by Edward Kiersh
Go back in time. Way back in time, over 1000 year to the days of feudal defense systems, medieval castles, and to a serene, undisturbed setting near the Po River in Italy that still epitomizes all the glories once enjoyed by noble families.
All this awaits those explorers who want to combine discovering a Golf Eldorado along with famed culinary delights in this Emilia-Romagna part of Italy, a region where the legendary prosciutto is as glorious as the scenery.
The jumping off point for this golfing/culture adventure is the Antico Borgo di Tabiano Castello. Built on the ruins of an 11th Century Roman settlement, this painstakingly-restored village/boutique hotel, while once the center of the struggle between Vatican and Imperial forces, is now a citadel of calm.
So indulge, be rejuvenated, whether that means a spa treatment, a long dip in the pool, visiting a few other nearby castles, or enjoying some famous Parma ham. But then comes difficulties, the tough choice. In this valley of rolling hillsides and dairy farms, which of the 9 nearby courses (all within 1 1/2 hours from Tabiano), will be tackled?
Designed by Bernhard Langer, the Modena Golf and Country Club is certainly a superb choice. Dotted with numerous water hazards, gaping bunkers that devour even the best of well-struck tee shots, the MGCC is glorious yet supremely challenging.
Langer hoped to celebrate an “attacking game,” and so he drew up a course that gives players a host of strategies on each hole, such as on two of the par 3s and the 18th, where golfers must either be “brave” to risk hitting balls over great expanses of water, or to be very cautious.
The fun begins on the 2nd. It’s 444-yards from the championship tees, a dogleg right which demands an extremely accurate tee shot to a narrow landing area bordered by tall oaks and other trees that border the entire length of this long, headache-inducing hole. A series of hills defends the minuscule green which sits imposingly on two levels.
The par 5, 560-yard 4th, sandwiched between a gauntlet of more oaks, demands even greater precision off the tee. Any short shot to the elevated green exacts a stiff price-cum-punishment. A watery death.
More water defends the undulating green on the 401-yard dogleg left fifth hole, while the par 3 6th is a gut check, a severe test requiring a pin-point 5 or 6 iron over a large lake, and a deft putting stroke on an insidiously-sloped green.
Bunkers add to the distress on the 7th, and while the 8th is a fairly easy par 4 at 348 yards, the dog leg right 9th, 439 yards from the tips, is again a witch’s brew of deep fairway bunkers, all sorts of slopes leading to the green, dense vegetation on the right, and a bunker left of the green which seems to gobble up even the most delicate of approach shots.
The next three holes offer a measure of relief from the pain. But the 13th, Modena’s version of a “monster,” is a 621-yard duel with different types of vegetation, the Tiepodo torrent close to the fairway on the right, numerous inclines, bunkers strewn everywhere, and a two-level green. It is Modena’s signature hole, a par 5 with a 25-yard wide fairway, deep rows of oaks, and 7 mounds in front of the green that doesn’t only mean diabolical troubles. Even more distressing, the 13th is just the beginning of Fear and Loathing.
For the next five holes are equally perilous, especially the 14th, a 395-yard bout with tall mounds on both sides of the 20-yard wide fairway, and the arduous 467-yard 16th, which is densely wooded before reaching a pulse-stopping, severely-sloped green.
But don’t despair, no matter how many bogeys riddle your scorecard. Emilia-Romagna is fabled for its gastronomy. It’s Italy at its best, particularly the prosciutto, pancetta, other mouth-watering salumis, lasagna, and another pasta specialty, tortelli d’erbetta, a traditional dish from Parma.
So once the golf concludes at Modena Golf and Country Club, hurry back to the Tabiano Castello, and its highly lauded restaurant. A feast awaits.
Golf and travel writer Edward Kiersh has written for such publications as Golf Digest, The Robb Report, SPIN Magazine, and Cigar Aficionado where he wrote about resorts and golf course designers. He also wrote a golf feature for the New York Times Sunday Magazine section, and a best-selling baseball book, ‘Where Have You Gone, Vince DiMaggio?’
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