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Golf travel: Tuscany

Five of the best in this Italian region

Posted: 18 January 2010
by Grant Leggate

tuscany golf
Breathtaking Poggio Dei Medici course

Rich in art, history, culture and traditions, Tuscany also has fabulous scenery, great food and superb wine - all the ingredients of a relaxing holiday destination.

Add the fact that it has some of Italy's finest golf courses and it makes the region an excellent target for discovery.

tuscany golf
14th hole at Poggio Dei Medici

Until the arrival of Costantino Rocca, Italy hardly figured as a top golf nation but the emergence of 2009 Open Championship silver medallist Matteo Mannasero and World Cup-winning brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari, has sparked many people's interest in the country's golfing future.

Tuscany is widely known for its picturesque landscape of rolling hills and intriguing history and with golf stirring and added passion it seems the perfect place to be. I didn't know what to expect but I was very pleasantly surprised.

Here are my top five of golf courses in Tuscany:

UNA Poggio dei Medici Golf Resort

This 18-hole (par 72) course, only a few kilometres from Florence, took my breath away. From its lush and immaculate fairways and well-paced greens, to its stunning, hilly surroundings – it’s exactly how you want a golf course to be. It provides a good test of skill with some difficult holes.

The literal translation of the course's title is 'Hill of the Medici' and high on 16th hole, with nothing but the sound of birds and Florentine church bells surrounding me, I was intoxicated with the feeling that if The Almighty played played golf, he'd choose here to pay his green fees!

tuscany golf
Ugolino - oldest course in Tuscany

The 18th is as wonderful a finishing hole as you can get in golf, but the 15th hole was my personal favourite. At 332 metres it's both challenging and stimulating with a split green that allows the hole to be set up in two very different ways - not the most difficult but demanding a well-placed drive and an accurate approach. Indeed all holes are a joy to play and it took me longer than anticipated to complete them such is the need to allow time to soak up the views and atmosphere.

With its fantastic 16th century clubhouse this remains one of my favourites anywhere in the world in the world.

Golf Club Ugolino

The oldest course in Tuscany, it is situated just south of Florence and last staged the Italian Open in 1983 when Bernhard Langer won the title. It has a real Tuscan flavour with stunning views around every corner and some challenging holes that blend into the landscape, narrow fairways and tricky greens.

Skill and accuracy are vital but it still a fun course for all abilities especially on the front nine, where the 295-metre (par 4) third, sets up nicely on the eye demanding a good drive to the left to leave a tricky approach to the green.

tuscany golf
The closing hole at Le Pavoniere


Even if you're fit enough to enjoy a walk, hiring a buggy (40 euro) is recommended to reduce the time between green and tee and to admire the views between shots. An absolute joy with helpful, attentive and informative staff.

Golf Club Le Pavoniere

Eighteen holes (par 72) and located only 15 km from Florence International Airport it was crfeated by Arnold Palmer's design company As a result it has a typically American feel with large greens, vast bunkers and wide fairways.

What it perhaps lacks in surroundings, it makes up for in playability - a relatively flat course with several water hazards needing sensible course management. Most holes are tree lined but well spaced so as not to provide obstacles that are too demanding. It plays long in the wind with greens that are quick but fair.

Apart from the 18th the best holes were the 6th and the 5th - a par-3 where confidence is need off the tee.

tuscany golf
Stunning par-3 18th at Montecatini

Plenty of risk and reward golf at Pavioniere, which was in perfect condition and a good test for all level of golfer.

Montecatini Golf Club

Deep in the Tuscan countryside South-West of Florence, this 18-hole course is one of the region's natural beauties. It's hilly but the fairways are quite wide and not too long. Lakes, streams, trees and ditches all combine as natural contours of the land which is quite exposed so wind provides an added obstacle.

I found the greens fast and undulating - an added problem to several blind drives, but if you want your skills to be tested this is a tough examination paper.

Tees and fairways were not in the best of condition when I played the course but it was, after all, December and my round came after a lot of rainfall in previous days.

My favourite hole was the stunning and daunting par-3 18th played over a 150-metre wide lake. Club selection is critical.

tuscany golf
Approach to the 9th over water at Cosmopolitan

The clubhouse was neat and compact with adequate facilities and producing the feel of a family run business with friendly staff. It's a testing course and at its best in the summer months.

Cosmopolitan Golf and Country Club

Tirrenia is only 20 minutes from the airport serving Pisa and with water a major feature of this course, lots of risk and reward decisions to be made at Cosmopolitan.

Its undulations respect the original shape of the land with four sets of tees on each hole enabling the greens staff the ability to set up various options and provide a fair test for all abilities.

Each of the 18 holes is well defined with good sized greens and fairway that are, on the whole level. The greens were slow but true and in great condition. Not too much lip on the numerous bunkers making escape not too demanding.

The 5th for me was the stand-out hole requiring a shots to be played over water twice before you reach the green. However, defining shot of the round is your approach the to the 9th green, again over water, making club selection crucial. A pretty course with good facilities, well maintained and very playable, but it will be a tricky test when the wind gets up.

Fact File

UNO Poggio dei Medici Golf and Resort

Address: Via San Gavino 27,50038 Scarperia (FI) 50038 Scarperia (FI) 
Tel: +39 (0)55 8435562


Website: www.poggiodeimedici.com


Fees: 18 holes € 80.00, 9 holes € 50.00 



Golf Club Ugolino


 
Address: Via Chiantigiana 3, 50126 Firenze 
Tel: +39 (0)55 2301009


Website: www.golfugolino.it


Fees: 18 holes € 80.00, 9 holes € 60.00 (prices increase during holiday weekends and Italian holidays in August)

Golf Club Le Pavioniere


 
Address: Via Traversa il Crocifisso, 59100 Prato 
Tel: +39 (0)574 620 855


Website: www.golfclublepavoniere.com


Fees: Mar - May, Jun, Sep, Oct - 18 holes € 72 Tue – Fri and € 96 Saturdays and holidays. Jan/Feb, Jul/Aug, Nov/Dec 18 holes € 62 Tue – Fri and € 80 Saturdays and holidays.

Montecatini Golf Club

Address: Via dei Brogi 32 – Loc. Pievaccia, 51015 Monsummano Terme 
Tel: +39 (0)57262218


Website: www.montecatinigolf.com


Fees: Low season from Nov to Mar - 18 holes € 70, 9 holes € 40. High season from Apr to Oct - 18 holes € 80, 9 holes € 45

Cosmopolitan Golf and Country Club

Address: V. le Pisorno 60, 56128 Tirrenia 
Tel: +39 (0)50 33633


Website: www.cosmopolitangolf.it


Fees: 18 holes € 55 during the week and € 65 on weekends

Accommodation

For accommodation near Grant Leggate’s top five Tuscan golf courses, visit villa rental company www.to-tuscany.com.

*Scots-born Grant Leggate is caddiemaster at 2011 Open championship venue Royal St Georges, Sandwich and organises golf trips to Europe. He plays golf to a handicap of 10 and during service in the army took his sand wedge during a tour of duty in Iraq.


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