Magnano (BI) 13887,
- +39 (0) 15 679151
17km SW of Biella
Contact in advance
Golf Club Biella – known locally as “Le Betulle” – is situated to the north east of Turin in Valcarozza, one of the most evocative and serene spots in northern Italy. It’s here, back in the late 1950s, that Harry Colt’s associate John Morrison designed this remarkable 18-hole course on behalf of the three founding members of the golf club.
Having acquired a variety of small plots of land from dozens of local landowners in and around the village of Magnano, the club began building the course in late 1957, and work continued under the architect’s supervision for a couple of years until he was forced to retire due to ill health.
Fortunately, Morrison’s design associates at the time, Commander John Harris and Donald Harradine, oversaw the completion of the project. Indeed, Harris would return almost a decade later to redesign several greens and advise on other course improvements.
In this edited extract from the book Golf Courses of the World author Geoffrey Giles writes: “A golf course does not have to be beautiful to be great, but beauty is a great bonus. At Biella the course runs over superbly rolling country through great forests of birches – le betulle. It could almost be an English heathland course.There are superb mountain vistas too and a round here in the autumn, with the leaves golden brown and fiery red and the mountains covered in gleaming, freshly fallen snow, is one of life’s great treats. Take time to enjoy the surroundings but you will need to concentrate fully on the task in hand for there is no denying the demands made by this exacting layout.”
Today the course has been extended to 6,497 metres from the back tees with par set at 73 so Biella is a challenge. And once you factor in strategically placed bunkers, rocky outcrops, fairways framed by forest, a sprinkling of water in the shape of streams and ponds then you can understand why Biella is such a respected layout.
With almost every non par three hole doglegging left or right off the tee, the course is certainly entertaining and varied, none more so than at the par five 16th, where the vista of the rugged Alpine foothills opens up from the raised tee. Indeed, some think it’s worth the trip to play Biella just for this tee shot alone.
Golf Club Biella, 'Le Betulle' was founded by British architect John Morrison in 1958, and is an "English style" layout with the course set in a forest of silver birches, chestnut trees, and ancient oaks.
The golf club is located in the north west of Italy less than an hour from Turin. The course has been rated over the years by many as the best course in Italy, and has hosted many tournaments.
"Le Betulle" means "The Birches" in English, and it is an apt name for a beautiful course in a beautiful setting.
Whilst the gorgeous vegetation dominates the course, the site itself has plenty to offer with ponds, creeks, and burns to play alongside, around, over, and dare say- in!
And there are gentle elevation changes throughout, although it is always a pleasant walk....
Morrison did a good job with the routing, with two nines returning to the clubhouse, with variety in the type and direction of the holes.
It is clear however that the trees have grown substantially over the years- I would hesitate a guess that the course as designed by Morrison was not dominated quite so much by the trees- and just perhaps the course could benefit from a review of and possibly a pruning of some of the more intrusive woodwork.
Nevertheless Le Betulle is a very good course in a wonderful setting, and a pleasure to play. There are a number of holes that stand out to me:
- The successive dog legs at holes 3 and 4 require accurate driving, and then reward success with teasing approaches to firm sloped greens
- I loved the altar green on hole 7, set in an alcove of lush vegetation.
- And the par 5 ninth hole demands two accurate woods, and then a flip to a green sitting in the hillside over a dip.
In the back nine holes 12 & 13 are up and back par 4's with a creek running down the middle, and thus in play left on both holes. Both are tight off the tee with strong right to left sloped fairways pushing everything toward the creek And both have appealing green complexes to finish..
The 'piece de resistance' at "Le Betulle" however is definitely the snaking par 5 sixteenth hole. It is a hole like no other! I'd like to play this hole over a few times to work out how best to play it. It is an intriguing design.
The tee shot is slightly uphill toward a gap in the tree line and needs to avoid some bunkering on the right. A well struck shot will be rewarded with a view between the trees and down a narrow tree lined valley to a lovely green setting below. However the journey is not quite over yet- with a significant carry over rocks, and rough terrain needing to be negotiated by the second shot, The long hitter can take on more rough to get close to the green, while the more conservative approach would be just to hit the lower fairway It really is a good hole, and one I want to play again!
The experience at 'Le Betulle" is enhanced by the fact that Travelling Golfers can stay on course. The clubhouse and accommodation have a refined 'old world' feel, and are very comfortable without being 5 star. I loved it!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
I played Biella - Le Betulle this past weekend, under a scorching sun and without a cloud in sight. The course was being used mostly that day by young golfers under 16 who were training for the International under 16 Italian Championship tournament, which takes place on August 30-September 1, 2016. My impressions of the course were mixed. The setting is beautiful, the layout of the course is varied and quite intelligent, requiring a good number of skills to score well, none the least on the greens which were very fast and full of slopes, big and small. Maybe the one weak point of the course design is the par-threes: while varying in configuration, from the yellow and red tees (for most golfers therefore) the length is the same, give or take a few (less than five) meters.
However, I am not giving this club a very good rating, because I found the condition of the course pretty shameful for a place hosting a quite serious tournament (judging from the faces of all these youngsters swarming around it): the tee boxes looked more like war zones than tee boxes, and the fairways displayed all kinds of raw spots, muddy areas (despite the total lack of rain). I assume that the tee problem will be solved for the tournament by choosing the better areas for the tees, but nothing will improve the fairways. As we are still in the middle of the high season for this course, I am afraid that there have been lasting maintenance problems this season.
My experience of this great layout was somewhat mitigated and in this condition I would not recommend to anyone Le Betulle as the destination of a special golf trip.