When you think of playing golf in Italy, Verona is not the region that comes to mind. Taking advantage of a weekend, I decide to carry my clubs before jumping in a plane to Italy. Small town between Milan and Capri, it is known for its lovers; Romeo and Juliet.
Even if the courses are numerous and spectacular especially in the northwest of the city around the Lac di Garda, I want to maximize the experience and not break the bank in a 100 euro green fee. After several minutes of research, my choice fell on the 18 hole course of Villafranca 20 minutes by car west of the city. Only problem, you will have to play in a competition to be on the course on this Saturday morning in June.
First contact with golf in Italy
Once at the golf course, I note that the swimming pool is under construction and that future hotel guests will be able to relax there after a course. With no time to lose, I am heading to the reception desk to confirm my tournament entry. Again no worries about switching to English. The man at the reception gives me the score card and tells me the total price: €50 for an 18-hole competition format, a snack at the end of the front nine, and finally the pastas at the 19th hole! I request a pulling cart which will be loaned to me free of charge. I couldn’t see myself carrying a bag full of water bottles, on 18 holes and 30 degrees.
The driving range is on the edge of the domain. It is narrow and contains only a few mats. The balls are at the end of the line and the Ford Fiesta from the 90’s which serves as a ball collector makes a hellish noise. But let’s be honest, I’m not here to practice but to warm up before playing the course.
It’s time to go to the first hole to announce myself. I’m a little early. My game partners; Mattia, Sylvia, and Piergeorgio get here at the same time. We introduce ourself to each other and again no problem to speak English. Sylvia and Piergeorgio are a little less comfortable with English, unlike Mattia with whom I will chat most of the time. The beginning of our conversation will be his New England Patriots cap with a Bridgestone golf logo on the side.
Once is not custom, my first strike (an iron 4) on the course lands in the middle of the fairway.
A wooded and narrow course
The first 9 holes are going pretty well and I admit that I am more in a contemplative state than a competitive one. Despite a dry spring and a lead temperature, the course is green. The trees provide, especially in the middle of the day, a refreshing shade. On the course side, there is not much room between the green and the next tee box. I have to stay on my mark. What I dread, happens. A ball hit on its downstroke. No harm done but may be a sign that my first shot was too good.
The heat is getting stronger and the temperature quickly reaches 30 degrees. I admit that I am not comfortable. In the Netherlands, it is rare for the thermometer to go that high. This will affect my score on the back-nine.
The front nine is over and it’s time to spend a few minutes at the buffet. On a table in the club house, the players can choose between cold cuts and fresh cheese. If you feel like it, it is possible to push it all with white wine, or red. I choose the sparkling water version and load 2 bottles into the bag.
The return is much more hilly with high tee boxes. Hole 17 is one of them and putting your ball on the green is a real challenge. The views offered on the last 9 holes are completely different from what you can see on the go. The cypresses dominate the horizon, reminding us at each glance that I am indeed in Italy.
The course ends on a long par 5 with a slightly high start. Despite a nice game and game partners, I’m happy to finish. I finish 7th out of 30. A more than satisfactory result on a course that I knew absolutely nothing about.
At the end, the Villafranca golf course offers a no frills offer with a very high value for money. The atmosphere is that of a family club with a welcoming attitude beyond all expectations. I can only recommend it for players with tight budget but who want to have fun.
If you have more time than a weekend, I advise you to do the Golf Club of Vérona as well as to explore the courses that are around Lake di Garda.
Photos: Nicolas Bykoff