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Italy golf courses

A taste of golf in Italy

The landscape in the north-east region is spectacular. Dick Turner enjoys a chat with a local legend and Ryder Cup to discuss golf in Italy
 

The man who missed out on a piece of golfing heaven has pointed the way to paradise in a corner of north-east Italy.

Costantino Rocca, Italy’s greatest player, exclusively shared his immense knowledge of the seven fine golf courses in Friuli-Venezia Giulia with me over a cup of espresso.

The old warhorse had taken time out from the European Seniors Tour at Udine, part of the Villaverde Hotel and Resort, to expand on an area that he knows almost as well as his beloved Bergamo.

north-east Italy

“Visitors only seem to want to associate this area with Venice, pasta and beautiful women. Well, they don’t know what they are missing,” declared the golfer who came within a stroke of winning the Open Championship and once claimed the Ryder Cup scalp of Tiger Woods.

Rocca speaks straight from the heart – as well he should about an area that is known as the Hub of Europe.

For me, it was a very pleasant golfing voyage of discovery to an area with great appeal to golfers.

“There are seven very fine golf courses in an area full of friendly people, steeped in culture, and the food and wine for which Italy is known throughout the world,” enthused Rocca.

“Golf is just beginning to flourish here and the winter climate is gentle, but there is still a long way to go,” he continued.

“Some clubs have exchange visits with clubs in Slovenia over the border and I believe there could be the same arrangements with clubs in the UK.”

In a region where hills, sea and the Italian Alps cluster together across a magnificent landscape, the visitor experiences a variety of beautiful and natural golfing settings only two hours from the UK.

Villaverde Resort

north-east Italy

It is difficult to better the magnificent Udine course at Villaverde Resort which hosted a Seniors Tour event last October.

The centre has an exclusive 40-room hotel, fine clubhouse, bar and restaurant that serves some unusual dishes such as braised donkey.

north-east Italy

“There are many doglegs with elevated greens on this challenging course and plans are afoot to make it even more challenging,” explained Rocca.

“My favourite here is the 14th hole where you can opt fly your drive 230 yards over a huge tree to leave a wedge for the approach shot or play it conservatively with a long approach.”

Grado is also high on the list of Rocca’s favourites – and mine too. The course is close to the Adriatic, situated on the beautiful Primero Estate only 90 minutes from Venice, has a mild winter climate and is known for its many water hazards.

It has a deserved ranking in the Top 100 Resorts in Continental Europe for 2017.

The stunning opening par 4 over water is a genuine risk-and-reward hole.

There are some great value holiday packages (see below) that can be reached by a selection of direct flights to Venice and Trieste.

It seems that every Italian in this area has a vineyard in his back garden and the red and white wines at Castello di Spessa are the most renowned in the region. The wine cellars under the castle date back to the middle ages and nor should visitors miss a visit to the medieval castle at Gorizio.

The course at Spessa is ideal for all the family with five par 3s and pristine greens that resemble billiard tables. The signature hole is a stunning little tiddler of only 145 yards over a ravine and a vineyard to a sloping green guarded by a front bunker.

Deep in the rustic scenery of Collio, Castello di Spessa features an academy and a 25-bay driving range. And visitors should not miss the delights of the nearby Tavernetta al Castello – a genuine gourmet restaurant with the wonderful atmosphere of an ancient country villa that has 10 bedrooms with a chic feel.

Ligano Golf Club

Lignano, north-east Italy

No visit to the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region would be complete without playing the Lignano Golf Club, located a pitching wedge from the sea and between the banks of Tagliamento and Marano Lagoon.

The course is almost 7,000 yards from the medal tees with some long carries, large greens and wide areas of natural sand. It is expected to host a European Tour event in the next few years and deserves that stature.

Three more clubs make up the seven fine venues of the region.

Trieste was established 60 years ago and set up by allied troops just after the war. It is only a few hundred yards from the Slovenia border. It is a tricky, lush course with an unpredictable wind called the Bora.

The Castel d’Aviano is located in the middle of the Natural Park at Villa Policreti, which has historical and architectural significance, and the Tarvisio Senza Con ni Golf Club is situated on the Alpine Plateau.

A memorable visit to an almost hidden gol ng oasis but I shall leave the last words to Signor Rocca.

“Tee up in Friuli-Venezia Giuilia for the perfect golfing break and you won’t be disappointed.”

NCG

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