Plenty of adrenalin early in the morning
Around eight o’clock in the morning, we start out of town in our rental car near the famous Villa Borghese. The extremely fast, offensive driving style of the Roman road users takes some getting used to for us, but after a short time it works fine. If you wait, you will not reach your destination in time. We get the impression that traffic signs and traffic lights are seen more as a recommendation. Unharmed and happy, we reach the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club on the north-eastern outskirts of the Italian metropolis a good half hour later.
Here in Guidonia Montecelio, the 44th edition of the Europe : USA golf competition will take place in September 2023, one year late. After 1997 in Valderrama and 2018 in Paris, it will be only the third Ryder Cup on continental European soil.
The biggest green skirt ever designed
World-renowned fashion and perfume designer Laura Biagiotti and her daughter Lavinia Biagiotti Cigna, thanks to the Italian Golf Federation, the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) and to the support of national and local institutions, brought the Ryder Cup to her club in 2015, which she founded in 1971. Since her death in 2017, Lavinia Biagiotti Cigna has continued the project and now heads the club as President.
Lavinia quotes her mother as saying “My mother used to say this is the biggest green skirt I have ever designed”.
Originally designed by Jim Fazio, the course has been completely redesigned as of 2018. This task was successfully taken on by European Golf Design, together with Jim’s son Tom Fazio II.
On an area of 150 hectares, a par-72 stadium course has been created, which is perfectly integrated into the open, partly quite hilly terrain. It is a course designed not only for players but also for the up to fifty thousand spectators expected daily. On both sides of the fairways, the terrain often rises, so that from these elevated places, the game action can be followed not only on one fairway, but on several at once.
The paths are very well maintained and asphalted, the distances between greens and tees are pleasantly short. The course is fair and a pleasure to play. It is a real match play course and allows a good score for all HCP classes, provided you hit the right spots on the greens. If you do not, you get penalised.
The tee-offs are less challenging. But the ones into the green are, some of which can be hit blind.
We particularly like the two par-5s at the end of the front nine and the 16, a 322 m long par-4. For us, it is the most beautiful hole on the course. If you do not resist the temptation to attack the green with your steep descent tee shot here, you run the risk of experiencing your damp miracle. We are already curious to see how many balls will disappear here in 2023 during the Ryder Cup.
Construction of the new driving range has already begun. The clubhouse will also be renovated before the Ryder Cup.
A successful creation
I take up Laura Biagiotti’s comparison of the course with a skirt and describe it as if it were such a garment:
We really like the motifs on the green skirt. On its front, the 11th-century Marco Simone Castle, now Lavinia’s home, attracts our gaze. Also the astronomer Galileo Galilei used to live here.
On the back of the skirt, the hill town of Sant’Angelo Romana catches the eye, as does Rome’s silhouette with St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance.
Cleverly placed are its 18 mostly not too big, wavy and smooth green buttons. Real eye-catchers are the four large blue dots of colour, two on each side, and the blue zips that snake over part of the back.
The skirt comes in two versions. We are introduced to the spring version, where the green fringes located on its sides are kept short and blend seamlessly into the colour of the skirt. In the autumn version, these are much longer and denser, so that it is easy to get caught in them. Their shiny golden-brown colour is the ideal contrast to the otherwise rich green and another visual highlight.
The bright white linings of the numerous pockets are velvety soft. Their edges are perfectly finished. You can get out of them easily, even if they get wet. A special textile layer ensures that.
The smooth surface is very elastic and its material handles even large amounts of rain very well. There is nothing to complain about in terms of its high-quality workmanship. We particularly like the fact that great importance is attached to sustainability in its production.
The stylish unisex mini is available in four sizes for men and three for women. The XXL version is only 6.373 meters long. Usually it is not too tightly cut and offers plenty of freedom of movement in all variants. However, it can be made tighter for special occasions.
The brand and the high quality come at a price. For the use of the designer piece, one pays €180 on site. If you book online, you get a ten percent discount.
With the 78th Italian Open being held in September 2021, the course has passed its sporting baptism of fire in the best possible way. The Dane Nicolai Hojgaard won with 13 under par and thus won his first tournament on today’s DP World Tour.
Stay and Play
Various hotels, including those outside Rome, offer attractive stay and play packages or green fee discounts. This also applies to the multiple award-winning, five-star Argentario Golf & Wellness Resort in Porto Ercole in the Maremma in southern Tuscany, where we will spend the next few days. I report on this in a separate article.