Via Acquedotto Leopoldino,
58018 Porto Ercole (GR),
- +39 0564 810292
30 kms S of Grosetto
Welcome, contact in advance
David Mezzacane and Baldovino Dassù
The exclusive five-star Argentario Golf Resort & Spa is set on the Monte Argentario promontory which was once an island but is now connected to mainland Tuscany by three causeways that in turn form two lagoons. The location is spectacular and views from the resort over the golf course to the Orbetello Lagoon are simply delightful.
David Mezzacane and the professional golfer Baldovino Dassù designed the Argentario golf course in 2006 and the holes were shaped by Brian Jorgensen, who should take a bow, as the result is a varied, dramatic and technically challenging layout, which has subsequently become the PGA National Italy.
A great deal of earth was moved to create the 6,218-metre par 71 Argentario course; in fact the site was once used as the promontory’s waste dump. Tens of thousands of indigenous trees and shrubs were planted and the course is managed organically with natural fertilisers and pesticides. In recognition of its green credentials, Argentario is one of only two Italian clubs to receive AgriCert status.
There’s stark contrast between the cork oak wooded holes and those in open country, but many of Argentario’s fairways plunge up and down in dramatic style on their way to relatively small but well-guarded greens. Apparently, soon after the course opened, a few European Tour pros were invited to road test the course from the back tees. Their scores were apparently so high that club employees were sworn to secrecy, promising not to reveal the high scores.
The small and often sloping greens make scoring here at Argentario rather hard, so select one of the four teeing areas carefully. Enjoy the sea and lagoon views on your way round and then brace yourself for the tough closing three holes. Our favourite is the wicked par three 17th that measures 210 metres from the back markers. With water left and bunkers right this short hole is intimidating, even for the best golfer.
Writer Brian Noone sums up the Argentario experience beautifully: “This is both the Tuscany you know and one you’d never expect.”
I can’t vouch for the resort as I didn’t stay here but the new clubhouse, driving range and surroundings are very smart. The course was busy on arrival so Giulia in the golf club office, who seems to run a pretty tight ship, suggested we play the back nine first to avoid congestion on the front nine.
This turned out to be a wise move for two reasons: we managed to get round holes 10-18 in less than two hours and we also played what we felt was the weaker of the two nines first. That’s not to say they were bad holes – far from it, they just didn’t quite match up to the other half.
Holes 10 and 11 are fine; a solid par four with a ditch in front of the green followed by a par five that rises slightly uphill to the green. Both holes are played through a lovely olive grove, which also houses the 16th and 17th holes.
The 12th was a perplexing short par four, narrowing dramatically with trees on either side before veering left to the green. If you’re not on the right side of the fairway then you’re totally blocked out for your approach shot. The par fours at holes 13 and 14 were a lot more inviting, even with a large tree in the middle of one of the fairways.
The front nine kicks off in fine style with a par four hole that bends left to a green protected in front by a little ditch. The following two holes are easily the best on the property, both played from seriously elevated tee locations with the lagoon as a fantastic backdrop – they’re great holes but they’re also something of a problem as expectations for more of the same are never realized.
The 6th and 7th are routed on either side of a small pond so water has to be avoided to the left of the fairway on both holes then the 9th heads back to the clubhouse, flirting with another pond to the right side of the green. Looking back now, there was a lot more water around than I imagined at the time!
Maintenance is a definite issue here as some of the fairways have large bare patches, perhaps due to a faulty/leaky irrigation system, but they’re not of a standard you’d expect to find at a PGA National course and it’s something that really needs to be addressed.
Don’t allow a relatively minor aspect of conditioning cast a shadow over the many other good things going on at Argentario because the greens were great, the bunkers were sensibly positioned and the water hazards were not overly penal.
Still, a course with a slope rating of 141 from the back tees (at 6,218 metres) is more than capable of baring its teeth, especially when the coastal breezes kick in.
One of the newcomers is on the western coast with stunning views out to sea and back inland to the Maremma hills. The Argentario Resort Golf & Spa is an exclusive and expensive complex, so don’t be put off by the brutal architectural exterior of the hotel, everything inside is of a serious five star quality.
The course is long, probably too long off the back tees for holiday golf, at 6,800 yards and it is also a hard walk with numerous climbs, so best take a buggy. Spring or early Autumn are the right times to visit as when we played, at the beginning of March, the course was extremely wet which meant that buggies were not available. Also, in high Summer the place can become baked, so do pick your times sensibly. Otherwise this is a spectacular, challenging layout and certainly no place for the novice. Players climb around wooded hillsides and rocky outcrops with some fine raised tee shots to enjoy. We found some of the holes are downright intimidating, and none more so than the par 4 18th where one has to fly an enormous drive over tall trees and a stream at 210 yards to have any chance of reaching the green.
However bad the round, the clubhouse offers some delicious Tuscan wines and excellent local food but this does not come cheaply. In fact nothing comes cheaply at Argentario so take plenty of money with you. This course is certainly worth playing and the hotel is terrific once one gets over the shock of the outside design but is no place for travellers on a budget.