Italy, the nation of “la dolce vita”, is famed for its illustrious cuisine, enduring sense of style and artisanal tradition. Ferrari, Ducati and Armani—along with pizza, pasta, Parmesan and prosecco—are all Italian symbols recognised the world over.
A favourite holiday destination, “Il bel paese” (the beautiful country) offers a varied climate from the snow-flecked Alps of the north to the sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters of the south.
Home to Roman ruins and Renaissance architecture & art, this stunning boot-shaped nation also boasts an eclectic array of premier golf courses.
Golf courses in Italy
Golf in Italy is not as ancient as the country’s Roman roots. Far from it: the sport only arrived on Italian soil in 1889, when the then-English colony of Florence founded Florence Golf Club, the first Italian golf association. Florence Golf Club was later renamed in 1933 to Ugolino Golf Club, and Roma Acquasanta owns Italy’s oldest golf course.
But unlike the country’s love affair with football, golf has not captured the Italian imagination. There are only 90,000 affiliated Italian golf club members, who play their game on Italy’s 250 or so courses.
Despite this, there are some impressive Italian courses worth checking out for those with a penchant for piazzas or a taste for truffle.
Essential Golf brings you the top five golf courses in Italy listed in order.
Regarded as the jewel in the Italian golfing crown, Circolo Golf Villa d’Este—nestled in the pine, chestnut and birch tree-clad Como hills—is a timeless classic.
If you want to experience Italian golf at its best, look no further.
Situated just north of Milan beside lake Montorfano, the course was designed in 1926 by Peter Gannon, who went on to collaborate with Cecil R. Blandford at Milano 1928 and Varese in 1934.
Villa d’Este has been something of a royal retreat over the years. Indeed, kings and queens of Belgium, Britain, Greece and Spain have signed the VIP “gold book” in its opulent clubhouse.
The club’s overall yardage sits at a modest 6,300. But its meagre par of 69 and six tough par 3s mean Villa d’Este is no pushover.
At a formidable 464 yards, the course’s 15th hole is by far its longest par 4. Here, the fairway slopes from right to left—meaning most second shots will have to be taken from an uneven lie.
Villa d’Este has hosted more Italian Opens than any other course, but the national championship was last held there in 1972 when Norman Wood won his only European Tour competition.
The modern game has, in many respects, rendered the course obsolete for professional use. This is very much their loss, as numerous club members and annual visitors will testify.
Royal Park I Roveri (Trent Jones Sr.)
Set within the Parco Regionale della Mandria, once a 16th century hunting estate, Royal Park I Roveri Golf Club resides in one of Turin’s most important conservation zones.
Located 20 minutes by car from the city of Turin, I Roveri represents Robert Trent Jones’s first Italian architectural ensemble. Opened for play in 1971, I Roveri is strategically bunkered and well-watered with large undulating greens as with most RTJ courses. The breath-taking views to be enjoyed from several holes are second to none.
Consistently ranking as one of the best golf resorts in the country, Royal Park I Roveri boasts an array of first-rate facilities to warm you up before a round, including driving range and putting green.
The course held the Italian Open from 2009 to 2012, and it co-hosted the Circolo Golf Torino in 2009. Robert Rock claimed the Italian Open title at I Roveri, ending his nine-year wait for a first European Tour win, and Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño claimed the title the following year.
Biella Golf Club
Constructed in the late 50s, Biella Golf Club—known locally as “Le Betulle” (The Birches)—is set in charming Italian countryside to the northeast of Turin in Valcarozza. This exquisite location, along the slopes of the Sierra Moraine, is undoubtedly one of the most evocative and serene spots in northern Italy.
The course—an 18-hole parkland; par 73; 7,105 yards—was designed by English architect John Morrison. After it acquired several small plots of land from dozens of local landowners, the club began to build the course in late 1957; work continued under Morrison’s supervision until he was forced to retire due to ill health.
Morrison’s design associates at the time, Commander John Harris and Donald Harradine, thankfully oversaw the project’s completion. Harris then returned almost a decade later to redesign several greens and advise on other course improvements.
At a 7,305-yard total distance and despite its ample surroundings of stunning natural beauty, this par 73 is no walk in the park. Once you factor in strategically placed bunkers, rocky outcrops, fairways hemmed in by forest and sprinklings of water in streams and ponds, you can see why Biella is such a respected layout.
The course is certainly entertaining and varied, with almost every non-par three-hole doglegging left or right off the tee. The best example of this is probably the par 5 16th, where the rugged vista of Alpine foothills opens up from the raised tee. Indeed, some think this tee shot alone is worth the trip to play Biella.
Castelconturbia (Blue and Yellow)
Castelconturbia’s Blue and Yellow loops have played host to the Italian Open and make up one of the many outstanding strings in Robert Trend Jones’s bow. Situated about an hour’s drive north of Milan, the course opened for play in 1984 and oozes Italian character.
Many have compared Castelconturbia to The Wisley, in terms of both style and stature, as it falls within the most desirable golfing venues in northern Italy. Indeed, courses are born of the same design stock—both have three loops of nine holes and the clubhouses are remarkably similar.
Castelconturbia is considered to be one of Italy’s most challenging courses. With three nine-hole loops, there are a number of playing combinations. The Italian Open course comprises the Blue and Yellow nines (the Red course makes up the 27 holes).
If you want to score well, here, you must have some precise approach shots in your arsenal. Castelconturbia’s greens are huge and very difficult to read. With some superb mountain views to take in and a challenging, strategic and varied course, Castelconturbia should be added to any serious visiting golfer’s itinerary. What’s more, the club is friendly, and the facilities are good too.
Created in 1903 by a group of golf-mad British expatriates, Roma Acquasanta was Italy’s first-ever golf course. Today, it is one of the most famous golf courses in Italy. Lying to the south east of the Eternal City, the complex also boasts a cricket pitch and tennis court. Over 100 years after its creation, Roma Acquasanta remains one of the most prestigious golf clubs in the country and a brilliantly atmospheric place to play.
Spread out over a captivating landscape, with views of the Via Appia Antica, Aqua Claudius arches and ancient tomb of Cecilia, Roma Acquasanta seems straight out of an Italian blockbuster. Visit this venue and you’ll be bowled over by the sheer juxtaposition between ancient and modern that abounds in the vicinity of Rome. Centuries of history give this course the magical impression that time has stopped still.
Acquasanta’s undulating parkland layout, reminiscent of its British links, is framed by charming Mediterranean pines, cypresses and eucalyptuses. Its 6,429-yard distance means it is no longer challenging enough for professionals, and it’s likely the 1980 Italian Open—won by Massimo Mannelli—will be the last one held here.
Despite it not being used by professional players, the par 71 has a difficult layout, with narrow fairways and well-protected greens. And several holes are met by the river Almone, which crosses the course.
See also: One&Only Palmilla Resort and Golf Club