With the Ryder Cup over for another two years, attention is now turning towards Italy as the next host for the biannual clash on European soil.
The venue for the 2022 battle between the best of Europe and the USA is the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, a 27-hole facility built around a castle a few miles from Rome’s city centre.
The benefits of bringing such a prestigious event to Italy for the first time will likely be felt by golf clubs throughout the country. To help things along, the first pan-Italian promotional golf project, Italy Golf & More, was launched in 2016 with a seven-figure investment in a collaboration between 12 private-sector partner regions, the Italian Golf Federation, representing a further six regions, and Italy’s ministry of tourism, MiBACT, to raise awareness of Italy as a golf destination in key European markets.
Partner regions — led by Friuli-Venezia Giulia together with Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, Piedmont, Liguria, Puglia, Sicily, Lazio, Sardinia, Marche and Umbria — account for 119 of Italy’s 142 18-hole golf courses.
Included in the initiative is a website (italygolfandmore.com) detailing the country’s golf courses and regions, as well as engaging with golfers across print, digital and social channels and at key golf tournaments. It also involves a tie-in with leading UK tour operators.
So far, the campaign has seen positive results. Foreign green fee bookings rose by 40 per cent between 2014 and 2017, an increase of 200,000 rounds played by international golfers in the three-year period, reaching almost 700,000 rounds.
The golf hub
Lombardy has the most golf clubs of any Italian region, as well as attracting more visiting golfers than anywhere else. Its 28 facilities encompass notable golf clubs Villa d’Este, Monticello and Menaggio & Cadenabbia (where, incidentally, George Clooney plays). Meanwhile, neighbouring Piedmont’s 18 golf clubs include gems Biella Le Betulle, Bogogno Golf Resort and former Italian Open venues Royal Park I Roveri and Turin and Castelconturbia golf clubs.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia offers seven courses in settings from the Adriatic Sea to mountains in the far north-west corner bordering Austria and Slovenia. Among them are alpine club Golf Senza Confini Tarvisio (Golf Without Borders), right on the Austrian border, and Udine, Trieste, Lignano and Grado golf clubs.
The Veneto region was named Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year for 2013 in the prestigious IAGTO Awards, with Golf della Montecchia winning the IAGTO Sustainability Award for Community Value for 2018. The region’s other 18 golf clubs include the only golf course within Venice, Circolo Golf Venezia, the Arnold Palmer-designed Golf Ca’ della Nave, Golf Villa Condulmer and Padova and Verona golf clubs.
Emilia Romagna’s 16 courses span inland golf clubs Modena, Bologna and Argenta to ones on the Adriatic coast including Adriatic Golf Club Cervia, Riviera Golf and Rimini Golf.
Italy also offers top golf on its islands. Sardinia’s four golf clubs include four-time Italian Open venue Golf Is Molas, with 27 holes, Golf Is Arenas and Pevero, while the stars of Sicily’s five golf offerings are the resorts of Verdura and Donnafugata.
There’s a burgeoning scene with plenty of choice already, but given the impact of the Ryder Cup, who knows what this might become in a few years. Italy could become one of the sport’s major players.