Florence Golf Club
Birthplace of Golf in Italy
By Dave Finn
Have you ever dreamed of playing golf among the ancient landscapes of Europe, so steeped in history that you can almost taste it? It’s September and the roads and hillsides of the Chianti region of Tuscany are lined with row upon row of grapes almost ready to harvest. Last night, we were in Greve celebrating the season and sampling wine and olive oil. Today I played my first round in Italy at the oldest golf club in the country. How cool is that?
The growing number of British expatriates who were determined to bring their homeland sport to Italy founded Florence Golf Club in 1889. The original 8 holes were built in San Donato near Cascine Park which is now the Florence airport. In 1933 the club relocated to its current location and hired British architects Blandford and Gannon to design a new 18-hole layout. In the sixties Piero Mancinelli redesigned some of the holes but kept the same style and flavor.
The first thing I noticed was that there are only two sets of tee blocks. Don’t be fooled by the fact that this par 72 only measures 5,672 meters (almost 6,200 yards). Ugolino is demanding because of the natural sloping tight fairways and very small well-protected greens, so it deserves a slope rating of 133. You’ll need thought more than strength to master this layout.
The front nine swoops through hills and the key to these holes is to keep your tee shot in the fairway and back far enough so you can see the uphill greens. Shaping shots will definitely help your game but if you’d like a suggestion, keep your driver in the bag until you get to the 5th hole. The back nine is more level and offers better opportunities to charge the greens.
The home hole sums up this historic course to a tee – a short 330-yard par four where a fairway wood or long iron is needed to be placed accurately in the fairway on this tight dogleg so that you are able to see the small, well-protected uphill green.
What Ugolino lacks in distance is more than made up for by your ability to hit to a target on all shots. The new golf courses in North America condition us to pull out our driver on every hole except on a par three. Here you have to make an educated decision on every tee as to where you want to be to attack these postage stamp greens. Florence Golf Club Ugolino is a private course with approximately 800 members but visitors are always welcome.
Italy should be a must-do on everyone’s bucket list. The wine, the food, the people, the history, the architecture, the romance and now the golf! What are you waiting for? Come join us!Click the link to read Dave's complete story on Golf in Tuscany on his Golf Travel and Leisure website.
Ugolino is a fun course. Dating back to 1889 the current course was constructed in 1934. Some may dismiss it as short, and it is, but it does provide a good test of one’s golfing skills. Extremely small greens. The first three holes provide an oppty to get off to a good start. The first hole is a short par four, slight dogleg left. Off the tee favor the right side to provide the best angle to this well protected green. The 2nd is a reachable par 4. However, there is OB right and the green is raised. My advice, go for it. The 3rd is another short par four dogleg right. Not driveable, but you easily cut the corner. The 220 yard par 3 4th is the number 3 handicap. While the green is about the same elevation as the tee box the tee shot must carry the valley to the tabletop green. The long par 4 5th is the number one handicap hole and slopes left to right the length of the hole. There is internal OB left and OB right. Both the tee shot and approach are blind, favor the left side. The 6th is the first par 5 and you would really have to hit 2 super shots to get home in two. OB the entire right side. The fairway slopes left to right. The short par 4 7th is another birdie oppty. Hard to drive as it is uphill with a large oak tree protecting the green as well as greenside bunkers left and right. Favor the left side off the tee. The 8th is a short par 3 with 2 bunkers on both the left and right. Good luck if you miss this green right. The 9th is a fun reachable par five. If you are right off the tee, you will be looking at bogey. There are also 3 fairway bunkers right. The challenge is the big tree in the middle of the fairway that you will have to contend with on your second shot. Hookers will want to be right and faders left. This is an elevated green with a bunker left.
The back starts with another 200+ yard par 3. Best to aim left as the terrain contours right. Greenside bunker short left and a BAB right. If you miss right, it will be a difficult par. Thee 11th is a demanding par 4. Blind tee shot for this dogleg left, with OB right. The green is protected by four bunkers. The par 5 12th is rated the easiest hole, but I mucked it up. The hole tilts right to left and the best angle to get home in two is from the left side. OB all the way down the right with a greenside bunker right. From 12 you cross the road through the 17th hole. This part of the course is not as interesting. The par 4 13th is pretty much what you see off the tee, straight away with greenside bunkers front right and left. The 14th is a slight dogleg right but there is a fairway bunker on the inside corner. If you fly it you will have a wedge into a green that is protected by three bunkers. The 15th is a slightly uphill par 3. It has 3 bunkers, but the green lists left to right. The 16th is also pretty straight forward. However, be wary of the two fairway bunkers on the right. The 17th is a three shotter. Slight bender right with OB all the way down the right side. Plenty of room left. Another green with 3 bunkers safe guarding it. The 18th is a tough finishing hole. Sharp dogleg right. If you drive through the fairway, good luck, cutting the corner one must clear trees and OB to a narrow landing area. I think it best to hit utility off the tee. This is an elevated green with three bunkers left and one right.
A fun, interesting course that I would pay to play again.