Villa d'Este

Villa d'Este

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Course Information

There is a super golf trip to be enjoyed in the Milan area, one that is dominated by strong modern courses.

Bogogno has two Robert von Hagge 18-holers, Castelconturbia has 27 holes by Robert Trent Jones and Le Robinie 18 by Jack Nicklaus… but more elderly Villa d’Este is undoubtedly the highlight.

Italy’s No.1 is heaven-sent for those of us who prefer the understated architecture of yesteryear sympathetically set down on interesting, natural terrain.

It was cleverly laid out by Englishman Peter Gannon, whose backstory is almost as fascinating as the course he designed for Villa d’Este in the hills overlooking picture-postcard Lake Montorfano

Gannon was born in 1874 in Argentina, the ninth child of Offaly man Patrick Gannon. In 1901 he was ordained as a priest but his other passion was golf, being skilled enough to be runner-up in the 1908 South of Ireland championship.

He won Austria’s national title the following year and his playing calibre led Karlovy Vary to invite him to redesign their Old course.

It rises and falls significantly over land that is never anything but interesting and as well as beautifully tranquil.

The French and Italian titles followed and by 1913 he was married and living in Switzerland, building a strong continental portfolio of design work.

Northern Italy’s border with Switzerland made him an obvious choice for clubs seeking an architect so, in addition to Villa d’Este, he also designed George Clooney’s home course of Menaggio (1923) and Milano (1928).

Gannon must have been delighted when he was shown the terrain over which the Villa d’Este club wished their course to be sited.

It rises and falls significantly over land that is never anything but interesting and as well as beautifully tranquil.

There echoes of the raunchy terrain of St George’s Hill in a macro sense.

Within that undulating topography there are quirky landforms – ridges, gullies, mounds and hollows – that make interesting green complexes so much easier to create. In that respect it has hints of iconic Oxfordshire course Huntercombe.

And then there are the hundreds of pine trees that add a feel of the Duchess’ course at Woburn, not least because in both cases some tree management would open up the course to light and air, and make it a little more forgiving off the tee.

Barely 6,300 yards, it challenges your brain not your brawn, you dexterity not your physicality.

Gannon designed Villa d’Este in 1926 and it reflects the architecture of that era, offering as many sporty par 4s as it does exacting ones and in between those two-shotters offering charismatic short holes and pleasing par 5s.

Barely 6,300 yards, it challenges your brain not your brawn, you dexterity not your physicality.

The relatively narrow corridors between the trees as well as the small greens and the slopes around them mean that anything offline requires a sure-handed recovery.

If Gannon’s cerebral and quirky design is somehow not to your liking, it probably means you are better off sticking to the more modern courses in the Milan area.

But even if that is the case, you will at least surely enjoy its setting, given Villa d’Este sits at the same height as the opulent villas that are wedged into the hillside that rises up from the famous lakeside town of nearby Como. Just a magical experience. Chris Bertram

 

Information

Peter Gannon

+39 31 200 200

Villa d’Este Golf Club , Via per Cantù 13 , Montorfano , Italy , 22030