Established by local businessman Riccardo Pisa and partner Giorgio Simonini in the mid-1980s, the 27-hole Gardagolf Country Club complex lies within the former Omedeo family estate, nestling in the Valtenesi hills above the shores of Lake Garda.
The Rosso (Red) and Bianco (White) nines comprise the original championship 18-hole course at Gardagolf, with the newer Giallo nine (playing almost 500 yards shorter than the other two circuits) completing the 27-hole configuration.
Woodland and open fairways are laid out below the clubhouse on the gentle slopes of a generous 275-acre property where the Rosso nine contains the more undulating holes and the Bianco nine features water on five of its holes.
The Giallo (Yellow) circuit should not be dismissed, though, as it contains plenty of challenging golf holes; making it well worth the cost of paying the additional green fee tariff to play all twenty-seven holes at this stunningly scenic venue.
A number of top professional events have been held at Gardagolf since it opened, including the Italian Women’s Open in 1990 and the Italian Open in 1997 and 2003. The European Tour returned to this lovely part of Lombardy in 2018 for the club's third staging of the Italian Open, which Denmark’s Thorbjørn Olesen won, beating home favourite Francesco Molinari by one-shot.
We played yellow and red on a recent trip. An enjoyable course in good condition. Yellow shorter but still worthwhile. Red very hilly, but comes with great view across Lake Garda. Pleasant clubhouse, good facilities.
Garda Golf comprises 3 nines. This review will be for the Red and White 9s. The first hole is welcoming. Pretty straight par, however favor the left side of the fairway as it is sloped left to right. Greenside bunkers left and right. The 2nd hole is a short pretty downhill par 3 over water. Take one less club. The 3rd hole is a dogleg left par 5. It is possible to get there in two, you will have to cut the corner and the landing area is not that expansive. If you hit your tee shot straight you will go through the fairway. The hole calls for a high draw, as this will give you a green light to go for it. There is a small pond left, that should not come into play. The fourth hole on the tee box looks like a pretty straight par four. It is not. Favor the left side to give you the best approach angle. The downhill dogleg left par 5 5th is reachable, but you need to cut the corner a wee bit. There is a ravine about 100 yards out which should affect your decision making. This is a long narrow green with three three bunkers right and one left. The par four 6th is significantly uphill and the landing area has fairway bunkers on each side. Take an extra club on the approach, especially as it has bunker front. The short 7th is a birdie oppty. The green is well protected with bunkers on all quadrants. The 8th is a tough hole, number one handicap. Good drives will leave you with a long iron off of a downhill lie. Not a winning formula, especially for my game. I almost forget to mention the greenside bunkers. The front closes with a long par 3 uphill with a bunker front left.
The back opens with a long par 4 dogleg right. With two bunkers on the inside elbow favor the left side off the tee. Be wary of the three greenside bunkers. The par 5 11th is definitely reachable, but there are elements of danger. Still, an excellent birdie oppty. A slight dogleg right your tee shot should be just right of the left fairway bunker. There is a small water hazard about 80 yards out on the right side and greenside bunkers left and right. The par 4 12th is a good hole, slight dogleg left. The fairway landing area is a peninsula. Looks intimidating and can be. The green is protected left and right with bunkers. The 13th is a long straight uphill par four. This green is also protected with bunkers left and right. Take an extra club on your approach. I do not know how this hole is rated the second toughest and 12 was the fourth? The 14th is a long downhill par 3. The 15th is an uphill par four. Everything will run left to right. Having said that, make sure you don’t plunk it in the left fairway bunker. This is a long redan green, take an extra club and aim five yards left of the pin. The par 5 16th is a pretty hole, dogleg left with the water hazard on the inside elbow. Looks much tougher than it plays, it is a good birdie oppty. The 17th is another long par 3. Bunker right and left with the water hazard lurking to catch balls that are over cooked. The par 4 18th is uphill and the water hazard should not come into play. However, the fairway bunkers left and right do. Make sure you take an extra club on your approach.
Overall, I was underwhelmed
This club isn't shy about its aspirations, hence it would be a long drive to get to a more expensive venue. To be fair, it did stage a couple of Italian Opens and a few other high-profile events. The parkland estate with its magnificent clubhouse is representative enough and the three 9 hole loops provide plenty of interesting, if not world-beating holes.
There are some undulations on the property, mainly utilised on the Red course, but in all it is a fairly relaxing experience that rarely pushes the player outside his comfort zone. This does not mean that the course is easy, it has a couple of tricks up its sleeve that only local knowledge (or a strokesaver) can mitigate. The greens are pretty fast as well, but short of blading chips there aren't many short-game opportunities to rack up a big score.
The visuals are nice, Italian countryside estate style, but not by themselves a reason to visit the course. It's a competent parkland track and could conceivably lay claim to be the best course at Lake Garda, but competition in that corner of Italy isn't exactly fierce.