In full maturity, this alpine golf course has benefited from an exceptional setting since 1958. Often quoted among the best Italian courses, Biella-Le Betulle has evolved in the spirit of eco-responsibility. The hotel on the course is a welcome addition to make the most of your stay, just a stone’s throw from the French border.
By Claude Granveaud-Vallat
In 1956, there were only eleven 18-hole courses across Italy, and fewer than 50 single-digit players. It was a far cry from the Sunday Calcio hype across the Botte. So when John Morrison, an English architect who had worked alongside Harry Colt and Charles Alison on some of Europe’s finest projects – Sunningdale, Wentworth, Royal Dublin, Royal Troon, Kennemer, Saint-Cloud… – then visited the Biella site on the Serra Alpine plateau with the founders of the club and he was overwhelmed by the beauty of the place. Seventy hectares of wooded, undulating plots, where the sequence of holes already sounded like a symphony in the head of the elegant British architect. With his tweed suit, thick moustache, bald forehead and pipe, it didn’t take long for the man to seduce his clients. In the autumn of 1957, work began after 170 farmers had been convinced to give up a few acres for the golf project. A heresy for some, a blessing for others, the affair was smoothly managed by Franco Bocca, Angelo Guabello and Franco Buratti, the project’s financiers.
Between the birch trees – betulle in Italian – and their white trunks, the chestnut trees and the oaks changing colour with the seasons, the course quickly found its identity. Morrison only had to make a few cuts and lay down his greens, all slightly elevated – in the English fashion of the time. Although John Morrison enjoyed the praise due to his course when it was inaugurated in 1958, life did not allow him much time to complete his work. He handed over to Donald Harradine and John Harris before passing away in the early days of 1961. His successors did not betray his work, perpetuating his sense of detail, fine-tuning the bunkers, reworking some greens and backing off a few tee shots to make things more complicated in the spring of 1967.
In his book “Golf New Horizons” published in 1966, Gene Sarazen, the great American champion of the 20s and 30s, spoke of Biella as “an unforgettable design, offering everything a player could hope for from a course…”. High praise from a man who has won everything, starting with the four Majors, and who has travelled so much. A transalpine reference, the magazine “Il Mondo del Golf” has, between 1988 and 2015, considered Biella Le Betulle the best course in Italy 18 times, no less! These laurels are worth more than a long speech where ditches, streams that cut across the fairways and three ponds – in play on the 5th, 11th and 17th – are real obstacles in play all along this layout where the doglegs force you to think and often leave the driver in the bag.
If the distance from the major cities – Turin is 75 km away – and difficult access have always prevented Biella-Le Betulle from hosting the Italian Open, in 2006, the club hosted the European Amateur Championships, a tournament won by a promising young Northern Irishman, a certain Rory McIlroy, who was soon to shine in the world golf scene.
Golfystadors who want to discover this little gem can stay on site, just a stone’s throw from the tee of 1, at the Golf Hôtel Le Betulle, an establishment with 17 rooms that also serves as a clubhouse. What could be more pleasant than to change from slippers to golf shoes as soon as you get out of bed, to return to your room after a round, to take advantage of the relaxation area and the sauna before going to the table in this beautiful establishment. A refined table offering traditional cuisine with Mediterranean flavours, both at lunchtime and in the evening, where you can take the time to taste Piedmontese ravioli, risotto with Biella cheese, braised fillet of beef “fassone” deglazed with “barolo”… or any other inspiration of the Chef. The wine list also deserves all the interest of the gastronomes before going to the table! All very good reasons for a successful golfing and tourist stay in the heart of the Alps. Andiamo!
Golf Club Biella-Le Betulle
Regione Valcarozza, 2
13887 – Magnano Biellese (Bi)
Tél. : +39 015 679 151.
18 T, par 73, 6534 m., ouvert de mars à novembre.
Architectes : John Morrisson – Donald Harradine – John Harris (1958-1967).