Verdura Resort - Heaven On Earth
The last time I went to the Verdura Resort in Sicily was back in 2019 and the experience awakened me to the quality of golf available in Italy. Due to adverse weather conditions I got to experience a composite course and see plans to open the new, completely re-designed East course. Fast forward to October 2021 and I was boarding a quick flight over with excitement to see what architect Kyle Phillips had put together.
The flight to Sicily, one of Italy’s 20 regions and one that ranks among its most significant in terms of history, culture, gastronomy and geographical landmarks, takes roughly three and a half hours. The best course of action would be to fly into Palermo Airport and then it is an hour and a half drive south to the resort which takes no time at all. Trust me, it is worth it too.
From the golf, to the hotel, to the climate, food, aura and just about everything else you can think of, Verdura ticks the box. I believe the sum of the parts add up to perhaps the best golf and leisure resort I’ve ever visited.
As a golf brand, let’s start there and given I had never played a completely re-designed golf course before, I shall begin with my thoughts on the East. Phillips, arguably the most celebrated modern golf course architect, took inspiration from Britain’s classic seaside holes and sought to offer players multiple lines of play whilst also dealing with new technology. As such he adjusted the seaside holes, refined the inland ones, added new bunkering which looks outstanding, and resurfaced all the greens. He also added elements to deal with flooding which decimated the course in 2018.
The result is absolutely excellent. The course combines strategy with stunning aesthetics well, with the latter being immediately apparent after a couple of holes. The manicured fairways and greens contrast well with the native grasses and the course has been inspired by links golf too with the use of minimal one-cut mowing. The tees and fairways flow into one another, creating a feel of openness and space, and the sea can be seen from absolutely everywhere, further adding to that allure.
Of course, the seaside holes are the stars, with the stretches from 5-7 and 12-14 sitting atop the tree. Going a step further 6 and 13 were truly awesome holes in my opinion. The 6th is a short par-4 which sits right next to the sea and requires a precise tee shot to avoid the long grass, water, and bunkers. You will definitely want to hit the approach into this green from the fairway because you hit over a water-filled, ravine-like dip, and there is a greenside bunker to avoid as well. Precision is key with clubbing, especially when the wind is blowing.
The 13th is an outstanding little par-3 that again, sits right next to the sea but goes in the opposite direction to the 6th. It is only a short hole but the beauty of the scenery distracts you from the accurate shot you need to hit. Additionally, we played on a reasonably calm day but the wind can easily buffer your golf ball into horrible spots around this green.
Speaking of greens, the complexes are spectacularly undulating and very large despite the run off areas, which can be huge at times, giving the impression the targets are small. Phillips has done an excellent job in creating a course that can deceive you easily and you have to think your way down each hole, especially when hitting into greens. It is a style of golf I reveled in and I felt a real sense of accomplishment and joy when I hit a good, well-placed shot, or I used a slope to bring the ball closer to the hole. My only nit-pick form the whole experience would be the lack of flow between the 16th green and 17th tee. It felt like the last two holes were over by themselves as they were separated by the driving range, however this is only a minor point. Overall the redesigned East is a stunning addition to the resort.
Moving on to the West Course, which I had played before, I had the same feeling of excitement and awareness of the challenge ahead. It starts with a gentle par-4 opener and there are some good holes on the front-9, such as the par-3 4th, long par-5 5th and strategic par-4 6th. The back-nine however is where the West really goes to another level. The final seven holes are all situated close to the coastline exposing you to picturesque views and stronger winds. The 14th is a shore-hugging par-4 that tests your ability to commit to your drive and not hit it right. The 15th and the 17th – both par 3s with lovely coastal backdrops – come either side of a testing par 4, where you drive at a slight angle to a fairway bisected by a ridge. The 18th is a fine finisher as well, with the coast on your left and some clever bunkering. It measures only 388 meters off the white tees but every time I’ve played the hole it is into the wind making it a tough par indeed. If you do write down a four here, get into the Torre Bar which sits above the green and enjoy that post-round drink.
Overall I think I preferred the East but perhaps there was an element of seeing something totally new that led me to that conclusion. That being said, as far as 36-hole resorts go, both courses are very high-quality in terms of design, conditioning, and enjoyment. Whilst they both offer something slightly different in challenge and aesthetics, there are two commonalities between them. First the greens on both courses are sublime. From fairways and tees they appear absolutely tiny but when you walk up to them they are huge which just shows how clever Phillips was with the design. Add to that severe undulations and it is easy to see why it tests the professionals when they arrive on occasion.
Second, what became clear to me is how both courses can play totally different from one day to the next because of the wind. One day a short par-3 can be a simple nine-iron but the next can be as much as a five when the wind is in your face. Add to all of this a double-ended driving range, chipping and putting greens, and the fun little par-3 course, the golf experience on offer at Verdura is second-to-none.
Away from the fairways
But it isn’t just about the golf and it should come as no surprise that the accommodation is really rather good too. There are 203 rooms and 50 suites, all beautifully designed and offering views out to sea. Opulently furnished, with private balconies and invigorating bathrooms, the suites deliver the height of luxury. It is incredibly easy to relax and enjoy the rooms but there is plenty to enjoy elsewhere on the resort. Heading to the spa is a good place to start where you can enjoy the 20m indoor swimming pool, four thalassotherapy pools, steam room, Finnish sauna, along with spacious relaxation areas and extensive treatment rooms. If you are feeling active you can also work out in the large state-of-the-art gym or indulge in various water sports. If tennis is your thing, there are six clay courts, while coaches from Juventus are on hand during the summer at the resort’s football pitches. Children are well catered for in the form of a newly revamped Kids Club and Verdura even offers Sicilian cooking classes, so I am not exaggerating when I say the resort caters to your every need.
There are a combined seven restaurants and bars at Verdura catering for different palates and moods. If you’re looking for a more formal experience, try the wonderful Zagara, which serves exquisite Mediterranean food. Two more highlights were Liola which has more of a family-friendly atmosphere and provides lovely cliff-top views. I would also recommend Amare where you’ll find some of the finest local seafood. I didn’t get the opportunity to go on my last trip but managed to experience the restaurant this time which sits right on the ocean and is really tastefully finished.
For those of you who want to explore Sicily a bit there are several worthy excursions worth the time and effort. For the historians among you, on my last trip I found the Valley of the Temples particularly interesting with its large structures and lovely walks. This time around though I was lucky enough to go to the Planeta Winery for the first time. About an hour away, I sampled delicious wines and olive oil made there and enjoyed a meal in a pretty old barn on site. After golf in the morning, I thought to myself, walking through vineyards with a glass of white in my hand and the sun beating down on my back isn’t the toughest way to spend an afternoon.
How to get there
Palermo accepts daily flights from a host of major European airports. Ryanair operates daily flights from London Stansted, and you can also fly to Palermo with EasyJet and British Airways. Verdura is roughly an hour and a half by car from the airport.
We should mention that there is a great inclusive offer with the resort at the moment, in which you can stay for three nights from €315. This includes daily breakfast, one green fee per nightly stay, and complimentary use of the driving range and spa facilities.
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A golfer for most of his life, Sam is a Senior Staff Writer for Golf Monthly.
Working with golf gear and equipment over the last six years, Sam has quickly built outstanding knowledge and expertise on golf products ranging from drivers, to balls, to shoes.
He combines this knowledge with a passion for helping golfers get the best gear for them, and as such Sam manages a team of writers that look to deliver the most accurate and informative reviews and buying advice. This is so the reader can find exactly what they are looking for.
Sam now spends most of his time testing and looking after golf gear content for the website, whilst he is also responsible for all content related to golf apparel.
He also oversees all Tour player content as well so if you need to know what clubs Tiger or Rory has in play, Sam is the person to ask.
Unfortunately, Sam is not a member of any club at the moment but regularly gets out on the golf course to keep up the facade of having a handicap of five.
Sam's What's In The Bag:
Driver: Titleist TS3 (9 degrees)
Fairway Wood: Callaway Paradym (15 degrees), Nike Covert Tour 2.0 (19 degrees)
Irons (4-PW): Titleist AP2
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 54˚, 58˚
Putter: Scotty Cameron Phantom X 5.5
Ball: Srixon Z-Star Diamond
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