It could be argued that Turkey's love affair with golf took flight with the arrival of Tiger Woods in Antalya for an unofficial tournament, the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final, in 2012.
With him in an eight-man field was Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Webb Simpson, Matt Kucher, Hunter Mahan, Charl Schwartzel and the eventual winner of the medal match-play event, Justin Rose.
The world's greatest golfer was rewarded with a fee of close to $1.5m to showcase his talent, but he was enthusiastic about spreading the gospel and agreed to play in a pre-tournament pro-am to raise money for the Turkish Golfing Federation. Nine teams of three players had the pleasure of playing one hole with the American for the not inconsiderable sum of $100,000 per team. McIlroy's popularity on the world stage at that time was financially less remunerative, but more substantial than the rest of the field.
The occasion indicated that the country's golf authorities were making an expensive pitch to the middle and upper end of the holiday market, that enthusiastic club members from around the world would be greeted by high quality courses and five-star hotels.
The following year Tiger returned for the inaugural Turkish Airlines Open which had by then received official recognition from the European Tour and, to add an eye-catching feature in Istanbul, he teed up a golf ball on the European side of the Bosporus Bridge - which measures 1,560 metres - and drove it to the continent of Asia on the other side. With an attentive presence of spectators, reporters and photographers, the moment echoed far and wide.
Those two years gave golf in Turkey an international face which has expanded ever since and while Spain and Portugal continue to attract the majority of Europeans who like to play with the sun on their back, the quality of the courses on the Turkish Riviera and the low cost of living is making increasing inroads into the European golf pie; and there is no shortage of sunshine there.
Hand-in-hand with the golf federation's endeavours has been the growth of Turkish Airlines and its role in world travel. Having been served by the rather cramped Ataturk Airport for many years, it opened the first stage of the new Istanbul Airport last year with the world's largest single terminal building. The airport has four runways now and will have two more by 2023.
The interior is a delight to the eye as it is imaginatively designed with sufficient space to make movement pleasurable. And for business passengers there are more comforts than you would get in a five-star hotel, including a back and head massage if you so desire as you await departure. When all phases are completed by 2025, the airport will be able to accommodate 200 million passengers a year on a site of 18,930 acres, led by the London design team, Grimshaw.
One of the principal beneficiaries of the golfing boom in Turkey is the town of Belek and, close by, the Gloria Hotel and Golf Resort which is situated on the Turkish Riviera. Here we are talking three hotels within a complex which provides five-star care, five-star dining and five-star facilities.
And close by is the Gloria Sports Arena, the largest sports centre in Turkey with international-standard training facilities which are used by many national teams for over 50 disciplines (it hosted the Welsh team's preparation for the recent Rugby World Cup).
Whatever your needs in the Gloria Serenity Hotel, and that includes an exceptionally well-stocked free bar that is open day and night (yes, all night), they are almost certain to be realised and much that you might not have anticipated will come as a welcome surprise. If the Hammam or Turkish Bath is on your list, you will not be disappointed as it provides sheer luxury with the option of a massage, and if you wish to enjoy it on your own or with a partner, a beautiful decorated Ottoman-style room can be reserved.
Other attractions (some of which require a fee) include windsurfing, jet skiing, sailing, mountain biking, aqua aerobics, all body and face treatments, a nightclub and, if you happen to meet the man or woman of your dreams on a dance floor - a wedding service can be provided. There is also a very sizeable covered auditorium which is used for a variety of shows throughout the year.
Needless to say the golf courses - Gloria Old Course (18 holes, 6,529 metres), New Course (18 holes, 6,523 metres) and the Verde Course (9 holes, 2,967 metres) - are of exceptional quality and the greens in mid-December were of championship standard, if not speed. While torrential rain drove our group to the sanctuary of the clubhouse for a few hours one day, we enjoyed two days without interruption, one adorned with a brilliant blue sky and 20° heat.
January can throw up mixed weather but, come February, the German golfers begin to arrive and in March are followed by Russians; then the influx from the north and west of Europe gets under way.
The numbers travelling from Ireland are increasing, with a group from one Dublin club having booked in three times in recent years for "the exceptional quality provided by the golf courses and the hotel". And if your game needs a little attention, the Academy is the largest training facility in Turkey with five putting greens, six bunker greens, seven chipping and pitching greens and back-up from PGA and TGPA teaching professionals. The driving range has 48 covered bays and 50 grass tee bays.
No excuses then, provided you avoid the all-night bar!
If you decide to make the Gloria complex your holiday destination, do not miss the opportunity to visit Antalya (40 minutes away and transport can be arranged in the hotel), in particular Kaleici and the harbour area which has an abundance of Ottoman architectural beauty and many remains from the Roman era. Highly decorated native boats bob abreast sleek yachts in the crescent-shaped seascape, overlooked by delightful restaurants, with narrow, age-old cobbled backstreets wending their way up through hundreds of shops and stalls where purchases are made in a manner reminiscent of market towns in Ireland so many years ago.
You'll enjoy it.
* Adhamhnan travelled Dublin-Istanbul-Antalya with Turkish Airlines, which has 14 flights a week to Istanbul and beyond to 317 domestic and international destinations including Middle East, Far East, Asia, Africa and America.
* Dublin to Antalya economy class return starts from €358 including taxes. Dublin to Antalya business class return starts from €1,143 including taxes.
* Turkish Airlines is carrying the first set of golf equipment free of charge.
* For more information see www.turkishairlines.com or call (01) 525 1849 open 24/7.
* Gloria Serenity Hotel, Jan/Feb, week for two (superior room) €1,827. March €2,175. Gloria Verde, March, standard room for two, 1,734.
Sunday Indo Living