One of the most northerly golf layouts in Italy, the short course at Golf Club Passeier Meran first opened for play in 2004 and its terraced fairways are strategically routed around a number of water lily-covered ponds.
A delightful mountain track, designed by Willy Moroder of MPS Golf Design, the course extends to a total of 5,791 metres from the championship tees, playing to a par of 71.Holes of particular note on the front nine include the short par fours at 5 and 6, which dogleg in opposite directions. On the inward half, the long par three 17th is ranked as the toughest hole, largely due to the rather intimidating water hazard that lies in front of the green.
I have played about 20 rounds on this course and never get tired of it. Its location in the Alps (even though it is at an altitude of only 650 metres) is magnificent. The Passeier valley, after which it is named, allows for a surprisingly long golf season. The club hardly ever closes – at one time I teed off three days after it was completely covered in snow. Golf on decent greens surrounded by snow-capped peaks is the norm in March.
The terrain is obviously severe and the consequence is a plethora of short par 4s, especially on the front 9. Even though they are often spectacularly carved out of the mountainside, some of the playing strategies repeat. The par 5s (one reachable in two even for average hitters) and par 3s are great fun though, as are the longer par 4s. The 11th is one of the most difficult and interesting two shotters I ever encountered and at the 10th the men (all-out driver) are separated from the boys (lay up in front of the ravine). The enclosed image shows the approach on the second hole (par 5): it looks like a simple pitch between some trees and over a creek, but getting to this precise spot takes some doing – as does hitting the right part of the very undulating green. There are a lot of ground game options here and the turf is pretty firm. Chances are you won't have seen most of these holes ever before, because you just don't have land like that anywhere else.
Walking the course is an exercise, but one that you'll probably find very appealing. Most of the time you are on grass and the natural beauty of the high mountains more than compensates for the short, but stiff climbs found throughout the round. The good thing is, you won't have to feel guilty taking the 30 second cable car ride from the parking lot up to the clubhouse.
If you can, do stay on site at the incomparable Andreus Hotel. It was good enough for the German football team en route to winning the World Cup in Brazil, so most should find it adequate! (UM)