By: Claudio DeMarchi
Le Robine in Milan was a great place to begin our trip in the northern part of Italy (if you misssed that article click on the link to the right under “Related Articles”) and only 10 minutes from the airport. There were eight of us on this excursion, all tour operators and members of the International Association of Golf Tour Operators. The Nickluas designed course provided great anticipation for what was yet to come. Our tour guide for this adventure, Alessandro Cremon an Italian tour operator himself who’s company, 18 Holes Five Stars, specializes in inbound tours through Italy.
After our juant around a few of the courses in the trendy touristy region of Lago Maggiore which has eight course in total and is the second largest lake on the southern side of the Alps bordering Switzerland, we would all be heading up to the Convention in Lake Como.
Trust me on this, but if Italy is a destination of choice you will want to make this region a must stop for golf, but of course, not only golf! The people of the Piedmontese region are as as friendly as the come. After all, why would George Clooney choose to make Lake Como his home? Perhaps it is the view that they wake up to daily, or that this is the region that produces some of those stunning Barolo and Barbaresco wines produced from the Nebbiola grapes, or being the land of truffles and risotto. What more can you ask for?
It was late October so you would not expect it to be all that warm but surprisingly enough I was in shorts all the time with the odd shell to break any chill.
I knew our first stop was going to be a treat and a challenge! Castelconturbia Golf Club, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr, is a 27 hole complex, approximately 65 km northwest of Milan. I love Palmer and Fazio designs but to me Trent Jones Sr. courses are true golfers golf courses – tough but fair and no gimmicks. The original 9 hole layout known as the Couturbier Golf Club, the second oldest golf club in Italy was built in 1898.
The Jones Sr. redesign was completed in 1986, played host to the Italian Opens in 1991 and 1998 and last year Golf World rated Castelconturbia the 58th best course in Europe.
There are three parkland style courses with the Blue (Chestnuts) and Yellow (Pines) being the championship 18. The Red 9 or Oaks are slightly weaker than the others with more generous landing areas off the tee. As you can see by the names of the nines -Chestnuts, Pines and Oaks – treelined fairways were carved out of rolling woodlands. Being at the base of the Italian Alps you would expect some elevation change and you get it! Greens are generally wide but not deep and they are slick but receive balls exceptionally well. Water hazards are prevalent with lots of streams and ponds but the par 4, 7th with its island green might just be the signature hole! www.castelconturbia.it
You will love the course, you will love the clubhouse that has exceptional food and wine and for those lacking in culture, like myself, absorb it while you can. Tt might just save you a visit to a museum or church! LOL
Our next stop was just 10 km down the road at Circolo Golf Bogogno which has 2 courses designed by American designer Robert von Hagge and is set against the backdrop of the Monte Rosa Mountains.
The Del Conte course which we did not play is a links style course, relitively flat considering the location and considered to be somewhat more challanging the the Bonora Course. Somehow I find that hard to believe and it makes me want to come back. The Bonora Course is almost 6,700 yards from the regular mens tees, fairways are generous but water in the form of lakes, ponds and streams are ever present on at least 15 or 16 of the holes. Not too mention a fine collection of nice white sand bunkers. I think the Mr. von Hagge is a mean man…but I loved it!
I have to admit at first I said Robert WHO? Now I bow down with all the respect to Mr. von Hagge! A masterpiece.
The Bogogno Golf Hotel hosted us on this evening. Conveniently located adjacent to the clubhouse with rooms overlooking the 18th hole of the Bonora course. I would certainly recommend a visit to the roof top terrace. Other than the spectacular view of the Monte Rosa Mountains you will find the all important bar, jaccuzzi, and solarium.
One of the most scenic courses Golf des Iles Borromees sits several hundred feet above sea level and not only provides panoramic views of the Swiss Alps but from the 18th tee you can see all four of the surrounding lakes; Maggiore, Varese, Monate and Commabio.
A true test of mountain style golf. Not to many flat lies on these fairways. The par 72 course plays to 6,700 yards from the tips and this mountain terrain makes you earn evrery inch. www.golfdesiles.it
On route to Lake Como we stopped in to play Golf Club Varese which might just have the oldest clubhouse in the world. In the 12th century this now clubhouse was a convent complete with wall murals, cloisters and a watch tower. This is one clubhouse that you want to take some time to look around in.
The course itself is parkland style and is a shot makers course. The front nine fairways are tree lined and undulating as the course site high above Lake Varese. I would say it is on the tightish side, thankfully water is scarce and bunkers are not overwhelming. Leave your driver in the bag on this 9.
The course comes into its own on the back with the downhill par 4, 10th hole providing the most stunning view of Lake Varese. Signature hole in my mind! A good collection of par 4’s and 5’s await and save some energy for the big climb up the 18th. www.golfclubvarese.it
For our group, tournamnet day as part of the IGTM Convention it was the Red Course at the Monticello Golf Club. It is a 36 hole complex and the Red Course is a Graham Cooke (Canadian gentleman) redeign which has hosted 7 Italian Opens.
The Red Course is the one you want to play! Both are immaculately maintained as the Milanese membership would not have it any other way. Parkland in style fully matured treelined fairways relatively flat with some water to keep you on your toes. A classy place to play that would be comparable to the finest private clubs in America. http://www.golfclubmonticello.it
When traveling overseas to play and getting around you want to make sure that you arrangements are in the hands of experts. With that we would recommend that you use top quailty inbound tour operators. A couple for you to consider are our host for our trip Alessandro Cremon 18 Holes 5 Stars www.18holes5stars.com or Tabita Miotto of Italy and Golf who has recently opened an office in Toronto..
Let us know if there might be an interest in a group adventure to northern Italy for September of 2016 as we are considering a return visit. firstname.lastname@example.org