Most of the top Italian golf courses are clustered around the northern cities of Turin. Milan and Venice or else located near the capital city of Rome. Bucking that trend in 2003, European Golf Design unveiled a top track way down in the south of the country, near the town of Fasano in the Puglia region.
The person to receive most plaudits for the San Domenico project should be shaper Brian Jorgensen as he moved plenty of earth on a largely level, featureless landscape to lay out a wonderful array of seaside fairways that enjoy views of the Adriatic from every hole.
By retaining some of the original stonewalls and olive trees on the site and including large waste areas of crushed local rock and indigenous vegetation in the design, the architects have succeeded in emphasizing the identity of the area.
The European Challenge Tour Grand Final, the season ending championship, has been staged at San Domenico since 2005.
The first hole starts with an intimidating tee shot. A mid-length par four with water down the entire right side. The par 5 2nd is a good birdie oppty. Reachable in two with a wide fairway with a waste area right. The 3rd hole is the only par 3 on the front and heads towards the Adriatic Sea. At over 200 yards with three bunkers right and a green with a lot of undulation, par is a good score. The 4th is a dogleg right, favor the left off the tee. This undulating redan green is well protected with bunkers front left and back right. The 5th is a short par 4 with water on the left. The water hazard protects about 70% of the left side of the green with a bunker right. I would suggest favoring the right side off the tee to set up a flip wedge. The short par 5 6th is definitely reachable. There are several fairway bunkers and a waste area about 100 yards out on the right. The green is also protected both sides with a myriad of bunkers. A good tee shot should be a green light to go for it. The 7th and 8th are also good birdie opptys. On 7 favor the left side but be wary of the waste area left and BAB greenside right. Club selection is key to this two tiered green. The 8th is a short par 4 and depending upon the wind may be reachable. The front closes out with a forgettable straight away par four with greenside bunkers left and right.
The 10th is another reachable par five with waste areas right and left about halfway the length of the hole. The only real teeth is a two-tier green, definite birdie opportunity. The 11th is a short par 3, although typically, into the wind with the protection of five greenside bunkers. The 12th is another real short par with fairway bunkers left. It does have a large undulating green sloped front to back. The 13th is a par 3 that seemed to be the mirror image of 11. The 14th is the number three handicap hole into the wind with five fairway bunkers pretty well spread out. They can cause some damage is I can attest. Oh, and by the way, three greenside bunkers right of a large undulating green. The 15th is another short par four downwind. Favor the right side to give me the best angle into the green and avoid the waste area left. The 16th is the longest par five. However, it is usually downwind and two good shots will get you home in two. The 17th is a par three reminiscent of number 3, except heading inland. The 18th is the number one handicap hole. Long and into the wind, good luck.
I left underwhelmed and unimpressed. Yes, you can see the sea, but nothing spectacular. I was told they moved a lot of dirt to create this course. Puzzling, as it is very flat. Pedestrian layout, no sizzle and expensive. There are very few courses in this part of Italy, so perhaps the price is a function of supply and demand. If you were paying i would not go back.
We stayed at the Borgo Egnazia and we played San Domenico several times. Everything was absolutely perfect - though pricey. But at least you know what you're paying for. The course was in excellent condition, the staff was helpful and the hotel looks and feels splendid.
Attached to the glorious Borgo Egnazia Hotel, the San Domenico golf course is a thrilling set-up. With views across the glistening ocean, and some very well laid out holes, it provides a great test, especially when the breeze blows off the ocean. My favourite stretch was around the back nine, with some very scoreable par 4's. Simply put, this is a must play golf course whilst in the Puglia area. And once you have enjoyed the golf course, be sure to stop off in the wonderful clubhouse for a taste of Italian home cooking!!