C. K. Cotton with Frank Pennink laid out the original 18 holes at Olgiata Golf Club, one of several Italian courses that he designed or restyled in the 1960s. A second nine holes have since been incorporated into the same large estate that lies to the north of the capital.
"His [Ken Cotton] best course abroad was Olgiata in Rome," wrote Donald Steel in Thin End Of The Wedge – a life in golf, "scene of Great Britain & Ireland's first victory in the 1964 World Amateur Team Championship."
In actual fact, the property was once a stud farm, producing world class thoroughbreds – like Nearco in the 1930s and Ribot in the 1950s – and a horse racing track still exists to the south of this massive golf and residential complex.
All 27 holes at Olgiata are set in sumptuous parkland surroundings where the terrain is mildly undulating and fairways are separated by avenues of magnificent mature trees. The two 9-hole loops of the West course fan out from the clubhouse in opposite directions with many of the well-bunkered holes gently doglegging left or right.
The club co-hosted the Italian Open with Roma Acquasanta in 1973. More recently, Ian Poulter claimed the Italian Open title here in 2002 and Bernd Wiesberger prevailed in 2019. The club has twice hosted the World Cup; the first time in 1968 when the Canadian two-man team of Al Balding and George Knudson lifted the trophy; and the second occasion in 1984, with the Spanish winners from two years previous, José Maria Cañizares and José Rivero, triumphing again.
In 2010 Jim Fazio performed an extensive renovation when fifteen holes were modified.
There’s been a few big tournaments played at Olgiata, mainly in the 1960s to 1980s, though it was put forward as the Olympic golf course in Rome’s failed bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games. The Italian Open was last held here in 2002 and the club is due to host the 2019 event in a couple of months.
I can see why elite amateur s and top professionals must like it when playing here as the terrain is relatively flat and everything is laid out before you so there’s nothing quirky or too outlandish to worry about. It was also my favourite 18-hole layout during a recent 8-course trip to Italy.
Getting a game might be a bit problematic as the emails I sent in advance all went unanswered but, believe me, it’s well worth persevering to get on, even if it means calling in a favour from an official at a nearby club to contact somebody who they know at Olgiata to make the necessary arrangements.
Standing on the clubhouse terrace, overlooking the 9th and 18th greens, you can tell right away that this is a cut above your average golf course as you look down on a fabulous array of umbrella pines surrounding the greensites on both these holes.
I gave maximum marks to the opening five holes, the pick of which was the par four 3rd, played slightly downhill from an elevated tee position to a fairway that veers right, rising up to an offset raised green with a half-moon shaped bunker to the right of the putting surface.
The par three 8th was another fine hole on the outward half, requiring a testing 178-metre uphill tee shot from the back tees. A stream that runs through the property then features prominently at the 8th, meandering diagonally across the fairway a hundred metres in front of the green.
On the back nine, the same wandering watercourse comes into play beautifully on #10 and #15, circling the front of the putting surfaces on both holes. Water is also present in the shape of a lovely little pond to the front right of the 14th, where a variety of arboreal specimens provide a spectacular backdrop to this gorgeous par three hole.
If you think I might be “bigging up" the West course too much then please watch some of the television coverage of the Italian Open from October 10 to 13 then by all means accuse me of writing this review through green tinted glasses if you don’t agree that it looks like a tremendous track.