On the hunt for Europe’s best golf courses, we catch up with Donato Di Ponziano, the renowned Italian golfer behind the book A Tee Shot Along A Lifetime. Donato’s golfing career has seen him travel the globe, working on the Ryder Cup and as President-elect of the PGAs of Europe. He will also be a familiar face to anyone who keeps up with golf on Sky Sports.
Verdura Resort, Italy’s top golf course
When considering the best golf courses, Verdura Resort is a good place to start. Undulating fairways and manicured greens stretch to the rugged shores of southern Sicily, so it’s not hard to see why Kyle Phillips’ two courses, the East and West, are spoken of in superlatives. Both have exciting holes along the shore, broad fairways and savage rough.
Verdura Resort put Sicily on the golf map when it opened in 2009. Rebuilt in 2022, the East – the more links-like of the two – was voted the best golf course in Italy by Golf World. The West is equally admired. “The two courses,” says Donato, “represent the most technically interesting a golfer can find.” There are no easy options; each hole requires a high level of ability. Add to that the natural beauty of the dramatic coastal landscape – contouring around the Verdura river and a lagoon – and you’ve got “something rare”.
Make your way to the East course’s sixth hole. Put your putter down and look for a bench facing the open sea. You’ve found Donato’s favourite spot. “It's a place where it's worth sitting for a few minutes and getting lost in thought,” he says. “The panorama is the most beautiful thing you can see.”
St Andrews, the home of golf
Verdura Resort’s designer Kyle is also behind another coastal course, the much-lauded Kingsbarns Golf Links in St Andrews. An hour and a half by car from The Balmoral, it’s talked about in the same breath as renowned names such as St Andrew’s Old Course, Muirfield and Pebble Beach Golf Links.
It’s here in St Andrews, overlooking the North Sea, that you’ll find ‘the home of golf’, the Old Course where the game was first played 600 years ago. Tasked with the tricky question of choosing his favourite golf course in the world, Donato replies, “That’s difficult to answer because I have been lucky to play at so many beautiful courses.” However, he goes on to say, “St Andrews’ Old Course prevails over all. It’s the place where ‘the game’ we love so much was born.”
Berlin, 1920’s glamour
One of the oldest (if not the oldest) golf clubs in Germany, Wannsee Golf Club, is a wonderfully peaceful place to practise your swing. About 40 minutes’ drive from Hotel de Rome, or over an hour if you cycle via Grunewald Forest, it was originally created in 1895 as the Berlin Golf Club by British and American diplomats. Tee off here and you’ll be following in the footsteps of Hollywood royalty including Marlene Dietrich and Marion Davies. Admire its iconic Bauhaus-style clubhouse, designed by the architect Karl Hoffmann, making it one of the most glamorous golf clubs of 1920’s Europe.
Today the classic parkland layout is a wonderfully peaceful spot, surrounded by the Düppeler Forest and close to the lakes of Stölpchensee and Wannsee. Holes are side by side affairs, but they are so cleverly built along the natural landforms that you wouldn’t know it. All of which positions the Wannsee firmly in the top echelons of German golf.
Whether you’re new to the game or a seasoned professional, our team of PGA professionals is ready to welcome you to our Golf Academy at Verdura Resort.