Italy: Blossoming Golf Destination

Villa d’Este is scenic and challenging and one of Italy’s many elite golf options.

Toward the end of Tiger Woods’ post-Masters press conference an Italian journalist asked the freshly jacketed champion about the 2022 Ryder Cup, which will be held for the first time in Italy.

Woods brushed off the query. The event is three years away. His answer was unimportant, anyway. The question – and the performance over the last year by Woods’ final round playing partner Francesco Molinari – are examples that golf is thriving these days in Italy, a country with 250 courses and 90,000 regular golfers.

Earlier in the week, before he squandered the 54-hole lead, Molinari was asked about golf’s growth in his homeland and to measure the impact of his impressive victory last summer in The 147th Open at Carnoustie.

PerryGolf’s 2020 British Isles Golf Cruise includes final round of The 149th Open.

“I think fortunately, golf is starting to be, you know, very different now from where it was when I was growing up, and dreaming of just purely being here one time and playing in one major, would have already been a dream coming true,” Molinari said. “So I think now, the situation is a lot better. Obviously I’m helping a little bit with getting golf in the news and hopefully, you know, kids will see more and more about me and about golf in general and pick up the game, and there’s going to be more Italians in the future.”

Molinari, No. 7 in the world golf rankings, wasn’t the only Italian golfer who competed in Augusta in April, either. Four ladies participated in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, giving another indicator of the game’s health in Italy.

With its Old World charm, beauty, culture and gastronomic delights, Italy has forever been a prime destination for travelers. Now, excellent golf options make it an even more attractive option.

PerryGolf’s Best of Italy Escorted Golf Vacation is a 12-night tour from Aug. 30th to Sept. 11th in 2020 delivering five rounds of golf, including a round at Marco Simone, site of the aforementioned Ryder Cup in September 2020. Located 10 miles from the center of Rome, the club was named for the castle on the property which was built during the Middle Ages.

Jim Fazio and David Mezzacane designed the original golf course in 1989 and Marco Simone won the bid for the Ryder Cup in 2015, selected over courses in Austria, Germany and Spain.

The 24 competitors in the 2022 Ryder Cup matches – and the guests on PerryGolf’s 2020 Tour – will tackle a completely redesigned golf course. Tom Fazio II (son of Jim Fazio) is working with European Golf Design to build holes that will test the best in the game. The renovation also creates a more efficient infrastructure, allowing the necessary room for hospitality suites and grandstands.

Golfers will continue to enjoy views of St. Peter’s Dome on a property enhanced with new ponds, lakes and an irrigation system for the golf course.

“We are truly honored and fully committed to host an ‘epic’ Ryder Cup,” Lavinia Biagiotti Cigna, President of Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, told RyderCup.com. “We are excited to share our passion and to open our doors to every player, amateur and fan who wishes to be part of the spectacular transformation that is taking place. We are working to build a strong legacy for the next generation of golfers.”

Marco Simone will carve its place in the Ryder Cup’s storied history soon enough. It’s the centerpiece of any golfing journey to Italy but hardly alone in a discussion of the nation’s elite golf courses.

Firenze Ugolino opened in 1934. The layout, designed by U.K natives Cecil Blandford and Peter Gannon, ripples through the Chianti hills, accentuating the landscape of olive trees and indigenous vines.

On May 1st, 1983 the late, great Seve Ballesteros chipped in for eagle on the 18th hole in the final round of the Italian Open to force a sudden-death playoff with Bernhard Langer and Ken Brown, which he won.

Villa d’ Este, located near the beautiful Lake Montorfano was also designed by Gannon. The course sits roughly 1,200 feet above sea level and meanders through a variety of native woodland areas. A quaint par-69, this well-manicured course attracts the nation’s premier golfers annually.

PerryGolf has delivered seamless customized trips to the world’s premier international golf destinations since 1984. We are uniquely qualified to arrange every aspect of your vacation.

Countdown to the Ryder Cup accelerates as team rosters take form

Expect to see the team of Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth often during the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National. They won five of a possible seven points as partners in 2014 and 2016.

We’re three weeks away from the Ryder Cup, the biennial competition between the United States and Europe. The U.S. leads the all-time series 26-13 and holds the Cup after winning in convincing fashion at Hazeltine in 2016.

We’re counting down the days until the opening tee shot, no doubt.

Recent history, however, favors Europe, which has won the last five matches held on its home soil. The U.S. last won in Europe, in 1993, at The Belfry when Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth were less than a year old.

Le Golf National is the host course for the matches, which head to France for the first time.

PerryGolf is thrilled to offer a fully managed Escorted Tour to Southwest France in September, 2019. Guests will enjoy five rounds and four wine tastings during this 11-Night journey through the Bordeaux and Biarritz regions. While France might not be the first destination that comes to mind when planning a golf trip, the presence of this year’s Ryder Cup proves the country is rapidly growing in appeal and opportunity. Medoc Les Chateaux is a terrific links inspired design offered on this Escorted Tour while Saint Emilion is a recent addition, yet another polished gem from the creative genius of Tom Doak (Barnbougle Dunes, Cape Kidnappers).

Indulge in the rich gastronomy and exquisite wines of Bordeaux, enjoy the refined sophistication of elegant Biarritz, tour Saint Jean de Luz, a noteworthy tourist destination since the early 19th century.

As it pertains to the upcoming Ryder Cup matches, he 12-man roster for each team is rounding into shape. Both teams are stacked. Anticipation always surges in the days prior to the Ryder Cup, still expert analysts feel these could be some of the best matches ever. Earlier this week, NBC Sports golf analyst Mark Rolfing told Sirius XM PGA Tour radio hosts Brian Katrek and John Maginnes that the 2016 Ryder Cup was the greatest sporting event he’s ever covered or attended, including several Super Bowls and other major spectacles around the globe. No one would be surprised if these evenly matched teams in 2018 surpass that lofty mark.

U.S. captain Jim Furyk made three of his four picks Tuesday afternoon and there were no surprises as he selected Ryder Cup rookie Bryson DeChambeau, winner of consecutive FedEx Cup Playoffs events, and wily veterans Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. The American legends have combined to appear in 18 Ryder Cups, participating in 78 matches.

Team Europe captain Thomas Bjorn also added experience with his four selections on Wednesday. He selected Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey – who bring a wealth of winning memories in their combined 19 appearances.

Poulter has played well over the last year and has a phenomenal Ryder Cup record, including victories in 12 of 18 matches and a perfect singles record. Garcia has struggled this season but is on the record calling the Ryder Cup his favorite event. He’s claimed 22 points in eight appearances during which he’s been on the winning side five times.

Furyk has one final selection to make after this week’s BMW Championship at Aronimink, outside Philadelphia. While the soon-to-be 29-year-old bomber Tony Finau appears to be the leading candidate, Kevin Kisner, Xander Schauffele or Brandt Snedeker could play their way into consideration with a victory this weekend. 

Of course, the Ryder Cup has been contested throughout Europe over the last decade as the European Tour has shown the wisdom and foresight to expose an array of nations to the exciting matches in an effort to enhance interest and grow the game.

PerryGolf can take you and your favorite golfing partners to walk the same fairways and greens where matches have been decided, cups won and champagne-soaked celebrations spilled deep into the night.

Our 2019 British Isles Golf Cruise includes attendance to the final round of The 148th Open at Royal Portrush, and also a round at the K Club Palmer Course, site of Team Europe’s Ryder Cup victory in 2006. The Gleneagles PGA Centenary Course, which played host to Europe’s convincing 16.5 to 11.5 romp in 2014 is a popular selection on any of our Custom Tours to Scotland.

The dramatic finish at Valderrama was the ideal setting for the 1997 Ryder Cup when the late Seve Ballesteros captained Team Europe to victory over an American squad that included a rookie named Tiger Woods. Perhaps no golfer is more synonymous with the Ryder Cup than the fiery Spaniard. His presence, when the team expanded to include all of continental Europe in the late 1970s, helped elevate the matches to the worldwide status they enjoy today. Ballesteros and fellow countryman Jose Maria Olazabal, known as the Spanish Armada, breezed to an 11-2 record in their fourball and foursomes matches. Valderrama is a staple on PerryGolf’s many Cruises to the region, including the 13-Night Spain, Portugal & France Golf Cruise in late May / early June 2020.   

Don’t miss these 5 must-play courses in Spain

European golf observers consider El Saler, designed by Javier Arana and opened in 1968, one of the elite courses in Continental Spain.

For all of Spain’s charm and widespread appeal, perhaps golf has received a short shrift from casual observers in discussions covering the nation’s allure. Like a hidden diamond in a showcase of gems, the golf courses are eclectic, entertaining and enjoyable, offering a variety of styles from an outstanding collection of architects.

Later this month, PerryGolf’s cruise to the Iberian Peninsula departs Barcelona as guests board the elegant 690-seat Azamara Journey on a nine-night voyage that includes six rounds of golf. The Iberian Peninsula Golf Cruise (May 29 – June 7) is one of many options offered by PerryGolf aimed toward travelers seeking to explore the golf available in this intriguing region. The incredible beauty, culture and gastronomy in Spain are a given, and the world class golf shall no longer be overlooked. 

https://www.perrygolf.com/golfcruising/iberian-peninsula-golf-cruise-2019-may3.php

From Ballesteros to Olazabal, Jimenez to Garcia and today’s blossoming star, Jon Rahm, the Spaniards have, for decades, made a significant imprint on professional golf. Without compare, this nation with 46.5 million residents produces fiery champions and colorful characters. Each year it’s also becoming apparent to an international array of guests that the golf courses scattered about the nation are excellent.

The climate, of course, is ideal.

While there are nearly 350 courses sprinkled through Spain, many of the best are concentrated along the Southern coast from Isla Cristina in the west along the Portugal border through Costa del Sol and east to Costa Blanca. Splashed with sun and later sipping sangria, embrace the beauty of the coastline and azure water of the Alboran Sea in pursuit of pars and postcard memories.

Make sure you make a tee time at one of these five Spanish delights.

PGA Catalunya (Stadium)

Located 45 minutes north of the iconic city of Barcelona, the Stadium course at PGA Catalunya is Spain’s answer to the original Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass – known best for its diabolical 17th hole that terrorizes pros each spring during the the PLAYERS.

European PGA Tour veterans Angel Gallardo and Neil Coles collaborated and designed a layout measuring nearly 7,400 yards from the tips but also catered it to golfers across the handicap spectrum by building five sets of tees (the yardage is 5,500 from the forward tees). Large firs and ample water hazards border wide fairways and undulating greens. Expect the trademark semi-island greens surrounded by railroad ties.

PGA Catalyunya golf professional Enric Lopez shares these tips to taming the hearty Stadium course, which can be intimidating from the teeing ground and has been ranked No. 1 in Spain.

Real Club Valderrama 

Tiger Woods made his Ryder Cup debut on this venerable Robert Trent Jones Sr. design in 1997 and the matches produced a unfavorable result for the young professional and his American teammates. Feeding off the passion and purpose of captain Seve Ballesteros and buoyed by phenomenal performance in the foursomes and fourball matches, the Europeans claimed the Cup, 14.5 to 13.5.

The course remains a fixture on the European PGA Tour schedule, serving as host for the Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Oct. 18-21. Sergio Garcia is the defending champion for the event certain to attract yet another strong international field.

The members purchased the club, which includes the par-3 course and clubhouse, last fall for $28 million Euros and there are plans to add another 18-hole championship layout.

El Saler 

With holes reminiscent of a Scottish links and others winding through a Mediterranean forest, variety and beauty are the hallmarks of this short yet challenging design. Located just south of Valencia, overlooking the Balearic Sea, this gem from architect Javier Arana measures nearly 7,000 yards from the championship tees and is guaranteed to test a golfer’s acumen in every area of the game.

Bernhard Langer tamed El Saler in the final round of the 1984 Spanish Open, firing a course-record 10-under 62 to seal the victory. He went on to win the European Tour Order of Merit that year. Langer again won the event on El Saler five years later. Robert Karlsson (2001) and Raphael Jacquelin (2013) also have fond memories of Spanish Open titles at El Saler.

Arana designed 10 courses in his career, starting in 1946 until his passing in 1975. He considered El Saler the masterpiece due to the unspoiled land and intricate green complexes. Learn more about Arana in this excellent profile from 2009.

Not fond of earthmoving, probably due to the associated cost, Arana held that 80 per cent of the course was nature and that man should only be responsible for 20 per cent of the final design … Good routing and usage of available land was one of his main strengths: in flatter seaside property, he excelled at minimizing green-to-tee walks

Finca Cortesin

With a healthy 7,500 yards from the championship tees and more than 100 bunkers, this three-time host of the Volvo World Match Play Championship (2009, 2011, 2012) underwent a significant upgrade and renovation in the summer of 2017. The greens were the centerpiece of this project and the reviews since have been positive for this Cabell B. Robinson design.

Robinson, an American, received a bachelor’s degree from Princeton in the late 1960s and attended graduate school in design at Harvard. He went to work for legendary Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1971 and led his European department until 1987 when he started his own firm. Robinson has courses throughout Europe but none are held in higher regard than Finca Cortesin, slightly inland from the Mediterranean, routed through a valley. There are many unforgettable holes, thanks to the lack of residential development on the property.

Real Golf Club Sotogrande

When a man as esteemed in his field as Robert Trent Jones Sr., claiming 500 courses designed or renovated, proclaims a course as ranking among his five favorites then it’s wise to heed the words – and better yet, procure a tee time, with alacrity.

The course was RTJ’s first in Europe, opening in 1964. It surely opened the doors for him to spread his genius across the continent. Any smart developers or landowners who were anxious to contribute to Europe’s rapid golf course growth at the time hoped to lure Trent Jones to design their layout.

Click here to watch a flyover video of the course.

Better still, the course enjoyed a significant renovation, completed in July 2016 and engineered by the team of Rulewich & Fleury that included the installation of 419 Bermudagrass fairways.

Ballesteros won the Spanish Professional Championship at Sotogrande in 1987, holing a greenside bunker shot on the 16th hole in the final round. The members probably still talk about that one in the 19th Hole.

 

 

Top 5 Golf Courses to Play In The Mediterranean

Valderrama has played host to many European Tour events and the 1997 Ryder Cup. It’s consistently rated as the No. 1 course in Continental Europe.

 

Warm breezes, the fresh aroma of eucalyptus and beautiful scenery make the Mediterranean a desirable destination for golfers any day of the year. PerryGolf offers a variety of Cruises and Custom Tours to the region, enabling travelers to enjoy the arts, architecture and gastronomic delights so readily available. These five golf courses are certain to challenge and enchant all golfers.

Valderrama

Considered the top course in Continental Europe, the demanding layout at Valderrama has been the home for many European Tour events and the 1997 Ryder Cup, which Europe won in thrilling fashion, 14.5-13.5 over the United States. It’s the only time the matches have been held in Spain and is remembered best for the fiery leadership of captain Seve Ballesteros, the nation’s finest golfer. Another native son, Sergio Garcia, claimed the 2011 Andalucia Masters title at Valderrama.

Located in the southern tip of Spain, near Gibraltar, Valderrama enjoys a rich history, opening in 1974 as Las Aves, and taking its current name in 1985. Three-time Open Champion Henry Cotton served as the first golf professional at Valderrama. Tiger Woods played in his first Ryder Cup here in ’97 and was No. 1 in the world when he won the 1999 WGC-American Golf Express tournament on the venerable layout two years later, defeating Miguel Angel Jimenez in a sudden-death playoff.

The signature hole on the Robert Trent Jones Sr. design is the 17th, a 540-yard, par-5 featuring a steep-banked pond that defends the green. Many matches were settled in this dramatic amphitheater during the ’97 Ryder Cup as the world’s best golfers accepted the risk and attempted to reach the green in two shots. The course has earned the reputation for immaculate conditioning year-round.

 

Alcanada 

Robert Trent Jones Jr., a legendary architect as well, designed Alcanada, which opened in 2003. This sparkling gem on the Mediterranean Island of Mallorca winds through pine and olive groves, measuring more than 7,000 yards from the championship tees and delivering sparkling views of the nearby island Alcanada and its iconic lighthouse.

In general, internet reviews describe Alcanada as a tough but fair golf course. Perhaps the stunning beauty of the sea offsets the challenge. Regardless, a round on this hidden gem is certain to be memorable.

 

Oitavos Dunes

Down in the southwest corner of Portugal, 30 miles west of Lisbon along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean lies a breathtaking golf course designed by renowned American architect Arthur Hills. Oitavos Dunes, which opened in 2001, was ranked No. 55 in Golf Magazine’s 2017 World Top 100.

Hills’ natural links rolls and flows through the sand dunes, umbrella pines and coastal transition areas. The course measures 7,010 yards from the tips as a par-71.

“We disturbed little of the environment as we routed the golf course in harmony with a piece of property sculpted by nature,” the architect said.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE6012QWgSU&w=560&h=315]

 

Finca Cortesin

How pure is Finca Cortesin?

So pure it wrested the Volvo World Match Play away from Wentworth in England after a 45-year run, and played host three times (2009, 2011, 2012) in four years.

Ross Fisher, Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts earned titles in the prestigious event which routinely includes many of the world’s top-ranked golfers. Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood praised the immaculate condition of the course, which is located in southern Spain. Garcia even compared the greens to Augusta National’s, which he conquered in dramatic fashion last April.

Cabell Robinson’s design is not for the weary or weak-spirited. The beast measures nearly 7,500 yards from the back tees and features 102 bunkers!

 

Oceanico Faldo

In the Central Algarve region of Portugal, the six-time major champion Nick Faldo designed a fair, yet demanding par-72, that registers more than 7,100 yards and features a slope of 138 from the championship tees.

“I like my courses to be challenging to whoever plays them,” said Faldo, who has more than 50 golf course projects completed or in progress around the world. “There might be easy holes in some places, but they are a challenge because you have to think about them, and that is what I am after. The best compliment you can get in the design business is when players come off the course and say ‘wow, that was a challenge.'”

The resort also features a floodlit par-3 course – just in case there’s not enough daylight to get your fill of golf.

 

 

Seve’s Last Golf Course Design Now Open

Royal Obidos, the last course that Seve Ballesteros worked on prior to his passing last year, has now opened for play.  The resort is located near Obidos, north of Lisbon, and represents an investment of €200 million; comprised of a 65 hectare golf course with holes overlooking Obidos Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean and a 5 star hotel with spa.  This is a welcome addition to the area that already has great golf in the shape of Oitavos Dunes, Praia D’el Rey and the courses at the Penha Longa Resort.  The city of Lisbon is also well worth a visit; with the crooked streets of the old section to the tree lined avenues, squares and gardens of the modern region.  There are also many interesting buildings to visit such as the Jeronimos Monastery, the Belem Tower, the Castelo de Sao Jorge and the shaded arcades of Palace Square.

Read the full article here.

By Alastair Niven.  Alastair has been with PerryGolf for over 13 years and is one of our Golf Travel Specialists.