San Domenico Course Review

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…

The short third hole at San Domenico with the azure sea beyond

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 (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab) hotel and its adjacent golf course, San Domenico (opens in new tab) which make for a great golfing destination (opens in new tab).

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.

The first tee shot at San Domenico is one of its most intimidating

This is followed by a par 5, and then the only short hole on the front nine which plays out towards the sea

The opening par 3 - just over 200 yards

You then turn inland with the town of Fasano and hills beyond.

The attractive par-4 fourth plays into the prevailing wind

The water returns bordering the left of the 5th before lining up to confront you at the approach to the green.

Best not to be short, or left, at the par-4 fifth

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.

The eleventh, one of three par 3s on the back nine, is the shortest hole on the course

There is plenty more shot-making required as you work your way through a particularly demanding closing five holes.

The final par 3 at seventeen is again well protected by sand

Large waste areas are populated with local plants, and a real joy of the course is the regular views of the azure sea.

The view out to sea behind the seventeenth tee

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 eighteenth is a tough two-shotter, and unusually for a closing hole, stroke index one

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.

The immaculate Borgo Egnazia hotel is just a 5-minute walk
Rob Smith
Contributing Editor

Rob Smith has been playing golf for more than 40 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly for over ten years, specialising in course reviews and travel. He has now played more than 1,170 different courses in almost 50 countries. Despite lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2021, he still managed to play 80 different courses during the year, 43 of them for the first time. This included 21 in 13 days on a trip to East Lothian in October. 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 nine. During the 2021-22 review period, Rob has played 34 of the Golf Monthly Top 200. He is a member of Tandridge Golf Club in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at r.smith896@btinternet.com.