Royal Golf La Bagnaia: a Scottish course in Italy!
BY ALBERTO GENOVESI (ITALY4GOLF CO-FOUNDER)
After the day at Golf Club Castelfalfi, our journey to discover the best golf courses in Tuscany continues. So, early wake up this morning too and continental breakfast to face a new golf course: the Royal Golf La Bagnaia, a few kilometres from Siena.
Breakfast takes place on the first floor of the hotel and the view over the roofs and towers of San Gimignano that can be enjoyed from the windows is incredible with the early morning light. The colours are warm and you can also admire the entire countryside surrounding the village that dominates it from above… But time is pressing and, once the usual check out practices are done, we get in the car to start the half-hour journey that separates us from our destination.
We decide not to take the highway towards Siena, but to follow the provincial roads that cross the many famous Tuscan villages such as Monteriggioni, definitely one of the unmissable places for those who were to visit Tuscany: a fortified town, closed within its walls and that has kept intact its medieval charm.
The road continues in between the hills. As we proceed we see how these are gradually sweeter and mute in the mantle: woods and vineyards give way to olive trees and cypresses that have their roots in the peculiar brown earth of the hills of Siena.
At the last intersection, we take a dirt road that climbs up a hill and, after the umpteenth turn, we are in front of the entrance of the Royal Golf La Bagnaia. We cross the gate and immediately to the left the development of the field that extends over the surrounding hills shows up, while in front of us stands the clubhouse, in perfect rustic stone style.
We park the car and walk towards the secretariat remaining impressed by the putting green that is just on our right: it is immense! Never seen one so big, and with an amazing quality of the grass…
We enter the clubhouse and discover a very welcoming structure, with large windows from the bar-restaurant area ranging on the field and the panorama of the Sienese hills.
As we approach the secretariat we can not help but notice a plaque hanging on the wall on which are indicated the names of players, amateurs and professionals, with the relative records of the field.
The very kind lady of the secretariat welcomes us warmly and tells us that our golf cart is available in the close parking lot, wishes us a good game and enjoy the beautiful sunny day.
We arrive on the tee of hole 1 and we immediately guess the design of the Royal Golf La Bagnaia that unfolds perfectly following the environment in which it is placed. Its architect, the famous Robert Trent Jones Jr, designed it as a real Scottish “links” and I must say that, apart from the absence of the ocean and the wind, the rest is just like a real “links“!
Ready to go and the first thing we notice as soon as we get at the tee is the quality of the grass: so incredibly perfect that I ask Ilaria, my wife, whether it is real or fake. Only after touching it, I realized that it was true grass, never seen such perfect and large tees.
We start to play and we are both impressed by the fairways, not so much for the size, but because even these kept perfectly: the grass is incredible here too, compact but soft and cut in an absolutely regular way.
It’s necessary to keep in fairways during the game because as soon as you shoot the ball too far left or right (which is very common for us very amateur players) you end up in complicated situations because outside the grass is uncultivated and very high. So, not only is it hard to find the ball there but, even if you manage to do it, getting out of these situations is very difficult.
The holes alternate in a very pleasant and fun sequence at Royal Golf Club La Bagnaia and while you continue you can not help but look around and admire the typically Tuscan landscape of the Siena area, with the characteristic light colours of the earth that contrast with the intense green and iridescent vegetation.
Arrived at the end of the first nine holes without having to make impossible recoveries of balls in pleasant places (and therefore with enough optimism on our game!), we prepare to begin the second nine holes. From the tee of the 10th, we understand immediately that the troubles will increase: par 4 downhill, light “dogleg” left and with water a few meters from the raised green.
Even at Royal Golf Club La Bagnaia, as at Castelfalfi, the golf cart is very useful because of the transfers, especially on these second holes, are really challenging, not only for the distances but especially for the climbs, which put a strain on the legs and the breath.
We continue on our path admiring the panorama of the surrounding hills on which stands the Resort that dominates both the golf course and a large riding school; the Royal Golf La Bagnaia therefore also offers the opportunity to go horseback riding in the stunning surroundings: today we do not have the time, but next time we will not fail to take advantage of this interesting plus.
We are now at the end of our round of golf and the eighteenth hole is a challenging par 5 of almost 500 meters (starting from the yellow for men) that does not allow you to see the green, practically under the clubhouse, until you get right below it. Actually, an ending in perfect style for a beautiful and very fun course, even for those who are not great golfers…
After refreshing ourselves and having a cold drink on the veranda of the bar-restaurant of the club, we load our car and head back to our destination for the evening and night: Massa Marittima, about an hour’s drive from the Royal Golf La Bagnaia.
As we walk along the road and we are absorbed in the memories of the golf tour we see on a hill a very charming old house and we decide to deviate from the main road to reach it and see what it is. We enter a narrow avenue of cypresses that gets us in a dirt road where we find the sign “HPB Palazzo di Stigliano“. We continue and, in the end, we find ourselves under an ancient building of very interesting architecture, a manor house and a small village unfortunately in ruins that seems under renovation. After having a quick look around we imagine what will become such a special place once everything is restored to its ancient splendour…
We depart towards Massa Marittima, in the heart of the Tuscan “metalliferous hills“. Once we reach our destination and settle our things in the hotel, we decide to take a tour in the village and visit the old town with its beautiful and famous dome (unfortunately closed and visible only from the outside). The environment is typical of medieval Tuscan villages, with the square in the centre and the church that dominates it; at sunset the colours of the marble of the “Duomo” and the surrounding buildings are amazing.
It is dinner time and always following the advice of our good Fabio Ceccarelli, Italy4golf ambassador and sommelier, we booked a table in a characteristic place, Il Gatto e la Volpe restaurant, located in a beautiful side street of the main road. Tired but pleasantly satisfied by the perfect day of golf, we now look forward to tasting something typical with a nice bottle of wine!
Alberto Genovesi, Fabio Ceccarelli, Golf in Tuscany, Il Gatto e la Volpe restaurant, Massa Marittuma, Monteriggioni, Palazzo Stigliano, perfect tee, putting green, Robert Trent Jones Jr, Royal Golf La Bagnaia, San Gimignano, Scoittish links, Tuscan hills, Tuscany