“Campo da Golf”: turn left. A narrow street behind the “Hotel Adler”. In the rearview mirror, the corner of the house cuts through the sky blue of Lake Como. Along the walls of houses, a few more switchbacks, into the shadow of the forest. The entrance with the coat of arms shows the destination: “Menaggio & Cadenabbia Golf Club”, enchantingly picturesque, charming, another world high above the “Lago” with its splendid and lively promenades.
After a few balls on the cute driving range, I’m on the first tee. The panorama is back. In the distance, isolated snow fields glow below the mountain peaks of the Alpine massif, behind my right shoulder Italy’s third largest lake glitters in the morning sun.
18 holes on a high plateau
But for me it’s downhill towards the fairway, with a five iron I literally dive into the course. The 18 holes stretch across the high plateau of Croce, an up and down narrow lane, lined with dense trees, ancient field stone stacks watch me like mute guards. It’s historical terrain. The “Menaggio & Cadenabbia Golf Club” celebrated its centenary in 2007, it is what the founders of golf call a “hidden gem”.
The English vocabulary is quite appropriate, because the roots of the club are as British as the game itself. The founders are four gentlemen in the annals, regulars on Lake Como, who do not want to do without golf even on vacation. The “summer visitors” around banker Henry John Mylius laid nine lanes in the area. In 1919 Mylius’ also wealthy relative and presidential successor Alfred Wyatt bought additional land to expand the facility.
Designed by dogleg inventor John Henry Taylor
For the design, he brought the five-time champion golfer John Henry Taylor to Northern Italy, along with Harry Vardon and James Braid, a member of the iconic “Great Triumvirate”, which around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries with a total of 16 British Open successes dominated golf in the British Isles. Incidentally, Taylor is also said to have invented the dogleg.
Crosswise bunker as a punitive design
In Menaggio it was probably too early for this idea. The terrain hardly allows any kinks, however, the tracks run in a straight line between the mountain wall and the plateau break. Of course, it never gets boring. It’s tight, deviations from the tee lead to unpleasant tasks, it is no coincidence that “Fare and Sure” is written on the tee markers, the popular saying from the old days. The greens are small and want to be played precisely. Everything is well cared for anyway.
In the middle of lane eleven, I come across a real Taylor relic. The bunker strip laid across the fairway is the classic element of the design philosophy of that time. I experience why it is called “punitive” when my ball promptly rolls into the sand barrier. Great!
In any case, since the steep ascent to the ninth green, I’ve regretted that I didn’t borrow an e-trolley from the clubhouse instead of my cart – Titan after all. My calves are burning. Yes, it’s okay, “Golf is a walking game”! Nevertheless, while I made my way uphill again from hole 14 in the sweat of my brow in the direction of the clubhouse towards the clubhouse, I caught myself happily thinking about the evening aperitif on the Piazza Guiseppe Garibaldi by Menaggio, where the palm trees sway gently in the sea breeze.
Breathtaking views along the lake
Lake Como is also always worth a visit for golfers. The coastal road offers breathtaking views, especially on the west bank. A view of the lake along one side, splendid architecture on the other side of the street, neat boats and opulent palazzi, cozy spots by the water and lively hustle and bustle in Cernobbio or Bellagio, where you have to take the ferry. Ask George Clooney.
Like some colleagues, the Hollywood star has a villa on the lake. And is a member of the “Menaggio & Cadenabbia Golf Club”. Nevertheless, his Italian golf home is not a publicity-shy celebrity refuge, but also an excellent and wonderful golfing experience in terms of its hospitality.
Famous library with 1,200 golf books
When my ball rattled in the hole in the 18th green at lunchtime, the shady patio of the venerable sandstone clubhouse was empty. No Clooney and no one else either. A good spirit brings ice cold lemonade. After the first refreshment, I stroll through the lovely old-fashioned bar to the widely acclaimed library.
Old Tom Morris and the Queen hang on the walls, antiquarian books about golf are on the shelves, the oldest book is from 1682, and there is also an original of Vardon’s “How to Play Golf” from 1912, both of which are of course not available to everyone. But there are hundreds of other volumes, the club has around 1,200 copies, and it is one of the world’s largest collections. I’ll stay a while, Menaggio down on the shores of Lake Como can still wait … (www.golfclubmenaggio.com)
Where to be: Lake Como is Italy’s third largest inland body of water and, thanks to its upside-down Y shape, has a total of 170 kilometers of shoreline, with sometimes picturesque, sometimes morbid villages lined up like pearls on a string – almost every one of them is worth seeing. Just like the numerous magnificent villas and palazzi along the west bank, mostly from the 15th century, which make a trip on the “Strada Panoramica” from Gera Lario in the north to Como in the south a feast for the eyes. Bellagio at the tip of the peninsula between the southern arms of Lake Como is definitely worth mentioning – a picturesque place on a hillside and with narrow streets, although mostly crowded with tourists.
Where to eat: An absolute tip is the Varenna Caffè in the small town of the same name on the west bank of the lake. Varenna is one of the most beautiful places around the lake anyway; the “Caffè” is a tiny bar on the ground floor of a stone-walled house that hugs the slope; outside you sit directly on the bank reinforcement and have a magnificent view of the lake – but you should also treat yourself to the coffee and bistro menu.
What to see: Where do you start with sightseeing recommendations in a region that is bursting with “eye-catchers”? A stroll through the old town of Como, for example, is never wrong, and the relaxed sundowner cocktail in the Cafè Del Pess on the Piazza Guiseppe Garibaldi in the charming town center of Menaggio down by the lake is almost a must – as long as you can tear yourself away from the tranquil patio of the golf club house.
An absolute must, however, is a visit to Villa Carlotta, built at the end of the 17th century, a few kilometers further south, if only because of the splendid park with numerous themed gardens. And if you are lucky, you might experience a guest performance by ensemble representatives from La Scala in Milan, who will be performing large operas with a small cast in the Villa Carlotta. Anyway, “La Traviata en camera” was lovely to cry on. (www.villacarlotta.it)
Where to stay: The accommodation options along the lake are legion, from holiday apartments to guesthouses to hotels. One area, of course, stands out from all of them: the Grand Hotel Tremezzo (photo, left) in the town of the same name, a good drive from Villa Carlotta (photo, right).
Leaning against the steeply sloping bank over several floors, the five-star hostel literally fulfills all the clichés of a grand hotel. Once dusty, worn and getting on in years, the ensemble shines with charming opulence after extensive renovation a few years ago and is once again one of the first houses in Italy. The views from the various terraces and from the rooms of the lake and the Bellagio opposite are great anyway. Or as one of the subservient spirits once defined it in Italian exuberance: “Tutto wonderful!” (Www.grandhoteltremezzo.com)