In 2023, Italy will host its first Ryder Cup.
The Marco Simone Golf Club, just outside Rome, is staging the biennial contest between Europe and the United States, and while most fans will base themselves in the Eternal City for the contest, those looking to lengthen their trip would do well to consider the Argentario Golf and Wellness Resort.
A two-hour drive north, into south-western Tuscany, takes you to the stunning Monte Argentario – once an island but now a promontory, tethered to the mainland by three causeways that frame two lagoons. The serenity is a welcome contrast to the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s most hectic cities.
A capacious central lobby, which features three huge poufs that are perfect for flopping onto and resemble Dougal from the Magic Roundabout, is the body. The wings, flaring out left and right, contain 75 rooms on three levels, each with their own private terrace and captivating views.
There are several villas, half-hidden in the trees, that can be rented out by larger groups who want access to a hotel that offers spa facilities, two swimming pools, a superb gym, tennis and padel courts, a 5-a-side football pitch and jogging trails that weave round the golf course.
The Argentario Golf resort is rightfully proud of its ‘AgriCert’ certificate – one of only two in Italy – awarded to eco-friendly golf courses that use natural products and eco-compatible techniques.
At the turn of the century, this land was a rubbish dump. But architect David Mezzacane – who helped design the original Marco Simone course – teamed up with professional golfer Baldovino Dassu to create two loops of nine holes that meander through the valley floor.
Many tonnes of earth were moved to create the raised tees that afford pleasantly distracting views – none better than on the 2nd and 3rd holes – of the Tyrrhenian Sea and Orbetello Lagoon on the front nine, with the back nine weaving through olive groves and cork-oak trees.
It is a course for plotters. It feels tight off the tee, particularly on the par-five 3rd with out-of-bounds all down the right, and the sixth which requires precision to avoid lakes bordering both sides of the fairway.
The front nine has weak points: the green on the driveable par-four 7th is too small to make taking it on worthwhile, but the hole then becomes nothing more than a short iron and a wedge around the lake that dominates the left side of the hole. And the par-three 8th feels claustrophobic, uncomfortably wedged into a forest, and is out of kilter with the otherwise picturesque opening holes.
However, the course’s stand-out hole follows. The 585-yard par-five 9th ends with a kidney-shaped green, protected by a lake to the right and a superbly positioned bunker for those bailing out left with their approach.
The scenery changes as you embark on the second loop, with olive trees and hills dominating the views. The 11th is a sinewy par five that rewards two straight hits with an inviting wedge to a large but well-protected green.
The 12th and 13th are all about position off the tee to give a shot at the green, however, the short 15th feels, like the 8th, more of a transitional hole. A robust trio of holes complete your journey: the 16th features a quirky multi-tiered green that is protected by a solitary tree, while the par-three 17th offers no bail-out with water down the left and bunkers on the right.
And while the 18th will split opinions, it rewards a decent drive. The dog-leg right requires a 200-yard hit over a ditch and huge trees to give an unobstructed second shot to the green. Anything shorter leaves virtually no shot, other than a hit and hope through the lower branches.
It’s a course you might not instantly fall in love with but one that will give you many talking points over post-round refreshments on the huge sun-soaked terrace that overlooks the land. In keeping with the eco-friendly ethos of the resort, a delightful tapas-style lunch of local produce – succulent olives, prosciutto, cheese and bread, complemented by wine from Argentario vineyards was the perfect fayre.
A backdrop of the sea and surrounding hillside – that helps create a microclimate that allows golf to be played all year round – provides a sensational vista and if the time of year is right, you may spot the odd Hermit Ibis wandering across the fairways.
The migratory bird is one of around 260 species that can be found in the salty waters of the 800-hectare Orbetello Lagoon, which is a humid zone of international importance.
The lagoon is protected by the WWF, with many bird-watching stations nestled along the peninsula. The 635m high Punta Telegrafo dominates Argentario, while secluded beaches offer other distractions should you need a break from the golf. But I wanted another 18 holes. And second time round, the course grew on me as the subtlety of the slopes on the greens and the run-offs around them became clearer.
The 8th – despite a second par – baffled me again, but the 9th – despite a second bogey – continued to impress. And I left the course with a greater understanding of its difficulty.
Evening dining was in the clubhouse, which also boasts a terrace with yet more sensational views. Sea bass ceviche was simply stunning, followed by a delicate olive and tomato-based fish stew with a local wine recommendation from the always attentive but never over-bearing waiter.
A fleeting 36-hour stop was never going to be quite long enough to sample everything the Argentario Golf & Wellness Resort has to offer but it’s easy to see why, with Tuscan tourist traps Pisa and Florence around 120 miles to the north and Rome 100 miles to the south, it is the perfect destination for those looking to play golf in Italy around the Ryder Cup.
*For more information or to book a trip to the Argentario Golf Resort visit Argentarioresort.it/en/