Situated just a half an hour’s drive from the city centre of Rome, near the historic hill town of Tivoli, the challenging 18-hole Championship layout at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club was set out by architect Jim Fazio in the late 1980s.
Fazio was certainly a busy man around that time in Italy as he also designed the course at Le Querce (now named Golf Nazionale), which debuted in 1990, and the architect has since returned to renovate Olgiata in 2010 and lay out the course at Golf Club Paradiso del Garda in 2002.
The Golf & Country Club lies within a beautiful old estate – complete with a restored 11th century castle – that belongs to fashion designer Laura Biagiotti, with the grounds extending to more than 350 acres. The 7,000 square metre clubhouse is reputed to be one of the largest in Europe.
As far as the club’s tournament history goes, the Italian Open was held here in 1994, just three years after it first opened for play, when Eduardo Romero held off a strong challenge from Greg Turner to win the event by a single shot, with a sixteen under par aggregate total score of 272.
At the end of 2015, it was announced that Marco Simone would become the third golf venue in continental Europe to host the Ryder Cup in 2022, somewhat surprisingly beating off strong bids from courses in Austria, Germany and Spain.
In December 2015, we contacted Fazio Design about the proposed course alterations and Tom Fazio II responded with this:
"I was working for my father, Jim Fazio, at the time we did the course where I lived in Rome for the two years it was under construction in 1989 and 1990. I will be working with Jeremy Slessor from European Golf Design. Currently, we do have some preliminary designs. We are all very excited to see the Ryder Cup going to Italy."
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits to be delayed by a year, consequently Marco Simone Golf & Country Club will host the event in 2023 rather than in 2022 as previously announced.
The reconstructed Championship course will showcased its new livery in September 2021 when the Italian Open returns to the Rome club for the second time.
Played this course on a very hot summer's day and was glad we had the cart. I thought the layout was superb and both enjoyable and challenging. Some of the holes on the back nine were particularly windy too.
I probably wouldn't recommend playing it in the height of summer as it is just a bit hot. May or September may be a better time. Italy has also had a drought this year so while the tees, fairways and greens are exceptional if you go a little further off line it is extremely dry.
I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is in the area.
I had the good fortune to play Marco Simone on a warm summer day. The course is laid out on a grand scale, over rolling terrain outside of Rome. There is plenty of room to work with and good bones in the initial design, so I suspect Mr. Fazio will have some fun getting it ready for Ryder Cup 2022. The 16th in particular is an excellent par 5 with a creek running right up center fairway and guarding the green. That will be a great sight on foursomes day. Elsewhere, the course is bold and carries interesting features, with a castle thrown in as well. There is great opportunity to enhance this course to something very dramatic.