The 2,700-acre Castelfalfi Estate lies less than an hour’s drive north of the walled mountaintop town of Volterra, in the heart of Tuscany, where the lovingly restored buildings on this ancient property keep watch over vineyards, olive groves, forests and lakes.
Pier Luigi Mancinelli, who worked for a time with C. K. Cotton before setting up his own design company in the early 1970s, laid out the original fairways at Castelfalfi, with the course opening for play in 1991.
Twenty years later, the architectural talents of Wilfried Moroder and Rainer Preissmann combined to remodel the layout into a new 27-hole golf facility, comprising the 6,351-metre 18-hole Mountain course and the 3,171-metre 9-hole Lake course.
The clubhouse was repositioned to the centre of the two golf courses, offering spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, and the natural topography was sympathetically harnessed when routing the fairways around a hilly landscape full of challenge.
The 177-metre par three 9th hole ends the front nine in style, dropping 40 meters to a peninsula green that’s backdropped by the Castle, and the 382-metre 18th concludes the inward half in a highly entertaining manner, playing downhill to a half-island green with an impressive view up to the Borgo.
Nigel originally nominated the Mountain course at Castelfalfi for inclusion within Your Gems: “This course should be in your Top 100 of European courses, never mind the Gems section. The course is a brilliant piece of architecture, using the natural topography to wind holes up valleys, along ridges and down cliffs.
The 1st, 9th and 18th are unbelievable holes with the 9th especially a hole of immense beauty. A downhill par three with a 100ft drop to a green surrounded by water. The 18th is similar but is a dogleg par four to an island green adjacent to the 9th down a more gentler sloping fairway featuring terraced sections. The course is full of natural gorse and olive trees and set against the backdrop of the Borgo of Castelfalfi and the Castle La Rocca at the top of the cliff is just a magical setting.”
Architect Wilfried Moroder commented as follows:
"We were commissioned by TUI, the German Tour Operator, to design a new golf facility for their new resort and we analyzed the existing course and the routing, which were interesting but extraordinary tough and tight.
Our goal was to design and realize, step by step, a modern golf infrastructure for a big golf and country resort to an international standard. In fact, we studied, designed and got the approvals for a new 36-hole golf course, plus a 9-hole executive, in total a 45-hole golf facility.
At the moment, the 18-hole Mountain and the 9-hole Lake courses are playable, while the second nine holes of the Lake are still to be built.
We completely redesigned the old layout, developing two new courses that start out from a different central area where clubhouse, practice ground and starting tees are positioned. Therefore, almost nothing of the old course has been kept.
The Mountain course has a new routing, using ten playing corridors from the old layout, but these holes have been completely redesigned and changed, most of them have been lengthened, been given new green complexes and new tees.
Five of the woodland holes have been enlarged and
re-shaped with the two short holes totally redesigned. Eight holes are
completely new, and they’re the best on the course as they use the natural
contours of the landscape and offer fantastic views towards the Castle and the
Borgo of Castelfalfi."
The setting doesn’t get anymore Tuscan than at Castelfalfi. The course is laid in a stunning valley in a tranquil part of the region, with cypress and olive trees in abundance surrounding the holes.
A previous reviewer wrote that the Mountain Course represents ‘holiday golf at its best’ and I can’t disagree. The main focus of the course is to provide visual spectacle and chances to pull of heroic shots. The 9th and 18th will be widely considered the signature holes – a par 3 with a 50 meter drop and a par 4 with a 30 meter drop on the approach. Both play to a peninsula green surrounded by water and are exposed to the wind. While the vistas arre stunning, ironically they fall out of character compared to the rest of the holes due to their unnatural green complexes, while the 18th is a disaster hole from an architectural point of view, despite the spectacular land it occupies. That being said, many a hole on this course are beautifully blended in, understated holes with strategic interest and also very pretty.
Conditions were also very good mid September. Greens were soft and the fairways were healthy. As much as the sun shines in Tuscany in combination with the steep slopes of this course, the course is maintained in a way which will not cause many lost balls as the rough and even foregreens are sometimes kept high (but acceptably high), to prevent balls from getting a kick and being lost. This makes the course more playable but also longer to play as running approach shots will no longer be effective.
The routing is exciting but chaotic, as the holes and loops criss-cross and go up and down over the property and following the signs often isn’t enough to recognize the next teebox. The walking distances between holes are also quite long and tough walks, as other reviewers rightfully point out. On the other hand, the course has a nice set of holes – all different and never samish - , great variety in shot values and it is generally tough but fair, a few exceptions aside (12 and 18). Let’s call it a great course for match play and holiday rounds. The greens are fast and slopey and the views are tough to beat.
Castelfalfi is holiday golf at it’s best. On the couple of times I’ve played the Mountain Course the conditioning has been great. The layout is good with one or two quirky holes, but these don’t detract from the overall enjoyment. Most importantly when you’re playing and gaze at the vista you know you are in Italy and specifically Tuscany. You can combine Castelfalfi with Versilia, Le Pavoniere, Punta Ala, Montecatini, and Castiglioni Del Bosco and have a great Tuscan Adventure. Enjoy !
Castelfalfi has the 18 hole Mountain course and the 9 hole Lake course. This review is for the Mountain. Mountain is a bit of a misnomer, but it is real hilly. Do not attempt to walk this course if you do not walk regularly. BRING WATER.
The first hole looks tougher than it is. Slight dogleg left, water left to a severe elevated green, Nothing to worry about, a decent drive should give you a short iron in, even taking extra club for the elevation, The second hole is a very demanding par four. Slight dogleg left, with a blind tee shot. If you hit a good drive when upon getting to your ball you see the green positioned right behind a water hazard. The third is a downhill par four. The biggest challenge here is navigating the fairway bunkers on each side of the fairway. The 4th is a gimme par three. The big boy par 5 dogleg left uphill 5th is quite interesting. On your tee shot the fairway extends past the dogleg bend. In other words, let’s suppose the fairway goes left between 200-240 yards. You can hit your drive 260-270 straight and still be in the fairway. You can cut the corner a bit, but there really isn’t any upside, this is a 3 shotter. If you do drive past the dogleg, all is not lost, but your 2nd shot will have the ball above your feet and you will have to contend with several trees. A good 2nd shot will still leave you with 150+ yard uphill approach. This is a par 5 that is deserving of the number one handicap rating. The par 4 6th is downhill and then uphill. Take an extra club on the approach. The 7th is a reachable downhill dogleg left par 5. Favor the right side off the tee to give yourself the green light to go for it. The 8th is a quasi split fairway bi uphill par 4. Tee off and then marshall your inner Sherpa. Take an extra club on the approach and favor the right side of the green as just about everything will kick left. As you hoof it off the green and head to number 9 be prepared for shock and awe. The 9th appears to fall of a cliff. A par 3 to a peninsula green that will play at least one and probably 2 clubs shorter. A really fun hole.
The par 4 10th parallels the first hole. Reserve your energy here, because I would estimate the walk from 10 green to 11 tee at 1/3 of a mile, most of it uphill. Catch your breath on 11 tee for a mid length downhill par 3. The 12th is also an interesting hole. Slight dogleg right, but I would strongly adfise trying to cut anything off the corner. That is where the hole starts going uphill. If you are successful in clearing the corner the terrain will push the ball left into the gunch and hazard. A better play is middle of the fairway and take an extra club (or two) to this severely uphill green. You will have another trek to the par 4 13th dogleg right. This one you can cut the corner, but beware of the bunker on the inside elbow that you cannot see. A good drive leaves a flip wedge. The 14th is a reachable par five. Big landing area in the fairway, so go after it. The second shot is tight. If you miss it you can turn a birdie oppty into a quick double. The 15th is a Florida par 3. The par 5 16th kicked my butt. In the landing area are bunkers left and right. I thought I could clear them, but I was mistaken. This set off a series of unfortunate events that I would prefer not to revisit. I am confidant the hole is not as difficult as I made it appear. I am sure you can do better. The 17th is a par four dogleg left with bunkers on each side in the landing area. Once again, I was found wanting. The 18th is a curious hole. Dogleg right, do not hit driver. The hole drops off after 210 yards. Better to hit a long iron or a utility to leave you with 160-165 yards. It is downhill big time to a peninsula green, at least one club less.
An interesting course, some real memorable holes. However, some of the distances and terrain between greens and tees are almost punishable. BRING WATER
Castelfalfi was a course I found while researching my first trip to Tuscany. The few pictures I could find looked interesting, but it was the rating/slope that had me intrigued 75.6 151 from the tips it measured just under 7,000 yds. Im a plus 3 so I love a good challenge and Castelfalfi is certainly that. The Mountain course was nothing short of spectacular. From the club house which consists of a small building with balls and shirts and a small bar/restaurant you can’t see much of the course. What you do see is the 1st and 10th hole that gently make their way up the hill waiting to take you over the other side of the Tuscan hill to the rest of the course. The scenery is other worldly and I have played a lot of dramatic golf courses around the world. The course was redesigned by the team of Rainer Preißmann and Wilfried Moroder in 2010 and no expense was spared. This is luxury golf but not the boring luxury golf you find in the states at most resorts. The small resort town of Castelfalfi sits above the course always looking down upon you as you play. The 3rd hole which is a par 4 has got to be the hardest inland 2 shots in golf I have seen. After a narrow and demanding tee shot requiring a full 3wood or driver with water all down the right side and tall reeds down the left. You are left with a shot of no less than 150 straight uphill to a blind green and ob directly behind the green. On the 15th hole all along the right side is o.b. and for good reason this is where they raise the wild boar for the annual hunt on the property, you don’t see this everyday. Is the course perfect absolutely not it has a few holes that are just truly unfair such as the 18th, a tee shot that needs only a 3 wood at most to a sever downhill shot over water to an island green. Don’t let the difficulty of this course scare you away. I left my day at Castelfali in love with the course as I realized my score would be irrelevant. Instead I left wanting to come again and I have twice now!