Roberto Van Heugten

Roberto Van Heugten, emerging writer with many publications to his credit, writes of game on the pages of Italy4golf, in the column "Lost balls in Italy".
The narrative is different: in fact, in its pages it speaks of sport, but above all of territories and hospitality.

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Acaya Golf Club – Golf in South Italy between “lu sole, lu mare, lu ‘ientu” (Sun, Sea & Wind )

LOST BALLS IN ITALY – BY ROBERTO VAN HEUGTEN

Sometimes Italy is quite strange.
It has so many biodiversity areas that sometimes it seems you haven’t travelled across or region nor an entire nation, but it seems you have entered another geological area.

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In particularly, Puglia is a region that has been vertically put on the globe, it extends for more than 400 kilometers, from Marina di Chieuti at the top to Santa Maria di Leuca, where you can see its end from the top of the promontory of the sanctuary. From that point there’s only water and the imaginary line that divides the two seas: Adriatico and Ioni. Someone even swears to see that imaginary line. Still they are part of the Mediterranean Sea, which is a sort of passage between infinite worlds, people and stories.

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During this beautiful journey the tourist goes from the verdant hills of Molise, which is an adjacent region, to the barren tomatoes and wheat cultivated upland of Daunia and Capitanata. Then the tourists arrive in the metropolitan racket of Bari and its ramifications. While they are crossing Brindisi’s hills they can admire the limitless expanses of grape’s rows (the famous “tendoni”). His majesty “the olive tree” rules a bit everywhere despite the disaster of “xylella” caused by humans. And the more the tourist goes south the more the land becomes red like fire and hard like a crumbled rock.

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Welcome to Salento, my dear tourist, and welcome to a magical land that will scratch your skin like a tribal tattoo and will never let you go. Of course this type of hospitality will be shown also to the golf tourist, who will be gifted an absolutely worthy hidden gem.

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Therefore, welcome to Acaya my dear golf player. The gates of one of the most fascinating clubhouse that I have ever visited are open all year long. You will appreciate as I did the blunt and sincere hospitality of an ancient homestead, which has been tastefully renovated and brought back to a higher level of hospitality.
Acaya golf is signed by ‘Hurdzan-Fry designers studio’ and it has been built on an upland, precisely on that part of Salento which is oriented to the Adriatico sea and that’s why you could feel its pleasant refreshing breeze. This clubhouse isn’t far from the capital Lecce, and you could drive to San Cataldo or to the Caribbean coves of Torre dell’Orso after a happy golf match to jump into that beautiful sea. It wouldn’t take a long journey.

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I first visited Acaya in October which is probably the best month to join the quality of the course and weather at their best. I remember with pleasure playing on fairways in excellent conditions despite the recent summer heat, and I remember throwing the closing putt ball on perfect greens.

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At first glance the general appearance of the course suggests it’s easy. The sight on a wide panorama suggests a plain course without many trees and the idea of spending a simple golf day without any problems.
My friends, you’re completely wrong!
It’s not like that, at all. What you think could be defined as a plain golf course won’t let you stay as if you were on a driving range.
Sure enough you warm up with a par 5 with dogleg and a progressive ascent to the pin. The second hole presents a depression in the middle of the green and the third one is relatively short, but it has a difficult green part where you might use the altimeter to understand where it goes up and down. It goes on like that until the sixth and seven ones, which will give you a little break, but from the eighth hole onwards it gets very difficult.
Middle shooters like me might consume their own pencil because of signing many scores, and crook players like someone that I know very well should hang their ball catcher on the belt because they would need it very often due to the presence of lakes from the ninth hole onwards.

I found it a remarkable place, as much as the travel I had to reach it, which was very long since I live close to Garda lake. If I lived halfway I would visit this golf club 3/4 times each year.
When you have done with the golf course you can sit and relax on the clubhouse porch and just admire the land in all its beauty. You would feel and breathe Salento’s peaceful atmosphere, where silence rules upon nature and men hiding the real and intense hard work in the surrounding countryside. Those farmlands offer unforgettable and tasteful cuisine and powerful wines.

The elegant and cosy resort borders the third and fourth hole. It’s a modern and comfortable building and it offers different types of large rooms. It’s been projected thinking of its future possibilities and indeed you could spend both a relaxing holiday and business one, since the building includes conference and big reception halls. Some time ago I had a complete guided tour of the building and I was accompanied by a gentle member of the staff. I remember it took us almost an entire afternoon to explore all the available opportunities, and I came back home extremely pleased to have found not only a great golf course, but also a new holiday opportunity.

What to do on the outskirts

Lecce is a unique baroque temple. The historical city center is made of extraordinarily beautiful buildings of tuff. The characteristic alleys of the car-free zone are dotted with amazing shops where tourists can taste the local cuisine and the local wines. You should dedicate an entire day to visit the city center because of its not-to-be-missed churches, monuments and interest points. I suggest you park your car in the surroundings since there are so many places where you could shop for some souvenirs.

Moving to the beach, San Cataldo is the most elegant beach of the capital. Staying close to the Acaya Resort we have San Foca and Torre dell’Orso, where the Adriatico sea becomes Caribbean: white sand and crystal clear water. It seems to be somewhere else, and yet you’re still there in Salento!
A little bit souther we have Otranto. You will fall in love with its millenary history in just half a day of tour, since it narrates a history of invasions and defenses.

Guys, this is Italy! And Salento represents Italy more than others. I know that I might sound a bit persistent on the beauty of Salento, but it conquered my heart when I heard for the first time “lu sole, lu mare e lu ‘ientu”. Google it to discover what it means ;-)

Enjoy your trip, which is very long but worthy, and your rounds of golf! 

RvH

Roberto Van Heugten
Italy4golf Italian Ambassador
buonavita.me

Live the same sensations with a wonderful golf break at the Acaya Golf Resort & SPA!

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