John Dean has been one of the driving forces behind the very popular GolfPunk Magazine. Now he’s taking a break to do what he likes best: traveling and playing golf . John goes on an Interrail trip through 9 European countries, playing golf in every country he visits. This is his story!
From Royal Mougins, I am back on the train at Cannes heading to Grosseto and the fabulous Argentario Golf Resort & Spa on the Monte Argentario promontory in southwest Tuscany. This is a train journey of three parts, with changes on the French / Italian border at Ventimiglia, and then a change at the port city of Genoa.
I thought I would do some reading on this trip, but I cannot tear myself away from the ever-changing landscape. My morning train journey takes me down the Côte d’Azur and through the heart of Monaco and Monte Carlo, whilst the afternoon train hugs the Tuscan coastline.
Argentario Golf Resort & Spa
Argentario has been in my travel sights for well over a year now, when I first starting following them on Instagram as they caught my eye with a stunning shot of the course, and I am excited to arrive as the sun begins to set over the distant Mediterranean Sea.
The hotel is set into the slopes of the Monte Argentario hills that surround the Resort on three sides. It’s ultra-modern and looks like a spacecraft has landed on the Tuscan landscape. The dramatic reception is on the top floor, with some of the 73 designer rooms set below.
Everything then funnels down to The View which gives you a glimpse of mountains on the Tuscan mainland and the Tyrrhenian Sea in the far distance, and then the inland salt-water lagoon of Orbetello in the near distance.
The Resort is as much about gastronomy as golf, and I am delighted by my first meal at their stylish, yet cozy Club House with its traditional decor of historic Anglo-Saxon golf clubs. Paul, the restaurant manager, recommends the steak and tells me that his father and his father’s father were both butchers, and his choice is so right. This is perfect steak central, and add a drop of local Chianti and I am exactly where I want to be.
Teeing It Up Italian Style
With the success of the Molinari brothers and Matteo Manassero, this is a good time for golf in Italy, especially now that there is a Ryder Cup teed up for 2022 down the road at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome.
I am sure that there are a lot of golfers who will want to play the Ryder Cup host course, and given that it is only ninety miles away from Argentario, this could become a really great double hander. And you could throw in the Olgiata Golf Club in Rome, which has hosted the Italian Open. That’s food for thought.
I make my way back down to the Club House in the early morning, and I am immediately struck by the modern and sleek driving range, where I have a quick warm-up before hitting the course.
Argentario Golf Club is actually the PGA National Italy and the only PGA-licensed golf facility in Italy, so good practice facilities are a must and are certainly delivered here.
The course was designed by former Italian European Tour player Baldovino Dassù, and architect David Mezzacane. Some of the holes were later shaped and revised by Brian Jorgensen. The course actually came first and opened in 2006, with the hotel being built two years later.
I find the course a delight, and I have no one ahead of me or behind me, which is such a luxury, it’s proper millionaire’s golf. The heat of the summer has now abated, and I can just relax and focus on my game. As the area has its own micro-climate, golf can actually be played all year round.
The second and third holes both offer stunning views of the sea and the front nine winds its way gently back to the clubhouse, where I have a mid-round pint of Pilsner Urquell, who used to sponsor The Open Championship. Well, that’s my excuse before I tee it up on the back nine, which takes you through the ancient olive groves of the estate, which also produces its own olive oil for its guests.
The greens are small and undulating; they’re in great condition and running fast and true. Whilst the whole of Europe has suffered from a very hot summer, the course appears none the worse for it.
The 18th is a real stand out hole, and has a split fairway, meaning that there are different ways of playing it. The big hitters can take the Tiger Line, but I took the safe route.
I get back on the course in the afternoon, so after three days of relatively hard traveling, I have also managed to get 56 holes under my belt and feel that I have justified my existence.
Spa’ing it up at Argentario
And when your golf is done, it’s time to head off to their 2,700 square meter MediSPA and Espace Wellness Centre where you can even get a specialist golf massage.
There’s a massive indoor, heated swimming pool, a smaller outdoor pool, Kneipp pools and a hot tub.
If you are asking, Kneipp Therapy is a form of water therapy that was created by the Bavarian priest Sebastian Kneipp, and involves the interplay of hot and cold water on the skin, which widens the arteries, stimulates blood flow and the metabolic system and strengthens the immune system.
There’s also a thalassotherapy option, which is the use of seawater as a form of therapy no less.
Eating It Up at Argentario
In addition to the Club House restaurant serving healthy local Tuscan and Mediterranean dishes, there’s also fine dining to be savoured at the Dama Dama restaurant, which takes its name from the fallow deer that roam the nearby hills.
The strong eco-friendly theme running through both the hotel and the golf course, part of the Italian ‘Committed to Green’ scheme, extends to Resort dining with the Italian chef, Emiliano Lombardelli, sourcing all ingredients locally, whilst their vegetables come from their very own organic garden, which is a delightful touch.
There’s a six-course and an eight-course tasting menu if you really want to push the boat out, and I opt for the Mare Nostrum menu, which is six courses of seafood heaven.
Argentario Golf Villas
The Resort has just opened some stunning new luxury golf villas, which all have extensive terraces for outdoor living and even boast their own hot tubs. Surrounded by olive oil groves and natural vegetation such as cork oak trees, and offering panoramic views over the course, this is another way of taking advantage of the golf course and the hotel’s services and facilities which as a guest you have full access to, especially if you want to bed in for a week or more.
What’s on offer
Argentario is a proper 5-star golf and resort experience, and prices reflect this, but they are running an offer for golfers at the moment, which strikes me as excellent value for money. Three nights with three rounds of golf based on sharing a double room for €450 per person.
With a rack rate of €100 a round in high season, you’re effectively getting your accommodation for just €50 a night.
I will have some of that next time, and there will be a next time by hook or crook! This a little piece of golf heaven, and just so peaceful and far from the madding crowd. If your batteries need a recharge, get yourself over.
Back on the rails
I have now put 2,500 kilometers under my belt on the railways of the UK, France and Italy, and week one of my InterRail and golf adventure is now done.
My next stop is Florence for some R&R, before heading to Switzerland and the home of Swiss Golf in the Engadine Valley plus the famous 9 hole golf course at the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz.
Bring it on!