The game of golf in Italy officially began at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries with the creation of the first clubs, but in reality the history of golf in Italy goes back much further.
A history that can certainly be defined as recent, but that over the years has seen a continued development, stopped only by exceptional historical events.
The history of golf in Italy is quite recent. We know for certain that this sport arrived in our country thanks to the English nobility who spent the summer season here or chose the peninsula for the famous “Grand Tour”, a travel experience that was much more than simply discovering the cultural and scenic wonders of Italy.
Today, there are three hundred golf courses throughout Italy, from north to south, and prestigious international competitions are held there.
These are interesting elements for those who not only love golf but are also interested in combining the pleasure of the game with the discovery of Italian beauty.
How the history of golf in Italy begins
On holiday or during the “Grand Tour”, English noblemen since the 18th century loved to savour Italian life and customs, without however renouncing to bring with them, even during their long stays, some habits they were not willing to give up, perhaps to feel less homesick.
Golf is one of the activities that the English nobility decided to practice in Italy and adapted to the lack of proper courses by using the gardens and parks of the great noble villas. Among these were Villa Borghese, where Count Albany could be seen playing, and Villa Dora Pamphili, both in Rome, which became a meeting place and practice ground for many English lords. It was these lords and some American members who founded The Rome Golf Club in 1898, which in 1903 changed its name to Circolo del Golf dell’Acquasanta, still the oldest golf club in Italy.
After the first club in Rome, five more clubs sprang up shortly afterwards:
Sorrento Golf Club (1895), Varese Golf Club (1897), Florence Golf Club (1899)Sanremo Golf Club (1901).
However, even before the creation of the golf clubs, Rome was not the only destination chosen for golfing in Italy. Other favourite areas were Tuscany, Umbria, Liguria and Lombardy. These regions offered visitors not only green lawns and a mild climate, but also a lot of culture, nature, excellent food and wine.
Birth and development of golf history in Italy
As we have just said, golf in Italy arrived in the golden age of the Grand Tour, which saw many English aristocrats choose the Italian peninsula for long stays.
The history of golf in Italy proceeded slowly but steadily. And so, after the First World War, other golf clubs began to spring up in cities such as Milan, Palermo and Turin, as well as organising and holding the first competitions in purely tourist locations such as Fiuggi, the Ligurian Riviera, the areas around the Lombard lakes and Venice.
Although the first Italian Amateur Championship was held in 1905, the Italian Golf Federation was not established until 1927. It comprised the golf clubs of Stresa, Palermo, Florence, Villa D’Este and Turin. It was in Stresa, two years earlier, that the first edition of the Italian Open Golf was held, organised by the Golf Club Alpino and won by Francesco Pasquali.
The real professionals in this sport at that time were only the British, and it was from them that the first Italian golfers learnt their techniques and secrets and later became masters in this discipline in holiday resorts.
The only major setback in the history of golf in Italy occurred during the Second World War when the work done up to that point seemed to have been completely wiped out. However, there was a revival, although laborious, as early as 1946 in Rapallo thanks to the Italian Golf Association.
In post-World War II Italy, golf was practically unknown and certainly not a popular sport, but only practised by wealthy people.
There have been many important names, especially in recent years, in this sport, which will certainly have a strong boost in 2023 when the Ryder Cup, a prestigious biennial competition, will be held in Rome.
Golfing in Italy today
Today, Italy is a very popular country for golfers from all over the world, thanks to the climate that allows you to play for more days a year than other countries, such as the United Kingdom, where golf itself was born.
This is why those who come to Italy to play this sport are not satisfied with just hitting the greens, but organise their stay in such a way as to combine their passion for golf with the discovery of Italy’s cultural, natural and gastronomic attractions.
Every Italian region holds treasures, experiences and unique flavours that are the envy of the world.
In this blog you will find lots of ideas for organising your next trip to come and play golf in Italy, but also take the opportunity to get to know this country better.