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Have you ever dreamed of playing golf among the ancient landscapes of Europe, so steeped with history that you can almost taste it? Well I can! It’s September and the roads and hillsides of the Chianti region of Tuscany are lined with row upon row of grapes almost ready to harvest. Last night, we’re in Greve celebrating the season and sampling wine and olive oil. Today I played my first round in Italy at the oldest Golf Club in the country. How cool is that?
Florence Golf Club was founded in 1899 by the growing number of British expatriates who were determined to bring their homeland sport to Italy. The original 8 holes were built in San Donato near Cascine Park which is now the Florence airport. In 1933 the club relocated to its current location and hired British Architects Blandford and Gannon to design a new 18-hole layout. In the sixties Piero Mancinelli redesigned some of the holes but kept the same style and flavor.
The first thing I noticed was that there are only 2 two sets of tee blocks. Don’t be fooled by the fact that this par 72 only measures 5672 meters (almost 6,200 yards). Ugolino is demanding because of the natural sloping tight fairways and very small well protected greens so it deserves a slope rating of 133. You’ll need thought more than strength to master this layout.
The front nine swoops through hills and the key to these holes is to keep your tee shot in the fairway and back far enough so you can see the uphill greens. Shaping shots will definitely help your game but if you’d like a suggestion, keep your driver in the bag until you get to the 5th hole. The back nine is more level and offers better opportunities to charge the greens.
Hole #18 sums up this historic course to a tee – a short 330 yard par 4 where a fairway wood or long iron is needed to be placed accurately in the fairway on this tight dogleg so that you are able to see the small, well protected uphill green.
Florence Golf Club Ugolino is a private course with approximately 800 members but visitors are always welcome. The Top 100 Golf Courses in the World just released its “Top 30 Golf Courses in Italy 2014” and ranked it #13 commenting “Our highest new entry is Ugolino or Florence Golf Club, a course that comes highly recommended by the Top 100 Team.”.
What Ugolino lacks in distance is more than made up for by your ability to hit to a target on all shots. The new golf courses in North America condition us to pull out our driver on every hole except on a par three. Here you have to make an educated decision on every tee as to where you want to be to attack these postage stamp greens.
Italy should be a must-do on everyone’s bucket list. The wines, the food, the people, the history, the architecture, the romance and now the golf!!! What are you waiting for?
For information on Golf & Wine Packages visit Macana Golf & Leisure at www.macanagolf.com. For a complete story on Golf in Tuscany Italy visit: http://golftravelandleisure.com/2013/11/10/golf-tuscany-italy/