Puglia in southern Italy is not so well-known for its golf, but the beautiful course at San Domenico and adjacent Borgo Egnazia hotel offer much for the golfing gourmand…
San Domenico Course Review
Due to host the Ryder Cup in 2022, Italy is a scintillating country with many distinct and different regions. Puglia in the south-east is blessed with a sunny climate, whitewashed hill towns, ancient farmland and endless miles of Mediterranean. Midway between the relatively small airports at Bari and Brindisi is the luxurious and very chic Borgo Egnazia hotel and its adjacent golf course, San Domenico which make for a great golfing destination.
The course opened for play in 2003 and was created by European Golf Design. Subtle ground shaping was performed while keeping attractive ancient olive trees and original stone walling, and its test of golf is strong enough for it to have served as host of the Grand Final for the European Challenge Tour every year from 2005 to 2012.
While a cooling and welcome breeze will often be a factor, it is the bunkering that defines the design and will act as the toughest challenge. Unusually for a modern course, water is not a dominant feature with just two lakes that come into play. Rather scarily, one lines almost the entire right-hand side of the opening hole.
This is followed by a par 5, and then the only short hole on the front nine which plays out towards the sea
You then turn inland with the town of Fasano and hills beyond.
The water returns bordering the left of the 5th before lining up to confront you at the approach to the green.
The front nine concludes with a par 5 followed by three more par 4s, all of them well protected by sand. Following a refreshing drink, another long hole at ten leads you to the attractive par-3 11th.
There is plenty more shot-making required as you work your way through a particularly demanding closing five holes.
Large waste areas are populated with local plants, and a real joy of the course is the regular views of the azure sea.
The closing hole is a demanding par-4 back to the clubhouse that calls for an approach over cacti. Happily, the course offers easy-walking throughout, and with a variety of tees is playable by all.
The hotel is right next door and everything about it defines style, from the peaceful, refined, luxurious but understated accommodation to the delicious local cuisine served in the airy and tasteful - in every sense - restaurants. The service is also impeccable; efficient and friendly, making the hotel a sophisticated sanctuary far away from the modern world.
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Rob Smith has been playing golf for 45 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly since 2012. He specialises in course reviews and travel, and has played more than 1,200 courses in almost 50 countries. In 2022, he played all 21 courses in East Lothian in 13 days. Last year, his tally was 81, 32 of them for the first time. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but seven and a half... i.e. not the new 9 at Carne! Of those missing, some are already booked for 2024. He is a member of Tandridge in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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