The Italian government is taking a big putt by investing in golf to take advantage of the sport's burgeoning popularity. Italy also believes its unique culture can help it top Europe's leader board of top golfing destinations.
Italy is positioning itself as one of Europe’s premier golf destinations.
With the Ryder Cup in Rome now in full swing, it’s a reminder that the country offers more than just picturesque Riviera coastlines, Roman winding alleyways, sprawling Dolomite mountain escapes and fashionable craftsmanship. It’s all these things and golf.
Italy has 94,046 golfers, according to the Italian Federation of Golf, a small number compared to England which has almost 700,000 thousand golfers. Germany comes in close second with 651,417 golfers, according to a 2021 report by the European Golf Association.
Given the enormous takings attached to one of Europe's premier sports, it's no surprise Italy has been funnelling resources and investments into golf, and is not holding back its opportunity to showcase its wares by hosting the prestigious Ryder Cup in Rome this weekend.
The DP World Tour has crafted its very own "Colosseum" around the first tee at Marco Simone, the golf club hosting the event, and the Italian Air Force painted the sky in the colours of the Italian flag for the opening ceremony.
The Ryder Cup effect
The Ryder Cup's arrival signals a seismic shift in Italy's status in the golfing world and has turned the spotlight on the country's courses, facilities, and emerging talent.
One such resort exemplifying Italy's golfing allure is the Antognolla Golf Course. It is conveniently located just 30 minutes away from Perugia, the hometown of Baci chocolates, and two hours from Florence and Rome, making it an ideal location for those going to Italy to see historic sites, but also wanting to get a good round of golf in.
“The Ryder Cup will be taking place in Italy this year and not without reason,” states César Burguière, Antognolla’s Golf Director.
“Italy has been investing in golf infrastructure in recent years, which has enabled it to host this major tournament. The Ryder Cup is hugely significant for Italy’s golf future since it will place the country on the global map of golf. Unlike other destinations, Italy offers an unparalleled package that includes not only golf, but rich history, delicious cuisine, and warm hospitality. We have something for everyone whether it’s the beachfront, the mountains, or the rustic countryside. Umbria is centrally located, with good access to multiple activities and important cities like Rome.”
“The Ryder Cup gives the right impetus to the further development of the golf industry in Italy, the impetus that we at Antognolla Golf, with an earned title of “Italy’s Best Golf Course” by the WGA (World Golf Awards) in 2020 and 2022, eagerly support,” says Burguière.
Resorts like Antognolla have the power to foster community in cities and remote villages, where smaller enterprises establish themselves in and around them. “We are also engaging with the local community and important Umbrian entities like the National Gallery of Umbria,” says Nicolò Giommetti, Antognolla's head of marketing.
Model, actor, and fashion designer Mariano Di Vaio actively plays golf at Antognolla with his family. “Golf is more than a sport, it’s a lifestyle,” he says. “I love the way the game reconciles well-being and sportiness. It’s also an inclusive sport, so everyone can play it from men, women, kids. It’s perfect for families, so I love to bring mine on the golf course! My first born is a little champion, he’s just seven but he’s a young sport promise.”
With up to 350,000 people descending upon Rome for the Ryder Cup, Italy is aware of how much global attention the sport can generate to help the country's revenues and reputation.
Ask anyone who plays, golf has a way of aligning the mind and body to create a unique sensation of well-being. Perhaps, it's the walk or caddy ride around pristine courses, or the quiet genteel nature of the sport.
As golf grows in popularity, I'm betting Italy will win its matchplay to become a top golfing spot. Successful driving or putting on the range requires calm, precision and careful practice - skills Italians are known to have in abundance when it comes to arts, design and craftsmanship.