With its gentle climate and quality courses, combined with its beautiful landscapes, stunning lakeside towns and superb culinary heritage, there is plenty to whet the appetite for a golf holiday in the northern Italian region of Lombardy
Boasting a warm and temperate climate, a stunningly diverse landscape, and a rich artistic and culinary heritage, it’s easy to see why Britons have been flocking to Northern Italy ever since the word ‘holiday’ was invented.
A popular destination on the Grand Tour of Europe so beloved by the great Victorian travellers, the northern region of Lombardy, which is bordered to the north by Switzerland, is quite rightly regarded as one of Italy’s most scenic regions. Stretching from the Alps to the lowlands of the Po Valley, it is home to a wide range of landscapes, while its breathtaking lakes – Garda, Como and Maggiore – are renowned the world over for their beauty.
Aided by its geographic position and fertile soil, Lombardy is also one of Italy’s biggest wine regions, while its capital, Milan, is one of Europe’s most influential commercial and cultural hubs, boasting history, art and culture, which combine with innovation, technology, fashion and entertainment – including, of course, two world-renowned football teams.
But if you prefer to hit a small white ball around an open space, instead of watching 22 men kick a pig’s bladder around a stadium, them Lombardy has also got plenty of golf courses on which to indulge your passion. The region’s 28 courses have hosted over half of the country’s 73 Italian Opens, while the 74th tees off at Milano Golf Club, for the third consecutive year, from October 12-15. Last year’s winner was home favourite Francesco Molinari, who fended off the challenge of 2016 Masters’ champion Danny Willett to take the coveted title, which is one of the oldest in Europe. A home winner will be equally lauded, especially now that Italy has been chosen to host the Ryder Cup in 2022.
Teeing off our golfing tour of Lombardy in Lake Como, you’ll soon come across the historic and exclusive club of Villa d’Este, which boasts an 18-hole woodland gem that regularly ranks among the best courses in the country. Created as a private club for one of the most famous hotels in the world, Villa d’Este of Cernobbio, is a fabulous location that has hosted royalty, celebrated actors, and industry VIPs. Its impeccably curated fairways are certainly worth a try.
While you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth stopping off at Menaggio & Cadenabbia, Italy’s second oldest golf club. Founded in 1907, it enjoys an elevated position over Lake Como, and although it’s a short course, measuring just over 6,000 yards, its reputation proves that good things do come in small packages, with its delightful woodland layout reminiscent of a Home Counties course, only with significantly better views.
Also in the Lake Como district, the woodland courses at Pinetina and Barlassina are both enjoyable layouts, while the two tree-lined 18-holers at Monticello, the Red and the Blue – the former of which has hosted the Italian Open a dozen times – also have strong credentials to make your list of courses to play. Located on flat land, both courses offer easy walking, while plenty of water features and mature trees will keep you honest off the tee.
The courses located on the shores of Lake Garda are open all year-round, thanks to the mild climate created by the warm waters. The area is home to the luxurious Palazzo Arzaga resort, which features a five-star hotel and a spa. Nestled in the foothills overlooking Lake Garda, the resort offers two courses. The first 18 holes were designed by Jack Nicklaus Jr in the late 1990s and is notable for its large bunkers and rolling greens, while the second, a nine-hole course, was designed by Gary Player.
Just 15 minutes inland from Lake Garda, you’ll come to Chervò Golf San Vigilio, a 27-hole resort that boasts a four-star hotel. Owned by the famous Chervo clothing company, it is a golfer’s paradise, with three loops of nine championship holes, as well as a 9-hole par-three course and superb practice facilities. With stunning views over the course, the elegant hotel offers 75 comfortable rooms and a wide selection of self-contained apartments. There’s also an award-winning restaurant in the clubhouse.
Another club with 27 holes is Gardagolf Country Club, which offers gorgeous views of Rocca di Manerba, the Soiano Castle, and the hills of Valtènesi, while Franciacorta, situated just south of Lake Iseo, offers three courses not far from the vineyards, with the nines called Brut, Saten and Rosé.
Yet another great area for golfing is near Lombardy’s border with Piedmont. Around Lake Maggiore, Varese and Golf dei Laghi are well worth a visit, while Le Robinie, which boasts the only Jack Nicklaus-designed course in Italy, is a must-play. This spectacular stadium-style course has a modern feel to it, which contrasts nicely with the some of more traditional private clubs in the region.
Just outside Milan, you’ll find courses like the Villa Paradiso, immersed in a green oasis of peace and tranquility. Meanwhile, a historic Zoate and the Crema Golf Resort feature countryside courses reminiscent of English clubs, and are among the oldest in Italy.
For more details on golf breaks in Lombardy, visit www.in-lombardia.com/golf.