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Eastern Europe's golf revolution

  • Story Highlights
  • Golf has made progress in Eastern Europe since the collapse of communism
  • Developments in Bulgaria have seen six courses open in the past eight years
  • Gary Player has designed courses in several Eastern European countries
  • The region has a great potential for development of golf in the future
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(CNN) -- Golf was considered a sport of the capitalist elite and banned in Eastern Europe under the rule of communist regimes -- but in the 20 years since the Berlin Wall has fallen there has been a renaissance of the game in the region.

The Thracian Cliffs course near Varna is set to be completed by July 2010.

Gary Player has overseen the development of two courses on the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria.

With rising disposable income and an increasing interest in leisure pursuits, a growing number of courses, more television coverage and availability of EU funds, the future of the industry in Eastern Europe is bright.

Bulgaria is one country where the sport is on the up. Eight years ago there were no golf courses but --to fulfil the increasing domestic demand and as a means to attract tourists to the region -- the country could be set for a boom in golf development.

Kancho Stoychev, vice president of Bulgarian Golf, believes that despite there being only 200 registered players in a country whose population is eight million there is set to be an explosion of interest in the sport.

Video See CNN's Justin Armsden's report on the development of golf in Eastern Europe. »

"It is an absurdly low figure, but now I believe that there'll be a switch because we have six nice golf courses," Stoychev told CNN.

"We can already see there is a high increase in interest and it'll evolve quite quickly.

"We have some advantages in Bulgaria. We have an excellent coastlines, we are a small country but very diverse, so the country is geographically and naturally perfect for golf."

The potential in Eastern Europe has also been recognized by golf legend Gary Player, whose course design company has been working on projects in the region.

Having just opened a course in Poland, Player's design company is building two more in Bulgaria - BlackSeaRama which is already open, and Thracian Cliffs which is scheduled to be finished by July 2010.

Player told CNN: "You want to take golf to new areas, like Poland, you want to bring it to Bulgaria, where people never thought that they could play golf where people associated golf with just rich people.

"You can play down here along the ocean and ten minutes up the mountain you have a links course, which is the complete opposite, people who love golf will be in for a golfing treat."

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The knock-on effect of the presence of a high-profile name such as Player in the region ensures it has caught the eye of influential figures within the industry.

Ryan Lauder, director of marketing at TaylorMade added: "Eastern Europe is coming along, although there is still not the number of golfers or golf courses that we have in Western Europe, looking to the future it is a great opportunity for us."

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