“What’s your favourite hole?”, we asked the general manager as we chomped in Biella’s sumptuous clubhouse.
“The 16th!”, he said without missing a beat. Suffice it to say that our heightened expectations were met in full.
The par-five with a magnificent Alpine backdrop, curves upwards from right to left before dropping dramatically through rough and even rocks before a shaded two-tier green.
It is indeed a sight to behold and I was very pleased to walk away with a six.
The 16th isn’t the only hole which catches the eye at Biella – we were lucky enough to play on a sunny day when pink spring blossom dotted the course and it was gorgeous.
The feast for the eyes followed the one for the belly after we had noshed on cold meats and pasta.
The trip to Italy was the first since Mrs W. had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She is now well on the road to recovery but I admit that leaving her for a few days was a wrench.
I had been invited as an ambassador of leadingcourses.com, the review and booking site which is very popular in Continental Europe. It was brilliantly organised, we enjoyed fabulous hospitality and met some wonderful people.
Anyway, back to Biella whose first hole sets the tone with a tee hemmed in between trees before a fairway that opens up on the left with a bunker and brook on the right. From the outset, accuracy off the tee is paramount.
Dogleg par-fours are the norm in this part of the world and the third is a classic example. Even a handsome drive down the middle leads to a 180-yard+ approach over a stream.
With only the sounds of cuckoos and woodpeckers punctuating the tranquillity, a glance back from the fourth green reveals a stunning mountain vista.
Biella then comes into its own from the fifth – a par-three with water all down the right, before a green surrounded by sand traps.
The ninth is a super par-five with an Alpine backdrop and one of my compadres hit the shot of his life through the tiniest gap deep in trees down the right to advance the best part of 200 yards down the fairway. I was pleased with my more conventional par.
The first nine holes were stimulating but the second half is more exciting.
I don’t think I have ever seen more trees on a golf hole than the 11th – a curving par-five with dense forest on either side and a pond lurking to the left of the green.
The 12th is one of my course favourites – a bending par-four with a stream and a copse threatening disaster on the left to those who may try to cut the corner. The green is protected by water and sand.
The 14th evokes memories of the third with another sharp dogleg over a stream before the uphill 15th and then the mesmerising 16th and its incredible views.
Biella’s home run continues to impress on the 17th – a par-three over a stream and a green framed by what look like Christmas trees.
And it is completed with a birdie opportunity – curving the par-five 18th – if water, trees and plentiful bunkers can be avoided.
Biella needs thought. Big hitters may come unstuck because it is tighter than most top 100 courses.
Aside from the views, I was impressed by its family atmosphere – there is a real buzz about the place and its well-populated restaurant serves high-quality food and wine, not just pasta and pizzas.
This is the hallmark of Italian golf. It is about the experience of the day rather than just the golf. The welcome is stellar and it was certainly no hardship to stay after the game for dinner.