Even if it does not adjoin the eponymous hotel, the Villa d’Este golf course enjoys the romantic setting of the Lombardy lakes. Since 1926, this layout has changed little in this manicured garden where the trees have grown, the slopes are still there, the small cheeky greens irritate before the club-house table reconciles us with life…
By Claude Granveaud-Vallat
Since the 16th century, Villa d’Este has been part of Italian and European history, with so many important people leaving their mark in the corridors, rooms and romantic gardens overlooking Lake Como. In the middle of the 19th century, the unification of Italy was celebrated here, achieved by Garibaldi. The palace became a luxury hotel in 1873 and has retained its excellence and charm through its suites, restaurants and gardens, which still appeal to lovers of Italian elegance.
One might regret that the golf course linked to this sublime residence since 1926 was not designed in its garden. It is a little further south, about ten kilometres away, on the banks of the small lake of Montorfano that the Englishman Peter Gannon put his imagination to work to create this jewel, this spring emerald changing to amber of the golden tones of autumn. The club hosted the Italian Open twelve times between 1928 and 1972, with some fine names on its list of achievements, but today it is sorely lacking in length to offer a real challenge to the big boys of the European Tour. However, amateur players appreciate it as much for its difficulties as for its magnificent setting. Enhanced by the view of the foothills of the Alps and the calm waters of the neighbouring lake, this undulating course winds through pine, chestnut, oak and birch trees that have grown up as the greens have skated
Here, it is preferable to be precise than long, the undergrowth comes quickly for those who handle the driver excessively. Between the slopes, the climbs, the plunges, the narrow tees, some depressions in the middle of the fairway, the small raised greens in the English style, one must get used to this layout before hoping to master it. Cleverly designed, this course creates a crescendo of difficulties. It is better to keep some energy and lucidity to play the return. Water only comes into play once, on the second shot of the 12th, a par 4 that widens at the drive drop, but so many other traps are waiting for us with no time to see them coming… Like the climb on the 18th, the end of the course is physical but still leaves time to enjoy this exceptional setting, a marvellously well maintained site where the love of the gardeners for their club is felt.
A sensation found once the game is over, as soon as you sit down in the shade of the terrace overlooking the 18th green and the whole forest surrounding the course. There, in a setting reminiscent of the splendour of the Villa d’Este – even if the construction is more modest -, you find again the serenity that you could have lost while searching for a few balls in the undergrowth… A worry quickly forgotten while reading the menu at lunch time, taking advantage of the chef’s talents for whom the recipes of the Italian Alps have no more secrets, or more simply while having a drink at the bar, in the shade of the mahogany panelling, seated in soft leather armchairs tanned by time, or outside, while watching other swings suffer in front of this valiant course which, for almost a century, has learned to defend itself!
For those who would like to enjoy this little paradise for a little longer – as we understand them! -The club has a few rooms available to accommodate golfers who want to explore the north of Italy.
Circolo Golf Villa d’Este
Via per Cantù, 13
22030 – Montorfano (Co)
Tél. : +39 031 200 200.