Established by English businessmen in 1907, Menaggio & Cadenabbia is the second oldest golf club in Italy. Twelve years after its formation, the primitive 9-hole layout that comprised the club’s first course was extended to a full 18 holes when land became available for expansion.
The family of Antonio Roncoron (founder of the Italian PGA) acquired the club in 1961 and the new proprietors maintained its English connections by appointing Commander John Harris to completely redesign the course, a few years after its change of ownership.
Set out on beautiful hilly terrain close to Lake Como, the narrow fairways of this enchanting course will probably never host a major national golfing event but that matters not a jot as the holes fit the landscape perfectly, stretching as they do to a modest 5,482 metres in total length.
Feature holes at this Italian beauty include back-to-back short par threes at the 2nd and 3rd, consecutive par fives at holes 13 and 14 and a pair of short par fours that round off the routing in fine fashion at the 17th and 18th.We understand the architectural firm of Turner MacPherson has worked with the club recently, renovating a number of greens and consulting on course routing, and we’d like to think these measures will allow this spectacular site to serve golfers well into the new millennium.
Menaggio & Cadenabbia GC has a distinctly English woodlands feel to it, which is hardly surprising given its heritage of English owners, and the redesign by noted English architect John Harris.
Yet from different viewing points around the course one cannot forget just where in the world they are- players can catch glimpses of the lakes, and of the Alps.
Perhaps it is a contradiction, but I felt that I had stumbled on the quintessential "Italian" course....
The course is short, tight and quirky, with steep inclines, blind shots to greens, and apparently absurdly narrow fairways.
The course is also littered with quaint old buildings, and they add to the unique look and feel that is the Menaggio & Cadenabbia golf course.
What Cruden Bay, and Nth Berwick are to Scottish golf, perhaps Menaggio is to Italian golf?
I was in Lake Como for a conference, but made the effort to get to Menaggio because a golfing friend recalled it as being quite a lovely course, with a magnificent restaurant. He urged me to go there!
It is nearly an hour from the heart of Como to the course, but the moment we drove onto the property I was entranced.
Although the par 70 course only measures 5482 metres from the tips, it is no pushover and requires good decision making, club selection, and some knowledge of the course to score well. I needed to go back again! (and I did)
I came away with some vivid memories- how so many of the small green complexes were tucked into groves of trees like fist in glove, and each with delightful bunkering that was both strategic, and visual without being overdone...to this end holes 2, 3 & 4 stood out.
I have memories of a group of 4 locals in front of us laughing merrily as they tried to locate and then play a ball that had landed on the roof of one of the many little buildings throughout the property...
And how on some of the holes we had to walk single file because the fairway was so narrow...well not quite- but you get the idea!
And the big finish! At most courses they reserve the longest most challenging holes for the big finale...
At Menaggio you will find 17 & 18 are two short par 4's measuring 234 metres, and 232 metres respectively from the back markers... Sounds easy, right?
Hole 17 has a partially blind tee uphill tee shot to a green protected by water in front. And it's a bit of a dogleg, so trees on both sides are very much in play.... It sounds like a certain lay up, but what if you were playing matchplay?
The closing hole is even shorter, again uphill, and again with a slight dogleg. The green is bunkered at the front, but is a small target with clubhouse buildings only metres from the actual green surface.Again it looked like a perfect hole to lay up, but it is also a real risk/reward hole. And the chances are high that players having a go at the green will from time to time be attempting to retrieve balls from the greenside roof!
To play Menaggio & Cadenabbria GC is to embark on a unique golfing journey. It's fun, and I guarantee you won't be bored!! I can't wait to go back again!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
I played Menaggio on a hot day in August. I would recommend taking a trolley or even a buggy but my friend and I carried our bags and paid the price after 18 holes. We were exhausted. It's a hilly course with lots of up and downs. It is also quite narrow so unless you're dead straight off the tee, you will find yourself in tree trouble.
The clubhouse is very Italian but inside full of treasures of golf history. The range is practical but also very narrow. The two loops of 9 lead you back to the clubhouse so you could take a break mid-round.
The course was well conditioned but a bit wet in patches and they were doing some work on the fairways. We played on a weekday afternoon and at times felt like the only people on the course. The greens rolled very nicely and not too quickly. The setting of course is wonderful, right above Lake Como with many wonderful views around the area.
If you are in the area, Menaggio is well worth a visit. It's a challenging course in a lovely setting.