produces what the poet Homer once called 'liquid gold.' Costa Navarino produces its own extra virgin olive oil, plus vinegars, cheeses and wines that can be enjoyed at the table or packed in the suitcase for the flight home.

Getting to Costa Navarino

Costa Navarino is located near Pylos in Messinia on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. From Athens, it's a three-to-four-hour drive along a newly built modern highway. There is a closer airport within a 30-minute drive, Kalamata. It receives flights from a variety of destinations from European carriers, including Star Alliance partner Aegean Airlines.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.