By: Claudio DeMarchi
Is there anything not to LOVE about Italy?
In a country that is known for its wine, food, art culture and history, you can now add golf. Yes, I did say GOLF!
I have to admit that when I found out that I was going to the International Golf Travel Market in Lake Como, Italy I was somewhat surprised by the location – northern Italy and the time of year – late October.
I was met at the Milan Airport after a nice direct flight from Toronto (thank you Air Canada) by a driver from Le Robine Golf Resort & Hotel. This is good! Ten minutes later we are at the resort, even better.
After an overseas flight, nap time right? Wrong, at check-in I met Paola who was one of two ladies that greeted me and she advised that she would be giving me a tour of the property after I dropped off my bags. OK I can do that! Then have a nap. As our tour ended Paola offered lunch, I was a bit peckish, so what the heck, let’s do lunch and maybe a glass of fine Italian wine. At lunch the GM of the resort, Paolo stopped by followed shortly by the property cappo (the owner), Frederico.
Wine was good, sitting on the deck overlooking the finishing holes of the beautiful Jack Nicklaus designed course, and a sunny day with temps in the high 70’s…life is grand. Frederico spoke no English. I can understand a fair bit and can speak poco poco (a little). Frederico asked if I might be interested in a tour of the course or maybe play 9 holes. The wine had kicked in so what the heck, let’s play 9 holes. But I expressed that it would be only he and I – that was going to force me to speak Italian right out of the gate.
Off we go, you can’t help but notice and feel the pride of ownership. Frederico would tell you that he considers his grass to be “cashmere.” Stepping onto the first tee and looking down the first fairway it is lush and green. A couple of nice starting holes and then you come to the first of many beauties. The 3rd hole about 150 yards with water right and encroaching on the front with the green frame by stone!
The 4th could arguably be considered the toughest hole on the course elevated tee, water looming large all the way down the right hand side to an elevated green well protected by numerous bunkers.
Number 9!! Welcome Mount Blanc! The sun was shining no clouds and a pretty as the hole was you are captivated by the snow-capped peak of one of the tallest mountains of the Italian Alps. Standing on the tee all you can say is WOW. Par 5 elevated tee looking down you will see a large lake as you get ½ way to the green. The green is elevated about 60 feet with a large wall to stare at should you be in the bunker below!
So the nine is over and it is time for a nap right? Not if Frederico has anything to say about it! There was not a hope in hell that he was going to let me off that cart until we finished the entire round! As tired as I thought I was, it was late October, it was sunny and in the high 70’s and other than what was in store for me over the next week or so, my season was over with some minor knee surgery scheduled for when I got back home. So, play on McDuff!!!
Coming back on the 10th you contend with water on the right a similar bunker to the 9th as you approach the elevated green. Not as high a face on the bunker but the green is much narrower and longer. Good risk reward hole at about 350 yards and the further you venture down the fairway off the tee the more the water comes into play! 3 wood a good choice!
Some meaty par 4’s and 5’s mixed in with a couple of par 3’s all with plenty of bunkers to mess with your ball take you from 11 – 16 where the close begins! 17 and 18, which I had admired from the deck, looked even better form the tee box! Glistening blue water, a blue sky with the sun setting and lush green cashmere grass! 17 is a nice par 5 just over 5oo yards but with water all down the left and the green tucked behind the blue it is a 3 shot hole unless you are the hero type!
While 17 was a nice hole, 18 is not so much whit water all down the left hand side nestling right up to the left side of the green. I think I had about 165 intimating yards for my second and of course I was going for the green, LOL, but ended up bailing to the side hill on the right and hoping for a Mickelson flop to save par. Didn’t happen! But I did survive the entire round!
I had all but forgotten about nap time so when Frederico suggest that we have a beer I was all for that. After all you do develop a thirst on those golf courses on hot sunny days. Paolo shows up and informs us that he has made dinner reservations for us in the clubhouse for 7:30. Who needs to sleep anyway!
I did manage a shower before venturing back to a very busy clubhouse dining room. It was not long before I found out why there was so many people as I was in for a feast fit for a king!
In Italy many meals begin with the antipasto which could be made up of cold cuts, cheeses and an array of olives or marinated peppers but certainly not limited to those. Prosciutto is a dried cured ham which may be considered a delicacy if there was such a thing in cold cuts. I know I like it and the fresher the better. Well, this was the freshest ever for me as the hoof of the boar was sitting next to the table!
I am not sure what wine we were drinking but I overheard Frederico make a special request to our server and it was as good as it gets! That makes a tired weak man even weaker!
Diner was amazing, steak was the main course and one steak served us all. About 3 inches thick and it had to come from an oversized cow. I am not sure I had ever seen a steak as large.
I could hear my bed calling as we were wrapping up diner and there was still some wine left but we had all had enough or so I thought and the cork put back into the half bottle. That was not the end of that!
As we were leaving the dining room, 2 gentlemen from India who were also to arrive earlier that day walk towards us. 2 members of IAGTO who were also on route to the Convention and here to participate in the pre event familiarization trip in northern Italy.
I knew one of them, but Frederico and Paolo did not. These two gents were their guests as well, I made the introductions and quickly realized that bed time was not going to happen just yet. The boys were hungry and I could not just leave them, so back to the table we go. Let’s track down the ½ bottle we left!!! So one more drink it was and then finally to bed!!
A good solid dead sleep and we were back out on the course again the next day. Another beautiful sunny and high 70’s day!
Over the next 4 four days we would venture a little further into northern Italy to the Lago Maggiore region before making our way to Lake Como for the Convention. Our most delightful guide and host for this part of the trip would be Alessandro Cremon of Italian tour company 18 Holes 5 Stars!
More to follow next month …but if you are thinking about Italy for some fine wine, great food and some pretty great golf I would consider beginning or ending your trip in Milan and make Le Robine a must stop! http://www.lerobinie.com/en/
I know that Frederico and Paolo will take good care of you!