The success of last year’s Rocco Forte Open at Verdura confirmed Sicily as one of Europe’s most exciting golfing destinations...
Golf in Sicily – Verdura, Donnafugata and Il Picciolo
Sicily is fast becoming a major golfing hub, with its growing number of high-quality courses and resorts making it one of the most attractive up-and-coming venues in Europe.
With its lush vegetation, beautiful mountains, clear blue seas and favourable climate, the ancient island provides a dramatic landscape in which to enjoy golf – and far more besides.
Indeed, one of its biggest pulls is what tourists can discover here without picking up a club; the golf has become a bonus – albeit a significant one.
Verdura, close to the city of Agrigento, is arguably the jewel in the crown, with its two 18-hole Kyle Phillips-designed courses providing a wonderful test for golfers of all levels.
The renowned American architect also designed a wonderful par-3 nine-hole course here, perfect for honing your short-game skills.
In fact, there are no excuses for not being in good touch before you head out because the practice facilities, which include a double-ended driving range, chipping and putting greens and a golf academy, are first class.
Anyone holidaying on the south-west coast should book themselves a tee time.
The East is more undulating and is laid out as two returning loops of nine, while the West provides an out-and-back routing.
With sweeping views of the Mediterranean, there are a number of standout holes, such as the short par-3 6th on the East, Verdura’s answer to the 7th at Pebble Beach.
Another two excellent par 3s with coastal backdrops feature on the West at holes 15 and 17, before a superb finishing hole – an uphill par 4 with the shore down the left.
Last year, Alvaro Quiros won the Rocco Forte Open here, when a composite course was created to combine the finest holes from both tracks.
The final six holes run adjacent to the coast and provide one of the most dramatic finishes on the European Tour rota.
However, winner Quiros didn’t just describe the course as “a paradise” but hailed this contemporary luxury lifestyle destination as the “complete resort”.
Hop on a golf cart or bike and explore the 230-hectare complex which includes Verdura Spa, six tennis courts and a fully-equipped gym, as well as indoor and outdoor pools.
Meanwhile, at Verdura’s four restaurants and five bars, you can sample the very best Sicilian cuisine and experience Rocco Forte’s five-star service.
With the superb fitness facilities, cycling routes and water sports, there are plenty of ways to burn off the calories if you overindulge.
Head down towards the south-east tip of the island and you’ll come across the delightful Donnafugata Golf Resort & Spa with its Links and Parkland layouts, the latter of which is a Gary Player design.
But many regard the Links, designed by Franco Piras, as a more interesting test.
A warm welcome is guaranteed and both courses offer an enjoyable challenge without being overly punishing, despite their numerous hazards.
The heat itself can be a hazard. In terms of playability, temperatures in July, August and September can see the courses firm up substantially.
The Sicilian Open has been staged here, but the Rocco Forte Open returns to Verdura in May 2018 when the temperature is more bearable.
What guests at Donnafugata will not want to miss is the dining experience. It’s hard not to feel relaxed as soon as you arrive at the resort and this atmosphere continues when you head out to eat.
Whether it’s the privacy at Il Carrubo, where you can sample the tasting menu while watching the sunset, or the mouth-watering offerings from the Surf ‘N’ Turf Grill Terrace, you won’t forget your stay here.
If you’re a seafood lover, Donnafugata is most definitely the place for you.
For an altogether different test of golf, and one you might not necessarily expect when visiting Italy’s largest island, head north-east to Picciolo Etna Golf Resort & Spa, a real gem located on the lower slopes of Mount Etna.
The constant changes in elevation make for some interesting holes that you get a sense of from the elevated par-4 opener.
Quirky? Yes, at times, but there’s nowhere else like it on the island where you have to get your strategy spot on to score well.
Irons from the tee are the order of the day; it’s a test of self-control because if you stray too far from the tree-lined fairways it is not easy to hack out.
This is a course that will test your patience and you’ll certainly improve on your score the second time around.
In between, spend the evening in the restaurant because the dining experience here is something quite special, and not to be rushed.