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​Top 50 Golf Courses of Italy 2018

16 February, 2018

Top 50 Golf Courses of Italy 2018

Golf arrived in Italy via British golfers who founded Florence Golf Club in 1889 (though Nisbet’s Golf Year Book 1912 lists the year of its formation as 1899) and the pioneering club would go on to host the first Italian Amateur Championship in 1905, by which time other golf clubs had been established in Varese (1898), Rome (1903) and Lake Como (1905).

Nowadays, more than two thirds of the 241 courses operating around the country are located in the eight regions that comprise Northern Italy. That might seem like a very healthy number of golf facilities nationally but, per head of population, Italy lags way behind the likes of Belgium and Portugal in its golf provision, even though, in fairness, both those nations have far fewer courses.

Perhaps appointing Marco Simone Golf and Country Club as the venue for the Ryder Cup in 2022 will see an uplift in the numbers of Italians participating in golf. Currently, there are around 90,000 players registered with Federazione Italiana Golf – 23% of these are adult females and 10% are juniors – and hosting such a prestigious event will surely draw more people into the game.

And so to the latest edition of our Top 50 for Italy, where the 18-hole layout at Circolo Golf Villa d’Este leaps three places into the number 1 position. Located in the tree-clad hillside above Lake Montorfano, the course is a Peter Gannon design dating back to 1926 that has hosted a dozen Italian Opens down the years, the most recent of which took place in 1972. It may be too short for the modern day professionals but Villa d’Este is still a timeless classic, as intimated by a recent reviewer who wrote: “from the moment you enter through the gate, you can see this is all high quality… with great views of the surrounding mountains… the clubhouse is nice (with) a lot of class… all in all a great experience and it comes with great Italian flair.”

The most impressive upward move by our sixteen chart climbers is made by the oldest surviving golf course in Italy, belonging to Circolo del Golf Roma Acquasanta, which rises seven places to number 5 (it also debuted in our Continental Europe Top 100 at number 90 recently). Founded by diplomats from the British Embassy in 1903, the club started out with a 9-hole course but this was doubled in size to an 18-hole layout a decade later. It’s not known who actually designed the course but its routing indicates it was somebody of repute who was able to set out the outward half in an anticlockwise direction around the clockwise-orientated back nine – surely there must be some mention of an architect in the old club minutes (which were drafted in English up until 1930 when Alfedo di Carpegna became president) or perhaps it was laid out by members who knew what they were doing?

Whatever the case may be, golf is played here in a very special atmosphere, where the tree-lined rolling parkland fairways are split by the wandering waters of the Almone River with the rather unique backdrop of the Via Appia Antica and the Claudius aqueduct ruins. The course will never again host an Italian Open (the last one was held here in 1980) as it can only be extended to just over 6000 metres, which is too short for the professionals, but that’s more the loss of the European Tour. Credit the club for preserving this Golden Age track as it must be tempting to have a high profile architect come in to renovate the layout – it’s fine just as it is, thank-you.

Other courses making significant progress within the top half of the new table include both Kyle Phillips-designed 18-hole layouts at the Verdura Resort on the southwest coast of Sicily (the East course is up one place to number 8 and the West course rises three spots to number 11), the Rosso and Bianco nines at the 27-hole Gardagolf Country Club complex, set in 275 acres overlooking Lake Garda (up five to number 17), and the course at Argentario Golf Resort & Spa on the Monte Argentario promontory in Tuscany (up four to number 25), which was one of the first in Italy to be awarded an “Agricert” for its eco-compatible credentials when it was built in 2006.

The only new entry in our updated Italian standings appears at number 21 and it’s the 18-hole Mountain course at Toscana Resort Castelfalfi, which Rainer Preissmann and Wilfried Moroder remodelled in 2011 when they redesigned ten holes from the previous course (designed by Pier Luigi Mancinelli in the early 1990s) and added eight new holes. They also brought the 9-hole Lakes course into play at an upmarket 27-hole resort which lies in the heart of Tuscany, a 90-minute drive southwest of Florence city centre. Castelfalfi has flown very low under our radar over the last few years but, now that it’s been brought to our attention, expect to hear more about it in the months that lie ahead.


To view further details of our newly updated Italian Top 50 rankings click the link.

We’re always happy to hear what you think of our re-ranked national listings in Europe so please make use of the “respond to this article” link at the top or at the bottom of this page if you’d like to share your opinion of our newly revised Top 50 for Italy.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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