The first thing that strikes you about playing at Antognolla is the bunkering, which is truly magnificent. Jagged edged and beautifully proportioned, the sand traps are wonderful, grass-banked hazards that are positioned in all the right places, both on the fairways and around the greens.
It’s also obvious a fair bit of the upgrade budget was spent below the surface of the fairway as quite a few holes were still showing a little scar tissue from the installation of drainage lines, which will obviously help playing conditions during the wetter winter months in times to come.
I understand the greens had reduced in size over time so they’ve been expanded back to the way they once were, retaining their original design. Some of them are brilliant – my notes for #2 mention the contours as “Maxwell Rolls” and the L-shaped putting surface on #6 is an absolute cracker.
My jottings for the front nine also reference the following: the gun platform tee boxes on #5 and #7; the double green on #5 (shared with the steeply downhill #17); and the L-shaped, two-tiered green on #6. There’s also an extensive note (made IN CAPITALS) of one of the most outrageous par fives I have ever come across.
The par five 8th measures 485 metres from the tips and is rated stroke index 2. Located at the most northerly point on the property, it’s also set at the highest part of the valley where most of the holes are laid out. There are gullies to cross and very narrow fairway landing areas to negotiate as the hole veers right and upwards to a green placed at the top of a ridge.
I can fully understand if anybody hates the hole as it’s unashamedly contrived but I loved it, despite losing a couple of balls along the way – it’s definitely a hole you would want to play several times to try and get a proper handle on it as it messes with your head from the moment you stand on the tee until you finally putt out (hopefully with the same ball) several shots later.
The back nine plays up and down the valley, highlighted by the Biarritz green on the par five 12th and the fashionable “speed slot” in the fairway on the par four 15th, propelling shots down towards the green – though I wasn’t keen on the copse of trees on the right side blocking the view to the target.
Ponds play a part in proceedings on three of the holes at the start and end of the round but it never feels as though water is interfering too much.
Overlooked by a castle that dominates the skyline on the opening and closing holes, the course at Antognolla is still something of a hidden gem, tucked away in the hills between Rome and Florence, but I suspect we’ll be hearing more about it as its reputation grows.
Date: August 20, 2019