Golf in Italy: from its origins to its relaunching
If the exact origins of golf are not entirely known on an international level, let alone those of golf in Italy! On the other hand, it is possible to tell its story through certain key moments, cult figures and locations in which golf appeared halfway between the 19th and the 20th centuries.
It is definitely known that golf was launched in Italy by jovial English noblemen who, over past centuries, had chosen Italy as a tourist destination for their “grand tours” or for their summer place of residence.
In fact, although golf courses and clubs did not exist at that time in Italy, people made do by practising golf in gardens, or better still, in parks situated in noble villas. It is not surprising that Villa Borghese and Villa Doria Pamphili, probably among the most famous and beautiful Roman residences, even before the 20th century, took centre stage as venues where English lords, staunch golfing enthusiasts used to play.
The same took place in the Italian regions most affected by the arrival of foreigners, above all native speakers of English, who settled on a more or less permanent basis, in areas between Tuscany, Umbria, Liguria and Lombardy, both for the beauty of their culture and landscapes as well as their food and wine specialities.
It is also well-known that, both the English and the Americans kept the spirit of the Game alive, attempting right from the very beginning to have golf officially recognised at an institutional level based on the logic of golf clubs, just as it had always been in their homelands.
Except for the Wars, the history of golf in Italy continued its growth in popularity throughout the 20th century and, more specifically, during the second half of last century, when many golf courses were built, also in remote areas (such as the Islands) where a constant increase in tourism alongside sudden economic development (in the entire Centre-North of Italy) were experienced.
Although it is considered an elitist sport, both in Italy and elsewhere, as are many other sports, it is with the advent of the booming economy that many people have suddenly had the opportunity to try their hand at golf, perhaps also to imitate a society that they admire, obviously ending up developing a passion for the sport.
The game rapidly transformed into a contemporary sport: the first Italian champions arrived on the golfing scene making a name for themselves in major international events: for example, Ugo Grappasonni who in the 1950s, won not only several International Open competitions (in France, Switzerland, Morocco, Holland…) but also two Italian Open tournaments (the only golfer to have ever achieved this feat).
Or Baldovino Dassù, who won the British Masters tournament in Wales in 1976, the same year in which he also won the Italian Open. A sporting career that boasts many other victories and that Dassù skilfully transformed into another profession, as when he retired, in collaboration with important landscape architects, he started to design some of the most important golf courses renowned worldwide, such as Argentario and Poggio dei Medici.
In a hypothetical trio of the most important golfers in the history of golf in Italy, it is impossible to forget Costantino Rocca. The golden years of Costantino Rocca, the early 1990s, were also greatly influenced by the mass media and, perhaps precisely due to this, it was possible to make both the game itself as well as the enterprises owned by this talented golfer from Bergamo known to the outside world.
He is a champion who won 5 European Tour tournaments before coming so close to winning the Open Championship (he would have been the first Italian to do so), then he succeeded in conquering a hole-in-one in the 1995 Ryder Cup, earning the right to a place in the history of world-class golf.
However, Italian golf lives not only thanks to reviving its past glories; on the contrary, it is also a winning formula that is, and will be so for many years to come!
By means of the Ryder Cup to be held in Rome in 2022, with many young golfers distinguishing themselves such as Matteo Manassero, then there is Francesco Molinari, the winner of this year’s British Open who played a crucial role in the most recent Ryder Cup championship held in Paris resulting in the victory of Team Europe and, only a few days ago, he also won the Race to Dubai; It seems that yet another great Italian golfing season is in store!
Of course, as has already been said, this is an opportunity not to be missed and it is important to make the most of it by popularising the sport, especially among young people, endorsing public initiatives such as the “Golf in Piazza” event, raising the awareness of the media industry in order to promote golf in Italy.
It is well known that it is actually thanks to the mass media that champions of the calibre of Panatta, Pellegrini, Lucchetta, Vezzali, to mention only a few, have given visibility to their sports, becoming positive role models for many youths to imitate.
Baldovino Dassù, Costantino Rocca, Francesco Molinari, Golf in Italy, Matteo Manassero, Ryder Cup 2022, Ugo Grappasonni