Situated close to the Pope’s summer residence near the capital, the course at Country Club Castelgandolfo is set out within the remains of an old volcanic crater. Robert Trent Jones Snr constructed the layout in two phases, with the first nine opening in 1987 and the second nine following a year later.
A couple of lakes come into play in the middle of the property, most notably at the right doglegged 4th and short par four 16th, where water threatens on either side of the fairway at both these holes. And, as might be expected of an RTJ design, the course has plenty of strategically placed bunkers to confound and confuse.
The clubhouse is located within a fabulous, beautifully-restored 17th century villa that was built for a nephew of Pope Alexander VII and this stylish building overlooks the fairways as they weave their way around stands of cypress, pine and olive trees in a very agreeable golfing environment.
The course hosted two editions of the Roma Masters, a short-lived tournament on the European Tour, in 1992 and 1993. Both events were won after a play-off with Jose Maria Canizares overcoming Barry Lane the first year and Jean Van de Velde seeing off Greg Turner twelve months later.
Castelgandolfo is a gem. The course is cradled in a palatial, rectangular park framed by ridges that overlook the course and define some of the holes. While I’m touching sacred ground here in more ways than one, the lay of the land reminded me of Seminole as you can see the entire layout from the highpoints. The golf presents a variety of shots, carries and challenges, and keeps you interested throughout. This is one of the prettiest golf courses I’ve seen, and the club beyond is spectacular. As I walked off 18, I couldn’t help but think ‘give me Tom Doak to define the edges, the grounds super and crew from my home course, and a year, and I’d be knocking on the door of the Top 100 with the gem that is already here.’ If the courses around Rome could go from a 4 to a 5 on the maintenance scale, Rome might become a golf destination.