Spain is quite well known for its golf courses, but Italy is not so well known for golf, which is a shame, because Italy should really be one of the world’s top golf tourism destinations. It might come as a slight surprise to learn that there are over 220 golf courses situated throughout the Living Museum. Nearly 90,000 Italians are members of golf clubs, according to the Top 100 Golf Courses of the world site.
Recently, Italy’s minister for tourism, Michela Vittoria Brambilla, she of the long name and legs, placed a bill before Italy’s parliament which will allow a round of golf resorts to be developed. On the face of it, this is good thing for tourism in Italy, but this being Italy, there has to be a bunker.
The bunker, to use pseudo-golfing parlance, is that the proposed law will make it easier for golfing resorts to be constructed throughout Italy, and this has rung alarm bells within Italy’s environmental protection leagues.
Italy’s greens are worried that golfing greens will be located right next to some of Italy’s most beautiful areas, ruining them. The law, you see, will allow planning controls to be relaxed in areas where developers want to put a nice new 18 hole golf course close to beauty spots. Rampant building is sure to follow.
Alarm bells have been going off with regard to minister Brambilla’s real motivation.
Wider Audience Poppycock
According to Italian newspaper, Il Fatto Quotidiano, the official reason for this new found passion for golf on the part of Italy’s tourism minister is a desire to attract a wider audience to golfing as a pastime. While it does sound as if this building of golf courses might be for the good of the community at large, which to the extent it will be in that new courses will provide employment, golf courses in a hot country like Italy are unlikely to be that cheap to maintain, meaning that green fees are not likely to be that low. Golf will, therefore, remain very much the sport of the elite.
Driving the Law
Moreover, the driver behind this golfing law, is the head of Italy’s Hoteliers’ Association, a certain Bernabò Bocca. Now, Mr Bocca, and his son, Bocca junior, who runs the rather profitable luxury Sina Hotel (1 billion Euros annual turnover) would dearly love to be able build some new super luxury hotels in Italy.
Il Fatto Quotidiano sources have revealed the real reason for this sudden desire to build golf courses. Golfers from the golf elite of UK and the USA, you see, have been boycotting Italy because there is a lack of good quality hotels situated a putt away from decent golf courses. So much for the bringing golfing to a wider public and good of the community claims, which appear to be mere camouflage.
Italy’s real minister of tourism
The ever mischievous Il Fatto Quotidiano also claims that Bocca senior is Italy’s real minister of tourism.
Personally, I really do not understand all this subterfuge. Well, that is not entirely true, as what Bocca and Son are up to, probably, is to try and obtain large doses of public funding for their new super luxury community friendly golfing resorts. It is possible, though highly unlikely, of course, that tourism minister Brambilla may end up being remembered fondly in someone’s will, and may even receive an early inheritance, should her attempt to bring golf to a wider elite ends in a hole in one.
But what I really cannot understand, and neither, apparently, can golf course operators in Italy, is why Italy is not promoted as a top golfing destination? On paper, Italy is a fabulous place for golfers, and their wifes, partners, and family.
Golf, Haute Couture and Haute Cuisine
Imagine the following scenario:
While billionaire businessmen play a round of golf or two, their consorts, concubines et al, go to Rome, Milan, Venice and Florence to spend the odd million or two on haute couture. Not only.
After having, upped his handicap, Mr Rich will be more than happy to entertain his entourage in some interesting restaurant. Result: tourist income rockets. And that is not to mention the chance that Ms Rockefeller or Mr Rich may well come across some rather good Italian wine while she or he is golfing in Italy, and like it so much that she or he ends up ordering 10,000 bottles a year for her or his international restaurant or supermarket business.
Or our wealthy golf lovers might take a fancy to a splendid villa in Tuscany, Porto Fino, or on the outskirts of Florence, or possibly, buy several villas around Italy – all located close to decent greens, of course.
Then, of course while the rich are in Italy, the very same well-heeled golfing millionaires may even decide to splash out on a new Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, or a few Ducati bikes for their kids.
The spending possibilities are endless, as are the income generation opportunities for Italy.
That Italy, without the need for spiriting away public funds, is a luxury tourism destination is par for the course. You’d have to be a pretty brainless birdie not to realise this. The head of Italy’s Hoteliers’ Association, Bernabò Bocca, ain’t no brainless Birdie.
Minister Brambilla does appear to be a little slow teeing off on the golf front in Italy, it has to be said. Hence, probably, the guiding hand from her golfing instructor – Mr Bocca. Even if the setting of the leggy minister on course by Bocca may serve to support claims that Ms Brambilla is rather green, but not necessarily in an environmentally sort of way.
Italy should be a haven for golfers, but not at the expense of its environment.
If you’d like to take a golfing break in Italy, you might like to have a look at GolfBreaks.com’s golf resorts in Italy selection. Might make an interesting alternative to a golf holiday in Spain.