Italy has become one of my favorite golfing destinations in Europe. Each visit I wonder whether the previous experiences have become exaggerated in my imagination, but no, our latest adventure to Stresa on Lake Maggiore has only confirmed my view. The Hotel Regina, our base for the week, enjoys glorious views over the lake and its islands, enabling a short stroll into the town where a fine selection of restaurants for the evenings are to be found. A Palace in former days, while quite ornate in design and furnishings, a very comfortable and well received hotel.
We arrived on Ryder Cup weekend and, as I expected, faced blank expressions when asking where we might find the golf on TV. Despite Molinari’s Open Championship win and inclusion in what turned out to be a starring and record breaking appearance in the team, Italy as yet is not a golfing nation and is part of its charm on these tours. However, some courses are long established, uncrowded and offer excellent golf both in design and condition for the most part. We managed to get in off the course following our first round as the first final days singles match reached the turn to watch the drama unfold in the Bogogno GC clubhouse. Even there our small number of twelve seemed to out number the Italians. Maybe, like a few of our clients, they stayed home to watch on TV, but I doubt it!
We made an early start for our first days play to enable us to watch the final afternoon and fine victory of the European team. Playing the Bonora course at Bogogno GC, a best 2 from 3 team event was won by Mick, Rita and Katrina with 62pts. The score maybe reflecting the travel and early morning start, although a few water hazards may also have taken their toll! Later we celebrated the European win with dinner at Lo Stornello Restaurant and a night cap in a fabulous wine bar, Al Buscion, now our “local” in Stresa, where Massimo and his staff looked after us superbly throughout the week.
We returned to Bogogno for our second round over their Conti course and Mick with his team of Liz and Carol were victors on an improved score of 70pts. Both courses at Bogogno are excellent, relatively new courses, played through wooded areas, well bunkered with water features that are not too penalizing and apart from an area of 2 or 3 holes on the Bonora course, flat and easy walking. One of the very best 36 hole resorts I have played in Europe.
It was 4BBB time at Golf des Iles Borromees for round three. Set high above Lake Maggiore, apart from our Cumbrian Fell runner Mick, (he even walked from 9th green to 10th tee where a mini bus awaits to transfer golfer and clubs!) this is a buggy course, very undulating, spectacular views and good golf too. Rita and Tony were worthy winners on 39 by three from Mick and Sharon.
For our mid week break we were driven to Como, took a lovely river cruise to Bellagio passing the luxurious lake side homes of the late designer, Versace, and that of heartthrob George Clooney along the way. On arrival we lunched overlooking the lake before spending some free time for shopping, chilling and chin wagging, enjoying the wonderful atmosphere of the Italian Lakes before taking the fast boat back to Como.
Our penultimate days golf took us to Varese GC set in the mountains between Milan and Switzerland. Dating back to 1934 this was again a most beautiful setting, and whilst in hilly terrain, cleverly designed to be easily walkable while enjoying glorious views. Fittingly, playing a waltz, the ladies team of Sharon, Katrina and Liz, danced to victory.
I have to admit the final day was a disappointment. I am a great fan of Nicklaus Signature courses, but Le Robinie Golf, while a typical Nicklaus design, is simply too new, badly maintained and in unusually poor condition. I am sure Jack would not be at all happy as I know he sets certain criteria when agreeing to put his “signature” to a course. It requires much attention and at least two more years before it could be of a standard one would expect.
A yellow ball repeating the teams of day one saw Mick, Rita and Katrina triumph again with an excellent score of 105. Looking through the cards. Their yellow ball scoring proved the difference, although Carol stole the show on the par four 18th. Unreachable in two, water, tight to the left hand side, and a narrow entrance, her precision third shot and holed putt for a par 4, net 2, and 4 points, doubled to 8 points was quite a way to finish golf for the week!
The final evening a private boat took us on the lake to the Restaurant Verbano on Isla Pescatori where we enjoyed a lovely farewell dinner and were serenaded with God Save The Queen by our jovial captain on the return journey. A repeat in the not too distant future me thinks!?
Hope to see you soon.