Hotelier Sir Rocco Forte’s Verdura resort occupies a stunning 570-acre site on the southwest shores of Sicily and golfing guests here luxuriate in a wonderful 45-hole golf complex that mirrors the 5-star status of the adjoining hotel and spa.
The East and West 18-hole layouts are complemented by a 9-hole par three course designed by American Kyle Phillips and if you think that his involvement is a sure sign of Verdura’s quality then you’ve guessed right.
When professional tournament play was first held at Verdura, a fantastic composite course was set up to include the best holes on each layout. Indeed, the layout used to stage the 2012 Sicilian Open (when Denmark’s Thorbjørn claimed his maiden European Tour victory) comprised a mix of East and West holes.
Unfortunately, severe storms in late 2018 caused an embankment to breach which resulted in flooding across fourteen holes, seven on the East and seven on the West). Kyle Phillips rearranged the routing to retain all of the damaged holes, along with four remodelled holes on the new East course configuration.
Highlight holes now include the par four 6th, where the Mediterranean Sea runs the length of the fairway on the right side and the approach plays over a saltwater inlet that was created by the flood. The short par three 13th is another feature hole, playing in the opposite direction to a green that lies right on the water’s edge.
The new par five 8th and par four 10th holes also share a large double green, a move that has pleased owner Sir Rocco Forte, a keen golfer who appreciates such a nod towards traditional links golf course design.
Me and my partner stayed and played at Donnafugata and Verdura on a two destination golf holiday in September 2017.
After the disappointment of Donnafugata (also reviewed) the two courses at Verdura were a revelation. I had been looking forward to playing a Kyle Phillips’ designed course since seeing the glowing reviews of Kingsbarns and I was not disappointed. These are both stunning gems and in my opinion should be amongst the top courses in Europe.
It is hard to pick a favourite between the East and the West, as they are similar in character and each a joy to play. There is hardly a weak hole amongst the 36 and both courses end with stunningly picturesque (and difficult) stretches of holes.
As both courses are on the coast the wind largely dictates the difficulty, but both courses generally have wide enough fairways to enjoy the round no matter what the conditions. The difficulty generally lies with getting close to the pins on the large and undulating putting surfaces.
On the East course, 16, 17 and 18 make a fine climax to the round and a real test for anyone with a good card going up to that point. The 16th is a short par 3, but fiendishly bunkered and with a narrow undulating green. It is also set across the prevailing wind and so getting close to the pin can be tough and anyway away from the pin brings a 3 putt into view! The 17th is a mid-length par 4, played down to the fairway and then up to a two-tiered green set into a hill – judgement of the second shot is vital. The final hole is a longish par 4, played from a raised tee with the Mediterranean Sea awaiting a slice. The second is a mid to long iron played to a large green sloping severely back to front. Three pars on these holes and a drink in the old castle-style clubhouse would have been well earned!
The Rocco Forte hotel around which these courses are designed is expensive, but for those able to afford the prices Verdura is a stunning location for a golf holiday.