Getting It DONE…the Homestretch (Stage I)…2nd Chapter
Before I get to my day in Rome, two other things about Monday. First, I was the only person on the course (at least until 1pm), which is a good testament to the sanity of the Irish (and the opposite regarding mine). Secondly, the head pro, Paddy McGuirk and everyone else there could not have been nicer or more welcoming.
Arrived at hotel in Rome around midnight saying thank you thank you to my GPS. Would have been lost puppy without it and was very tired. Loss of phone making trip more complicated in a bunch of ways. Had a one hour conference call w a senior person from Verizon and one from Apple and they could not figure it out…I was simply amazed and frustrated, but it is what it is.
Marco Simone GC April 12, 2016: Overslept in morning…right thru alarm…but fortunately only by an hour. Rushed to course after my Fiber One breakfast (nothing changes) and GPS misplaced entrance to club. Finally got there and teed off at 8:45 instead of 8:00. Playing Marco Simone Golf Club, just outside or ring road around Rome at about “2 o’clock”. In December 2015 it was named host venue for the 2022 Ryder Cup…frankly, another in a string of poor selections that seem to have started in 1985…after many years of superb choices (e.g. Muirfield, Birkdale, Lytham, etc.), starting in 1985 it has gone to (italics denote courses I have played):
The Belfry-England (1985/89/93/02)
K Club-Ireland 2006
Celtic Manor-Wales 2010
Gleneagles Centenary-Scotland 2014
Le Golf National-France 2018
Marco Simone-Italy 2022
With the possible exception of Valderrama, and unbroken string of poor to average selections…all seemingly driven by the European Tour’s need for cash to support its regular events. The European Tour needs high revenues from the Ryder Cup and its selections seem to be driven primarily by the cash offered up by candidates with little consideration of course quality. And of course, the Europeans always complain that the US is too commercialized (ands the sports media soaks that up and repeats it with no thought behind it…so what’s new?). Anyhow, I will get off my high horse.
Its Championship course was designed (by Jim Fazio) and opened in late 1970’s or early 1980’s.
Suffice it to say that I was not enthralled by Marco Simone GC. While only about 6940 yards from the tips based on the current yardage book, there is tons of room (Championship course said to encompass about 240 acres) to stretch this course out…and apparently plans to do so prior to 2022. One real issue might be a “choke point “ where literally 4 tees (7, 9, 11, and 16) and four greens (6, 8, 10, and 15) all come together in a relatively small space. With Ryder Cup crowds, this should be quite a scene. Despite my reaction to the course, I played well and had a 39-39 = 78 (yesterday at Baltray was more like ∞ - ∞ = ∞).
One thing that was much appreciated was how the Italians waved me through whenever I came up behind a slower group, so I was finished playing by 11:00 and headed over to Olgiata Golf Club, about 20 miles away and directly north of Rome’s central district.
Olgiata Golf Club April 12, 2016: Drive to Olgiata was easy and immediately sensed this to be Rome’s most exclusive golf club. Was able to have lunch at the club and the lunch was as good as Cypress point’s course. Would hate to think what I would weigh if I belonged here.
Olgiata was included in Golf Digest’s 2016 World 100, much to the surprise of many. It is ranked #100 on that list, but interestingly, never made it to Golf Digest’s Top 100 Overseas (Worldwide excluding USA) list published five times, with the latest being 2012. It is a very good course (and a great club) but not in my mind close to a Top 100. Originally designed by Kenneth Cotton in 1961, it was renovated by Jim Fazio in 1996. In 1968 and 1984 Olgiata hosted the World Cup.
Plays to about 7160 yards today and in excellent shape and firm/fast. Certainly one of the better parkland courses in Europe, but cannot compare to the great parkland tracks of the US. It has a very good flow, excellent bunkering, and beautiful trees (although too many of them) but is not “memorable.”
For the record, had a 40 – 43 = 83.
Simply put…go to Rome for the beauty of the City, the food, and the sights. It is not destined to be a golf destination for the foreseeable future. But then again…who does to GB&I for the food? :-)
I finished in plenty of time to fly to Paris. Stayed at a hotel near Charles de Gaulle airport but Tuesday was a very long day…getting to the hotel shortly before midnight. Fortunately, I have slept well on the short flights in Europe. And the good news is that I am staying two straights nights in the same hotel…a feeling of luxury!!
Biarritz Golf Club, April 13, 2016: Today proved to be a real adventure. It started calmly enough with a flight from CDG to Biarritz in France’s southwest corner. The golf course is located 5-10 miles from the airport, and my schedule was to fly back to CDG departing at 6:55pm that evening. I was playing Biarritz as it was on Tom MacWood’s “spoof” 1939 list. When I arrived, a very helpful and pleasant woman confirmed my starting time. I then explained to her that I was there because of this MacWood list professing to uncover a World Top 100 created in 1939 and that Biarritz was on the list as #1. We went online to find MacWood’s article and I showed her that it was listed as “Chilberta” as #71. At which point, she said “Chilberta” is about 5km from here. I said, yes but does it have a golf course, and if so is it a good course and is it old. Her answer was positive on both counts.
Now, MacWood’s article generally listed the location of the club instead of the exact club name. When I decided to try to finish the list, in most cases it was obvious which course on the list. In a couple of cases, further research was needed…including Chilberta. I went to Google Maps and found Chilberta France located next to Biarritz. Biarritz Golf Club is famous as it was the origin of one of the Charles Blair Macdonald/Seth Raynor “template holes” commonly called “Biarritz” (excellent examples include #9 at Yale, #17 at Yeamans Hall, #11 at The Creek, #5 at Mountain Lake, #5 at Fishers Island, and #17 at Fox Chapel). These greens are also sometimes called “double plateau” greens. These were designed as an adaptation of the original par 3 at Biarritz GC…which did NOT have a double plateau green, but rather featured a deep chasm with the sea flowing just before the green (similar to #16 at Cypress Point and #16 at Cabot Cliffs...both designed after Biarritz). The original Biarritz hole no longer exists at Biarritz GC…but the name sticks. Soooo, when I saw that Chilberta was next door to Biarritz, I assumed that #71 was Biarritz GC (ever notice what the first three letters of “assume” spells out?).
My next question was “any chance you could call them?” and before I knew it I was set up to play at 12:04. Back in a taxi, I was at Chilberta by 11:30. As I have found before, remaining flexible is the key to these trips. The course was designed by Tim Simpson and opening in 1927. I loved it…it flows between the beach and forests, with glorious views of the French and Spanish Pyrenees in the distance. The course was in great shape for this time of the year, running firm and fast. A very short 6200 yard par 70 from the tips, it shouted the Tom MacWood philosophy…golf should be FUN. The greens have more false fronts that the average junior high school prom in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and there are few level lies anywhere. Favorite hole was #11, playing 395 yards into the prevailing wind and headed directly toward the Bay of Biscay…downhill off the tee and then uphill on the approach, a spectacular sight from the tee.
I played really well….finished with a 37-39 = 76.
Showed the woman who is general manager of the club and course the MacWood article and she was most interested. I was also informed that Estelle is a championship player.
Then had to fly back to Paris…only wish I had the time for a second round…what a fun day!! Some day will return and play Chilberta for a second time…and of course finally play Biarritz.