Golf course in the desert of Eilat

With a new set of greens and bunkers planned in the desert area surrounding the southern resort town of Eilat, the number of golf courses in Israe

With a new set of greens and bunkers planned in the desert area surrounding the southern resort town of Eilat, the number of golf courses in Israel is set to double in the coming years.

Caesarea is home to the only 18-hole golf course in Israel. The Rothschild family built it in 1961 and hired renowned American golf course architect Pete Dye to create a world-class layout. Since then, he has returned to update the field. Next to the main course at Cesárea, a second nine-hole course was also built. However, a second nine-hole course at Ga’ash in central Israel, near Netanya, has been abandoned.

In early September, the Ministry of Tourism and the Israel Lands Authority informed the Times of Israel that a public tender would be launched for the construction of a new hotel and golf course in northern Eilat. Local golfers participated in the talks, according to Hezi Magen, president of the Golf Association.

The development would cover a total of 1,229 dunams (1,229,000 square meters, or 300 acres), with the winner expected to build some residential and commercial space next to the course. In addition to the 600,000 square meter golf course, there will also be an additional 560 hotel rooms, a shopping center and space for a nearby golf academy.

The potential for desert golf courses is already evident in Arizona, Nevada and California. The Negev will join the competition with this project.

Israel Lands Authority Director Yaakov Quint sees an increase in demand for accommodation and leisure activities in Israel and is optimistic that this development will not only make Eilat a more popular destination for domestic tourists and foreigners, but will also establish it as a “unique golf complex with a high landscape value”. Developers have until May to submit their bids, and the winner will sign a six-year development agreement.

As early as 2009, the country’s then tourism minister, Stas Misezhnikov, saw golf as a means of attracting higher-spending tourists. The Ministry of Tourism has drawn up a proposal with the Israel Land Authority to build 16 new golf courses across the country over a 15-year period for NIS 760 million ($200 million), in the hope that the investment Tourism will increase by 20%. At the time, $2.7 billion was forecast to be spent on golf tourism in Europe, the Middle East and Africa combined (over NIS 9 billion). There were classes planned for Eilat, the Dead Sea, Tiberias, Savyon and Rishon Lezion. The plans were quietly abandoned.

The golf tourism sector has expanded; last year it brought in $4.44 billion and is expected to bring in $4.8 billion this year (from NIS 15 to 16.5 billion in 2022). Golf “tourists” travel the world to play various courses. They often spend more time in places than other tourists. However, users can choose from an estimated 33,000 golf courses around the world.

Golf has always been much more than a game. California’s Silicon Valley region is home to 32 golf courses, according to some. Golf courses are known for being places where business deals are made, so Israeli start-ups may find that a second Israeli golf course serves as a place to close deals abroad.

The Tourism Ministry’s stated goal is ten million visitors by 2030. With a budget of $85 million (NIS 300 million) for tourism infrastructure this year, golf is back on the national agenda as Israel seeks expand its offer to tourists and attract new ones.