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  • Neil White

Villa D'Este

If there is a more impressive photo of a home hole and clubhouse than that at Circolo Golf Villa D’Este, I look forward to seeing it.

Having begun my day eating a marmalade croissant and drinking proper Italian Americano on the balcony overlooking the 18th green, it squared the circle perfectly to grab a par at the end of a round on this very pretty course.

It may be a par 69 but don’t be fooled by the length and beauty of the holes on this lovely slice of Lombardy.

The golf club was our base for five days with an ambassador group and management from who were presenting the trophy to the club for being best-ranked in Italy.

The service, food and drink were excellent even if not quite as world-class as the hotel which shares its name 25 kilometres away.

There is confusion between the two venues which once shared ownership but no longer do. Those going to play golf should make sure that word appears on their satellite navigation system otherwise they could find themselves at the wrong venue.

I digress.

I was pleased that we played Villa D’Este on the fourth day of our stay when my game was finally coming together. I know it shouldn’t matter but it enhanced the pleasure.

After, a few balls on its two-tier driving range, we adjourned to the par-five first hole where we had been witnessing players tee off all week.

It’s an opener which prompts jangling nerves – a bending, tree-lined introduction with a heavy slope from right to left and a bonus of the Alps in the background.

The tee for the first of the six par-threes was outside of my splendid lodge where a shout of “fore” had disturbed my slumber the previous day.

After a sloppy start, my luck began to change on the fourth – a par-four with out-of-bounds encroaching from the right. I had a rare fade but was lucky enough to find my ball perched on top of a hillock with a perfect lie. A clip onto the front of the green and two putts followed.

Villa D’Este has the feel of a historic course. Royalty and film stars, including Gregory Peck, have played here and it has hosted the Italian Open more than any other club.

Thus, its maintenance is tip-top. Bunkers are beautifully presented, greens are smart with tidy surrounds and the fairways are consistent.

Thus, one feels inspired – and each of our threeball found the green on the fifth - a devilish short ascending par-three to a plateau green which demands perfect club selection.

The eighth and ninth provide a tough conclusion to the opening half – the former a long bending par-four with an angled green, protected by a sand trap while trees fill the eyeline from the tee on the latter before another dogleg down to the target.

The back nine, after quick refreshment in the clubhouse, maintains the standard although it is a pity that the views of the striking lake that runs alongside the course are blocked.

The 11th has the most intimidating drive - over bushes to a fairway tucked between an avenue of trees before an approach to a green with a steep slope to the right and bunkers to the left.

It is followed by a similar tee shot on the 12th and a long approach over water. Great care is required here.

The final three holes offer a strong finish at Villa D’Este – with a tricky downhill par-three on the 16th, a short dogleg par-five from an elevated tee on the 17th and then the 18th, one of the most picturesque holes in European golf.

And then it was off to the aforementioned presentation to the president of the club in recognition on the balcony on a gloriously warm afternoon.

He spoke about the desire to attract more foreign visitors. Excellent – I would recommend it to anyone.

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