Set in the Parco di Monza to the north of the city, the Milano Golf Club is one of Italy’s most prestigious. It also has one of the finest clubhouses in all of Europe, a luxurious building that replaced the original hunting lodge in 1958.
The original 18-hole course was established thirty years before then by Peter Gannon and Cecil Blandford – both of whom went on to design other fine northern Italian courses like Florence-Ugolino and Varese in the early 1930s – and an additional 9-hole layout was added when the new clubhouse was built.
All 27 holes at Milano are routed through relatively flat terrain and the mature trees of this parkland setting ensure each hole is played in virtual isolation – in fact, it is only when the nearby Monza racetrack is in operation that any sound of the outside world can be heard.
Milano Golf Club first hosted the Italian Open
in 1951 and has staged the national open no fewer than nine times – only Villa d'Este has hosted more national open golf championships down the years.
Golf Club Milano offers a rare moment of tranquility in the Metropole of Milan. Situated north of Milan in the park of Monza it is the venue of the Italian Open of 2016. I played the course (1st and 2nd 9-holes) 4 weeks ahead of the event and the course was in very good condition. The fairways were good, if not cut a little long for my taste, but the greens were immaculate (but also cut a little long to be really fast, probably to protect them for the event). Upfront I feared that this nr1 venue of Milan would be a bit stiff, but I found the staff very welcoming and friendly. Calling a day in advance, I did not need to book a specific time, as it was not crowded and the next day was warmly welcomed.
The driving range is a little short (200m) but with separate hitting cabins for 1 or 2 players. The balls were good quality.
The course is long. I played the yellow tips and that measures 3107m out (1st or Corso Rosso) and 3132m (2nd or Corso Giallo), totaling 6239m. More than the length, the 1st nine is a very tight parkland course between mostly pine trees and playing to greens that are very small and extremely well protected by bunkers. In total I hit 13 bunker shots on the 1st 9. Due to the rain overnight, and probably irrigation in the morning, the bunkers played very hard, like hard pan. With tiny greens it was either hit, but more likely miss. Due to the tightness and the doglegs, I hit driver only twice. Most tee shots require 200m or less to take out danger, leaving long approach shots to as said tiny and well protected greens. The 8th, with stroke index 1, is a 366m dogleg right with a huge obstructing tree in the right center of the fairway at 120m. A teeshot requires hight, but also length to reach the fairway past the dogleg. I hit hybrid (22deg, normally hit 190m) and unfortunately pushed and faded it a bit too much into the pines. My planned hero recovery shot succeeded only beforehand in my mind. The ONLY good tee shot is a 200m high and straight shot through a V between the obstructing solitary pine on the fairway and the pines on the right. No room for error. I love this hole, requires a lot of guts.
The 2nd 9 (Giallo) are more forgiving. Stil parkland, but wider and more open. Also with more height differences, like the relentless 413m 13th (stroke 2). A drive on the fairway of max 230m to the rough of a cliff leaves a blind downhill shot of 180m. On the edge of unfair. The 10th starts with an uphill par-3 of 195m, which I reached with a very good struck wood-5 to 4m (missing birdie). Holes 14, 15, 16 and 17 are good driving holes, with the par-5 14th and 17th requiring quite some course management.
Now the 18th. This is a bit of a special hole for me and a hole I will always remember. It's a 407m dogleg left hole to a small green protected by bunkers both left and right front. When I played the grandstands for the Italian Open were already biult up and you could imaging the pressure on any player. I pushed my drive a little to the right and it ended up in a small hollow under an overhanging pine, 160m to the pin. Fortunately it was slightly on the upslope, but a straight shot was blocked by the overhanging pine. I plotted a low, stinging iron-5 fade shot and hoped for the best. I lost sight from the ball for a second, but regained sight when I saw it bounce on the left fringe, just over the left side bunker and roll onwards to the right and to the pin. I cheered because I thought I had a birdie opportunity. While walking to the green I could not find my ball and feared it might have rolled on. Just too make sure, I checked the hole and to my surprise I found a ball. I checked three times and finally concluded, yes, this was MY ball. My first ever EAGLE and on what a hole. The imaginary crowd of the grandstand gave an ovational applause and I walked off as if I just won a major!
To celebrate my victory I went to the clubhouse. The double stairs to the first floor are impressive and give entry to a very stylish, warm lounge with luxurious sofas and a beautiful terrace. Contemplating what would be a an appropriate celebration drink I found they offered a superb selection of gins. I ordered a Gunroom gin. Apparently they knew of my great finish, because the lovely waitress poured me the stiffest gin I ever had. An hour later and I was singing out loud in the car back to my wife's apartment in Milan...
This course is one I will truly remember. The course offers tranquility in a crowded metropole, a beautiful, long, and difficult course (a true golf challenge) and a stellar clubhouse with warm and very friendly staff that speaks (unusually) good English. Highly recommended.