Europe has always been a leading destination for those that love to combine travel and golf. Now Italy is fighting its way to the top of the rankings by offering some of the finest courses in the Mediterranean. Gary Kilby headed to the fairways to discover Italy’s top 10 golf clubs
MARCO SIMONE GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB
Marco Simone Golf Club is located just 30 minutes northeast of Rome and boasts 27 glorious holes. The 2019 Championship Course though only par 68, is more than a test for any standard of golfer. The club will also be the official host of Ryder Cup 2022 becoming only the third course on continental Europe to host arguably golf’s biggest tournament, which really is testament to how good the course is and proves it really is a gem in Italy’s golfing crown. Here guests are treated to magnificent views of the undulating Roman landscape.
GOLF RESORT CASTELFALFI
Castelfalfi is located in the heart of rural Tuscany and combines nature, beauty, leisure and sport with more than 9,400 square metres of hillsides and meadows set among olive groves that add character to the 18 hole Mountain Course and the 9 hole Lake Course. The Mountain Course (par 72) is 6,351 metres long with hilly fairways and water hazards, making it one of the exciting layouts and a big attraction to golfers from around the world. The Half-rounds at Castelfalfi conveniently start and finish by the clubhouse, where golfers can sit back and reflect on their day’s play while enjoying a spectacular view of the Tuscan countryside.
FRANCIACORTA GOLF CLUB
Located in the Province of Brescia, Franciacorta Golf Club lies in the heart of the region’s substantial golf course community. With a three 9 hole layout Brut (par 37, 3,072 metres), Saten (par 36, 3,071 metres) and Rose (par 34, 2,765 metres) combining any two of these will not only test your golf but also your concentration. Surrounded by the beautiful vineyards of Franciacorta, adorned with small ponds and streams, it offers golfers the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in nature. Perfectly conceived and technically demanding, with strategically placed bunkers as well as numerous lakes, these three courses will be a test of your golf as well as your senses.
GOLF CLUB BIELLA ‘LE BETULLE’
Founded in 1958, Le Betulle (the birches) has matured and grown into one of Italy’s finest golf courses. Situated just north of Turin this par 73, 6,534 metre course has been voted the best in Italy on 18 occasions, Golf Club Biella is a classic old-school design. Today the course has been extended to 6,497 metres from the back tees with par set at 73, so Biella is a challenge. With almost every non par 3 hole doglegging left or right off the tee, the course is certainly entertaining and varied, none more so than at the par 5 16th, where the view of the rugged Alpine foothills opens up from the raised tee.
IS MOLAS GOLF RESORT
The Is Molas Golf Course was the very first golf course in Sardinia, built more then 30 years ago, and with its 27 holes is still the biggest on the island. Half an hour’s drive from Cagliari, Is Molas is situated near the small town of Pula on the southern coast of Sardinia. It is a 27 hole golf complex with an 18 hole course (par 72, 6,383 metres) designed in 1975 and an additional 9 hole layout (known as the Yellow course) added by Franco Piras of Gary Player Design in more recent times. With views of the nearby tower of Nora standing on the coastal ruins of an ancient Roman city, the course is routed over moderately undulating land with fairways surrounded by Mediterranean scrub.
ROYAL GOLF LA BAGNAIA
Situated less than a 30-minute drive from the centre of Siena, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 18 hole layout at the Royal Golf La Bagnaia is the first Tuscan, 18 hole course designed by renowned architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr. It is a par 71, 6,101 metres long course, covering an area of 1,300 hectares, perfectly in tune with the gentle rolling hills of Siena. The course is enhanced by beautiful lakes and a majestic club house, where you can enjoy a unique view of all 18 holes and the towers of Siena. The course is set out as an ‘inland links’ within a rolling 320-acre estate where fairways are routed around the sparkling waters of five attractive lakes. Indeed, many of the feature holes on both nines are positioned beside these water hazards. With views across nature and the medieval city of Siena this truly is an Italian gem.
MODENA GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB
The Country Club comprises an 18 hole ‘Bernhard Langer’ Championship Course, par 72, 6,423 metres and a 9 hole Executive Course, par 27, 976 metres. On relatively flat, occasionally mounded terrain, seven holes are dangerously threatened by water. The par 3 6th and 11th holes both require tee-to-green carries across small lakes, while the short but technical par 5 18th needs a carefully judged hop-skip-and-jump to reach the safety of the green; an alternative is to accept Langer’s scary and water-laden challenge of going for the green in two. The good-width fairways generally give you sufficient space from the tee, although Langer’s challenging combination of water and bunker hazards, combined with often large and undulating greens, will ensure your full repertoire of shots are thoroughly tested.
THE PICCIOLO ETNA GOLF RESORT & SPA
Il Picciolo is Sicily’s oldest golf course and possibly the most stunning on the island. It is located right on the slopes of Mount Etna in a natural amphitheatre not far from Taormina with fantastic views. Il Picciolo also hosts some international tournaments such as the Ladies’ European Tour events. Lava flows, trees and vineyards make the course relatively challenging. One of the advantages of Il Picciolo is that it is possible to play all year: the ground does not freeze in winter, and in summer the 650 metres of altitude and the proximity of the sea soften the climate. This par 72, 5,870 metre course was built in 1989 on 44 hectares of hilly terrain. The technical obstacles of the terrain were incorporated to great effect, to the extent that the course appears entirely natural.
VERDURA GOLF RESORT
No expense was spared during the construction of the 5-star Verdura resort on the south west coast of Sicily. The two championship 18 hole layouts, East and West, are the golfing stars of the show at Verdura and are well supported by a 9 hole par 3 course, a driving range and practice area. The East is arranged as two returning circuits of nine holes while the West enjoys a traditional out-and-back routing. A couple of holes on the front nine of the West course skirt an old railway line (the par 3 3rd has a restored station in the background) before the blue waters of the Med are reached at holes 8 and 9. Returning for home, par 5s at holes 11 and 14 help steer the routing towards the final four holes where the round finishes with a flourish along the coast. The remaining shots are played against the backdrop of the azure blue sea.
ARGENTARIO GOLF RESORT & SPA
The exclusive five-star Argentario Golf & Spa Resort is set on the Monte Argentario promontory which was once an island but is now connected to mainland Tuscany by three causeways that in turn form two lagoons. The location is spectacular and views from the resort over the golf course to the Orbetello Lagoon are simply breathtaking.
There’s stark contrast between the cork oak wooded holes and those in open country, but many of Argentario’s fairways plunge up and down in dramatic style on their way to relatively small but well-guarded greens. Enjoy the sea and lagoon views on your way round and then brace yourself for the tough closing three holes.