Situated less than a 30-minute drive from the centre of Siena, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 18-hole layout at Royal Golf La Bagnaia is Robert Trent Jones Jnr’s first design in Tuscany, and it’s one of three Italian courses currently in the American architect’s portfolio.
The course is set out as an “inland links” within a rolling 320-acre estate where fairways are routed around the sparkling waters of five attractive lakes. Indeed, many of the feature holes on both nines are positioned beside these water hazards.
On the front nine, holes 3, 4 and 7 all dogleg left around the aquatic obstacles. The 399-metre 4th is rated the most difficult hole on the outward half, played to an offset green that slopes markedly from right to left, towards the water.After the turn, the par five 13th hole also skirts past another large body of water, with the boomerang-shaped fairway turning sharply right towards a small green sitting on the far side of the lake – this hole is rated stroke index 2 for a good reason.
Pay no attention to the dirt road that you drive down for about half a mile before you get to Royal Bagnaia. It will all be fine. A Robert Trent Jones, Jr course, not only is it a fine layout but the conditioning was probably the best I have experienced in Italy thus far. Yardage bigots beware, it is not long and is a par 71. Number one is a good starting hole. Relatively short apr four with fairway bunkers left and right. The green is protected on the right with another greenside bunker. The 2nd is a short par 3 with a carry over a creek. The green is protected left and right with bunkers. The third is a reachable dogleg left par five. My recommendation is to aim between the two right fairway bunkers. There is a water hazard left, so don’t get too greedy. Also, the hazard sneaks near the green. The green is tilted right to left, thus, I would aim about 5 yards right of your intended target. Not really sure why number four is the number one handicap hole (of course I did 3 putt bogey it). Relatively short par 4, albeit slightly uphill with a water hazard down the left side. A good target line off the tee is about 10 yards to the right of the utility pole you see in the distance. The terrain will force ball left. The green is protected by four bunkers and left is dead. Aim about five yards right of the flag. Number six downhill par four, good birdie opportunity. Unless you hit into the fairway bunker left which I know someone who did. The green is extraordinarily well protected with a consortium of bunkers. The 7th is another par dogleg left. If you can carry, the fairway bunker on the inside left, you can easily get home in two. For those of us who cannot, you should still be able to salvage par. The 8th is a good birdie oppty. Slight dogleg left with the green elevated and on the other side of the creek. Do not muck around trying to cut the corner and fly the bunker. There is no benefit and all you will do is bring the creek into play. The par 4 9th does not look long on the card but it will pay two clubs longer. Aim at the minefield of bunkers right off the tee and make sure you take at least one extra club on the approach.
The 10th is a tough downhill par four, especially if you hook your ball into the fairway bunker left. There is a creek about 50 yards short of the green with bunkers greenside right. The 11th is a ho-hum par three bunker right and the green sloping front to back. The 12th is a par four dogleg left with a boatload of bunkers on the inside elbow. Best line is the right side of the bunker. Take an extra club to this elevated green. I suspect the 13th is the signature hole. A good par five dogleg right, with a BAB on the inside corner. However, there is a water hazard to the right of that extending to the green. There are three fairway bunkers through the fairway, I would suggest aiming at the middle one. It is possible to get a home in two. Lot of risk not much reward as it is all carry. There is a very narrow throat going around the hazard better play lay up to your preferred wedge distance. The short downhill par 3 14th is a fun hole. Depending upon pin location, at least one club less. The 15th is a dogleg left par 4. Favor the right side off the tee to avoid the left bunkers. This is a large two tier green. The 16th is the easiest hole on the course. Short par four downhill fairway bunker right couple on the left. Take dead aim at the flag, big boys can get there with a few lucky bounces. The dogleg right uphill par 5 18th is a good finishing hole. One must navigate the fairway bunkers off the tee and on your second shot. Take an extra club on your approach. If the pin is front, you probably do not want to be on the green. Two players in our group had the putter wedge walk of shame.
One of the best courses I have played in Italy. Bring water