First thing that gets mentioned when people think of Sicily is the Mafia, quickly followed by the movie The Godfather, aka Al Pacino and Marlon Brando… however, when it comes to golfing in Sicily, all the talk is about the Verdura Resort!
And for those that have visited this ancient Mediterranean island, the discussion refers to beautiful coastlines, a temperate climate and the passionate locals – who’s love of fresh food and excellent wines are second to none.
Golfing in Sicily – The Location…
The infamous island of Sicily is found just off the South West coast of Italy’s mainland.
At its closest point it is less than 10 miles, however, the locals see themselves as very different from their mainland cousins.
Famous for its volcano (Etna), the rock that stands tall in the heart of the Mediterranean. The resort is located on the southern coast of Sicily between Agrigento and the fishing city of Sciacca, a 80-minute drive from Trapani and Palermo airports.
Golfing in Sicily – The Resort…
Since opening in 2009, Verdura Resort, a Rocco Forte hotel has quickly established itself amongst Europe’s premier contemporary luxury golf and lifestyle destinations.
The resort is set in 230 hectares of stunning landscape with 1.8km of private coastline, and offers golfing guests and families a very modern five-star experience.
Verdura features 203 rooms and suites, all with sea view, and is built with the golfer in mind.
Golfers can enjoy the two 18-hole championship courses and a nine-hole par-three course, all designed by world-renowned golf architect Kyle Phillips and playable all-year-round.
Verdura was the host venue for the European Tour’s 2012 Sicilian Open and its three links-style layouts have been built to the highest specifications.
The resort’s Par 72 East Course is ranked as one of the finest in continental Europe.
While the West Course (also Par 72) provides the ideal complement and features one of the most memorable finishes anywhere in the world, with the final four holes set alongside the Mediterranean.
The courses are also supported by an on resort golf academy.
There is even a Par 3 course which is more than a good test, even for the seasoned Pro.
Verdura’s other sports facilities include six tennis courts; a 60m two-tiered infinity pool; numerous watersports, one football pitch, fully-equipped gym and a collection of running trails through olive and lemon groves.
The resort’s award-winning 4,000sqm SPA complex includes 11 treatment rooms, gym, yoga studio, a 25-metre indoor lap pool, four outdoor Thalassotherapy pools, a double-height steam room, male and female saunas and a SPA bar for healthy alternatives.
Guests can sample an authentic taste of traditional Sicily with an array of dishes at one of the resort’s four restaurants and five bars – with fresh, organic produce sourced straight from Verdura’s own garden.
I enjoyed beautifully cooked steaks and marinated Tuna salads, all with the lashings of Olive Oil made on site.
You can even have Sicilian cooking lessons, which I did and managed to surprise my playing partners and even myself with a fine attempt at the local pasta dish – Pasta Alla Norma!
Verdura Resort has received widespread international recognition and won numerous awards since opening.
Among its most recent honours, it was ranked fourth in Golf World’s inaugural list of the ‘Top 100 Golf Resorts in Continental Europe’ and named by Golf Digest as a recipient of an ‘Editors’ Choice Award’ for Best International Resorts 2016.
Golfing in Sicily – The Accommodation…
Verdura Resort fuses strong, modernist, environmentally-sensitive architecture with design that is firmly rooted in Sicilian culture and inspired by this superb setting.
In keeping with the raw, rugged scenery beyond the property, the architect, Flavio Albanese of Vicenza and Palermo, applied minimalist, contemporary lines to the construction of Verdura‟s accommodation, spa, restaurants and outdoor entertainment arena.
In fact, one of the things you first notice is how low rise everything is.
Rooms are generous and simply designed and each room is self-contained in such a way that you would be forgiven if you thought you were the only people staying.
On numerous occasions we remarked on the peace and quiet to be found around the resort. This is complimented by the common use of bikes by all the visitors, thus keeping down noise.
Each room has a private terrace with views of both the sea and the golf courses, the orange, lemon and olive groves, to the mountains in the distance.
In addition, Verdura Resort has green credentials at the heart of its design.
In 2014, in collaboration with the Botany Department of Palermo University, they committed to the creation and naturalization of wetlands, which are a stopping point for migratory birds and nestling waterfowl.
The project entailed the re-naturalization of the land by restoring over 70,000 native Sicilian plants and scrubs species
The East Course – 6200yards – Par 72…
The first tee on the East course is a 360 yard dog-legged Par 4 right with bunkers positioned on either side of the fairway at the turn.
By all means take on the pin with a high fade leaving you a short iron in to the raised green but over cook it and you’ll find yourself heading back to the tee. This hole sets the tone for the rest of your round.
The front nine is mostly flat but their are many undulations and protected greens that mean accuracy (not length) and patience is required to score well.
The signature holes going out are the challenging 450 yard Par 4 with a tee required to clear water and your second needing to avoid the 30 yard turfed gully protecting the raised green over looking the sea.
This quickly followed by the Par 3 6th, a 110 yard hole with the green surround by the pebbled beach of the south Sicily coastline.
A flat circular green rewards the brave but you will find this a tough if a sea breeze is prevailing.
Finally, I’ll tip my cap to the Par 4 7th but only as a piece of unashamed self-indulgence, as this hole produced the greatest golf shot of my golf life.
A 175-yard end shot into a protected green, one bounce and in the cup for my maiden Eagle! (sorry Ed.)
The beginning of the back nine almost mirrors the starting hole only this time it’s a dog-leg par 4 and your turning left. Following this, the course opens up.
Expansive fairways, soft sand filled bunkers, a challenging Par 3’s (200+ yards uphill) but more chances to get a few pars on your card.
Holes 13, 14 and 15 lined by orange trees and sumptuous fairways all test the mid handicapper but once again it’s the 125 yard Par 3 where a Mediterranean sea backdrop stays in the memory.
The 17th and 18th also fail to disappoint. The penultimate, a 400 yard Par 4, framed by roughly terrained hilltop shadowing the green.
The last, a 430 yard Par 4 that suggests a low fade but don’t cut it or you’ll be in the deep blue. The course finishes back at the rusty orange fort like clubhouse with a wide a sloping green that is asking to be birdied.
A comfortable and relaxed four hour round, a beautiful sunset, followed by some excellent local pasta. Bellissimo!
The West course – 6750 yards – Par 72…
Here you start your round by heading away from the shore inland.
The 1st hole is a 495 yard Par 5 that slowly bears left for your approach shot.
The green has a gentle incline moving from front to back meaning you can’t leave it short or you’ll be making bogey.
The stand out holes on this course are evenly spread but the 4th hole (also a Par 5) is a delight.
Fairway bunkers to the right suggest staying on the left is the sensible option and a well placed second shot (again left) should leave you with a simple putt up the apron of the green to an immense green.
However, if you’re at the front, and the pin is at the back, you could find yourself with a 40ft putt, this course clearly needs some strategy.
Quickly followed by the 5th, a very challenging Par 4 with a 30ft drop in the middle of the fairway and up again, to the raised green.
As you head back south, the superb 424 yard Par 4 8th will invite you take on the green but be prepared to lay up and putt your way up to the elevated green the accept the bogey, as a wayward shot will leave you in the left side bunker with 8ft face to overcome.
Go long and you could find yourself on the beach earlier in the day than you’d planned.
As the heat of the day builds and given this course can be attacked by some strong winds (it is a links course after all) it’s important to keep abreast with speed of the greens.
They can vary in pace greatly.
As you pass the turn hole 11 offers you a chance to open your shoulders and crack your best drive down a 511 yard fairway downhill.
The right side is a wall of reeds for the first 250 yards so stay left.
Two good shots are then needed as the green stand guarded by mogul like mounds. If you make Par, you’ve done well.
As you reach the end of your round, you are then met by arguably three of the best placed finishing holes in Europe.
15, 16, 17 and 18, are all flanked by the rocky coastline, you are challenged by a two shortest Par 3’s and two longish Par 4’s – the last finishing right underneath the clubhouse terrace where many enjoying a chilled beer or more likely a cocktail will clap you in.
Verdura Resort – Other things in the area…
Golfing in Sicily is not the only pastime and on any golfing holiday, it’s important to go beyond the fairways and in this instance there is plenty to see and do locally.
Whether it’s visiting the ancient caves (Greek Temples dating back to 12,000 BC) in Syracuse or the regional wineries, which is a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon, tasting and appreciating the local vine culture.
We visited the much awarded Planeta winery in nearby Menfi, less than an hour from Verdura.
Golfing in Sicily – The Verdict…
This is truly fantastic place to visit and perfect for golfers of all levels.
If you are considering golfing in Sicily, this is a superb destination for those seeking Autumn and Winter golf (it would be wise to avoid the hot summer months as it can reach as high as 45C in July) as this is a place I would happily return to, and not just for the golf…
If someone offers to take you to the golfing in Sicily at the Verdura Resort, to paraphrase Mr.Pacino and Mr.Brando …. it’s an offer you can’t refuse!!!!
TSG Verdict: 5 out of 5
By Ian Mullins