Travel Weekly's Joe Manuelli counted too many strokes at
several golf courses in Lombardy and Tuscany. His report
NEW YORK -- A friend often complains that the problem with golf
is that it has no defense.
In Italy, that certainly is not the case: There is an ongoing
That is not to say the Italian courses are overflowing with
fairway bunkers, sand traps, water hazards, doglegs, pitched greens
and other maddening obstacles strategically placed to frustrate
It is simply that Italy has so much else to offer the
vacationing golfer. Whether visitors are on an FIT or group tour,
it is going to be a challenge to concentrate on the game
considering that both Tuscany and Lombardy are well-known tourism
centers offering a wide variety of pre- and post-golf
In these mountainous regions, many top courses are on former
estates, often in rural locations far removed from the main
highway. This means that extra time should be allowed for driving
to golf dates. Some Lombardy courses in particular are close enough
to the Dolomites and the southern Alps to make a golf-and-skiing
This region offers 18 courses, with the majority located between
Pisa and Florence. I played the lush Golf dell' Ugolino, about a
20-minute drive into the wine country south of Florence. This hilly
course dates from 1933. It features natural obstacles and welcomes
2,000 international golfers annually.
In the past, the club has been the site of both the Italian Open
and the Volvo Open. A real treat here is the clubhouse cuisine,
which features several native Tuscan dishes and oil that is pressed
from the olives grown alongside the fifth and sixth fairways.
A complete golf shop is on the premises, and visitors to Golf
dell' Ugolino can also obtain privileges at a nearby tennis club
that has well-maintained clay courts.
The Montecatini Golf Club is near its namesake resort town,
which has been famous as a spa center since the late 1800s.
Although the course is only 10 years old, it features a majestic
setting with a stone clubhouse that once served as the local
Montecatini is a windblown course with open vistas of the Tuscan
landscape and some excellent views of neighboring large villas.
From the tee at the second hole you can gaze upon the sleepy
village of Vinci, where Leonardo was born.
The club has 300 members and hosts about 12,000 rounds of golf a
year. It is located close enough to town that, with an early start,
a visitor could complete 18 holes and still get in a spa
Both of these courses are on the Tuscan itinerary for
California-based ITC Golf Tours, which can be reached at (800)
257-4981. Walk-up greens fees on weekdays average $56 at the
Montecatini Golf Club and $62 at the Golf dell' Ugolino, but
international visitors frequently receive discounts.
This district contains nearly half of the country's golfers and
some of its best golf clubs. It boasts 31 courses clustered around
Milan and throughout the Lake District.
The Golf Club Villa d'Este is at an elevation of 1,200 feet in
the town of Brianza, just minutes from its famous, namesake resort
on the shore of Lake Como. This course was the most elegant and
best maintained that I played in Italy.
Golf Club Villa d'Este has plenty of bunkers and small fairway
hills reminiscent of former grapevine terraces. Overall, this golf
property had the most exclusive feeling. Some visitors might
consider it "stuffy."
For 1999, Golf Club Villa d'Este will be one of five courses in
Lombardy featured by Intergolf. The Atlanta-based tour operator
provides self-drive products in its Italian market and can be
reached at (800) 468-0051.
The newest Lombardy course also promises to be one of the best
for the tourism trade. Palazzo Arzaga Golf Club opened in July of
this year in the village by the same name. The 18-hole Jack
Nicklaus II-designed resort course is situated on former vineyards
surrounding the Castle Drugolo in the vicinity of Lake Garda.
In the spring of 1999 the property will debut an on-site hotel
and spa. Arzaga will package commissionable golf and spa vacations,
as well as tour products for the nearby Verona Arts Festival.
The Arzaga course features extremely deep-sided sand traps and
wide, open fairways owing to the immaturity of the recently planted
oak and robinia trees. Another trademark hazard is the copious
tussock grass aligning the edges of many greens. (From experience,
I know it can be really embarrassing to lose a ball just 40 yards
from the hole.)
Resort owners are aiming to develop a leading golf school for
Located within its high-tech fieldhouse classrooms are plenty of
gee-whiz gadgets, including video monitoring systems to review that
perfect golf swing.
A large driving range and practice green also are on site.
In the future, tougher holes -- such as a nine-hole Gary Player
course -- will be installed. For post-golf activities, it is only a
90-minute drive from Arzaga to Venice. Arzaga is a member of
Preferred Hotels, which can be contacted at (800) 323-7500.