In November a group of Leadingcourses.com ambassadors visited a unique golfing destination: Sicily, Italy. In the article below they share their experiences about the golf courses that can be found in this area!
The first stop of our Leadingcourses ambassadors trip to Sicily was at Donnafugata Golf Resort & Spa. The resort has two 18 hole layouts, the Parkland Course was designed by Gary Player and the Links Course by Franco Piras. Both courses were opened in 2010 and only 6 months after its opening the Parkland course already hosted an European Tour event.
Donnafugata Golf Resort & Spa
We played our first round at the Parkland. The course starts with three gentle holes. But then things get a lot more challenging and a few holes are surprisingly penal for a resort course. I really liked how a couple of stone walls were incorporated into the design. It makes the course feel older than it is. My favorite hole on the front 9 is the short par 5 7th hole. After a good drive you can easily reach the green in two but water on the right and some heavy bunkering on the left really makes you think about going for it.
The most memorable holes on the back 9 are the three finishing holes. They all feature a water hazard either left or right and the par 4 18th hole is a good risk and reward hole. It’s the no. 1 handicap hole and fairly short from the members tees and plays as a dogleg left. If you decide to hit driver from the tee you need to flirt with the water hazard on the left otherwise you might run out of fairway. Depending on the line of your tee shot you can get really close to the green and have only a short pitch onto the green.
On the following day we played the Links. While it’s certainly not a genuine links course, it definitely plays a lot firmer than the Parkland course next door. The course is more open than its neighbor and has only one big tree (a majestic pine on the 9th hole) on the entire course. The Links starts with a good birdie opportunity. If you challenge the water hazard on the left from the tee you will have a good chance to reach this par 5 in two shots.
Another good hole on the front 9 is the par 4 8th. The hole is less than 300 meters long and probably a bit too challenging to go for the green with your tee shot, but after a good layup you still have an exciting second shot into this semi-island green. My favorite hole on the course is probably the par 4 14th hole. There is a pond in the middle of the fairway and you have basically three ways to play the hole. You either take the bold line and try to carry the water hazard (a 220 meters carry), or you try to shorten the hole by hitting the left part of the fairway. Lastly, the safest way is to hit the right part of the fairway which leaves you the longest approach into the green.
Overall we found the Links Course better then the Parkland. But having two different type of courses on the same property certainly adds some variety when staying at Donnafugata Resort a little longer.
Il Picciolo Etna Golf Resort & Spa
The most spectacular golf location in Sicily, and arguably Italy, is that of Il Picciolo Etna. The name gives it away: it is right at the foot of the Etna. The second most active volcano of Europe and the point where the earth shells of Africa and Europe meet. With 3329,6 metres height (and counting), its snow-covered peak can’t be missed in the far surroundings, puffing a flair of smoke.
This sight can be enjoyed from many different angles of the golf course. There is a serious danger here. Not by an eruption – though that still happens every year. The real danger is that you lose your concentration on the game, being absorbed by this scenery. Which doesn’t help is that the course is not a cat to be trifled with. It looks very scenic and is not long, but it takes all your skills and clever course management to play your handicap.
You can expect all kinds of challenges: narrow fairways, sidehill lies, unexpected bushes, blind shots, rocks, valleys and water hazards. The stretch from teebox to green is not always easy going, but at least the greens are a fair challenge. In perfect condition after a dry summer and some recent heavy downpours… the greenkeepers have their business in order here. The same applies tot the rest of the staff: very friendly and professional staff, offering good service and great food.
After having enjoyed 18 holes of sheer golf indulgence, we treated ourselves to the most spectacular 19th hole. From the parking lot of the club house you can rent a helicopter. Shared by a flight it will not set you back more than a decent Mediterranean green fee. From the sky you can see quite clearly that the golf course is the first exploited ground at the foot of the volcano, with lavarock slides going down straight to the rough. Not before long, we were looking inside the crater, with a red dot of bubbling lava clearly visible. The biggest hole of all.
I Monasteri Golf Resort
Last stop of our 4 day Sicily trip was I Monasteri Golf & SPA Resort, located near Syracuse just about an hour drive South from Catania. Lovely tree-lined driveway through majestic cypress trees and lovely monastery building turned into a 5-star hotel sure promised a lot… Founded in 2012, this 18-hole par 71 course measures 6520 meters and has five sets of tees which should suit most golfers.
The terrain is pretty much flat but the golf course architects David Mezzacane and his son Vincenzo found a good way to lay the holes among plantations of oranges, lemons, mandarins, almonds and even prickly pear cacti. This diverse vegetation with mountains in the background along with some historical ruins make the game very interesting and entertaining but also very challenging at the same time.
And when you just start enjoying there comes the 6th hole where proper golf at I Monasteri actually starts as 6117 meters from yellow tees for par 71 might be a bit too much for average golfer especially when most par 5’s are not reachable in two so birdies don’t come easy here. The following holes stood out: 4th hole is very good risk and reward dogleg right Par-4, 6th is a monster Par-4, 420m makes it very long and quite narrow but beautiful prickly pear cacti and mountains in the back help with visually. Hole 9 is a lovely Par-3 with a very nice view of the monastery and 18th green.
10th hole is a beast with very tight landing zone and a well protected green but a proper risk and reward hole while 397m long Par-4 11th hole is a bit unrealistic. If you don’t hit your drive very very far and land it on a dime (literally) you do not have a shot to the green which again is well protected and impossible to attack from certain points of the fairway or semi rough. The hole is simply too though and I think it should be shortened a bit or make it 20 meters longer to be played as a Par-5.
The 17th hole Par-5 is also quite interesting. Hole no. 18 is short but quite technical finishing Par-4 where you have to place your ball well to have a good shot to the green which is protected with water on the front-left side. There are also a few holes which are a bit awkward for first time visitors so a birdie book would be very helpful. On the other hand there are certain holes which definitely need some changes and improvements. Proper maintenance would certainly help in some ways as unfortunately the course was not in the best condition but still well playable and enjoyable. If you are not a very long player do yourself a favor and play it off the blue set of tees (and green for ladies) and enjoy the course with all its surroundings.