This region, bordering on France and in the furthest point north with Switzerland, is a land of many facets: the grandeur of the traces left behind by the House of Savoy, sovereigns of Italy from 1861 to 1946, with fabulous castles and residences in Turin and its surroundings. All around it, a variegated world. To the northeast, the imposing Alps which hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics. To the east, the rice paddies of the Novara and Alessandria provinces. South, in the Langhe and Monferrato areas, the vineyards of Italy's most prized red wines and white truffles, the priceless and fragrant tubers which ennoble dishes of local cuisine. As per golf, the greatest concentration of courses is found scattered throughout the territory: there are 45 with at least 9 holes, and amongst these a record-breaking number of awards for their beauty accumulated over the years by clubs in Biella, Turin, Royal Park and Bogogno, and no less than five clubs with 36 holes each.
Playing golf surrounded by vineyards and indulging in outstanding wines directly from the producers at the end of a match: Piedmont, the region which boasts the highest concentration of award-winning golf courses, is this too. At least in the part known as Langhe and Roero, between Alba, Bra, Barolo and Dogliani, and the Monferrato, that finger of land that starts from Asti and Alessandria descending to the border with Liguria.
Towards the southeast in the Alessandria province in the realm of Gavi wine, there are two courses that must not be missed. Starting with the Golf Club Villa Carolina, with 36 recently completed holes and a club that captivates at first sight with its 18th century villa renovated in compliance with the restrictions protecting historic buildings to house the activities of the club and accommodations, all surrounded by a huge park. The La Marchesa course was opened first, alternating an American feel with more delicate tracts which leave little room for error. The Paradiso course, with its second 9 holes inaugurated in 2014, is much more undulating with decidedly significant differences in level and more insidious greens.
The Golf Colline del Gavi is just minutes away amidst the vineyards of a hilly region that is wedged between Liguria and Piedmont. Inaugurated in 1998, the 18 holes extend over 110 hectares utilizing the morphology of the terrain including woods, hills, streams and ponds, which touch on no less than nine holes. The course was designed with the goal of entertaining yet all the while challenging the skills of players: natural obstacles such as trees and bodies of water make each hole different, constantly stimulating the need for new strategies. Add to that the course's differences in levels which demand good physical stamina.
The Golf Club Margara in the heart of Monferrato is a continuously evolving club. The ribbon cutting ceremony of the first 18 holes, or rather the Lolli Ghetti course (originally called the Red course) was held in 1974. The guestrooms (just renovated), the residences, the pool, and the first 9 holes of the La Guazzetta course (Yellow) all followed afterwards and in the 2000s, the next 9 holes were completed, which put the Margara courses at the top of the Italian golfing-tourism panorama.
An hour by car southwest leads us to the Golf Club Cherasco, a dynamic and welcoming club opened in 1982 in the point where the Tanaro River meets the Stura. A marvelous position from a naturalistic (and enogastronomic!) point of view, today it is a landmark for golfers in search of a stimulating yet not too severe challenge, and those who also appreciate the pleasures of fine cuisine and wines. Indeed, the club is located in the Langhe hills where the enogastronomic tradition is supreme: the best bottles of Barolo, Barbaresco, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera here are accompanied by outstanding white truffles, hazelnuts, snails, exquisite cheeses and the traditional dishes prepared by local trattorias (and the clubhouse restaurant) who vie with one another to win over palates.
Let us return north to the area surrounding the regional capital, Turin, where there are two 36-hole courses which could suffice alone for an unforgettable holiday. The Circolo Golf Torino, founded in 1924, has changed location more than once before finding the right one in 1956 inside La Mandria Regional Park, a stone's throw away from the recently restored and must-see Palace of Venaria. This club has always been a salon for the Who's Who of Turin, and boasts a top level competitive history: not only for having hosted three Italian Opens, but also for having trained world-class golfers such as brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, titleholders of multiple events on the European Tour. Next to it, we find the Royal Park I Roveri, a club with a personality that distinguishes itself from its neighbor with a clear American stamp - the first 18 holes were designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. - which translates into sweeping spaces and many water hazards. The Italian Open was played here from 2009 to 2012. In keeping with its remarkable sense of modernity, in the 2000s the club called upon architects Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry to create the Pramerica, the second 18-hole course on the property, elected "Best New Course" in Italy in 2014.
For a more relaxing match in a welcoming country atmosphere, try the Golf Club Le Fronde, just 30 minutes by car from Turin, at 450 meters above sea level and at the threshold to the Susa Valley on the road leading to the mountains which hosted the 2006 Olympic Games - Oulx, Bardonecchia, Sansicario and Sestrières - and 3 kilometers from Lake Avigliana, in a magnificent naturalistic context.
With our compasses pointing northeast, after 87 kilometers we find the Golf Club Biella "Le Betulle" on the hills of the Biella range. Almost 60 years have passed since British architect John Morrison laid out the course's 18 holes, and simultaneously built a clubhouse and guestrooms in the tranquil woodlands. Since then, little or nothing has changed in the Biella club, which enjoys a sort of splendid isolation. Testing yourself on this masterpiece course, awarded several times as one of Italy's most beautiful, is no easy endeavor yet still leaves one with peace of mind. In the same province, also try the Golf Club Cavaglia, perfect as a home base for a quality golf tour. Easy to reach with its proximity to the A4 Milan-Turin motorway - it features a four-star hotel with a view of the Piedmont Prealps and the golf course, with an intriguing and entertaining layout.
The list goes on and on: worthy of mention in the Alessandria province, the Golf & Country Valcurone, opened in 2007 in a geographic area wedged between Liguria and Lombardy abounding with enogastronomic attractions and - distancing only 33 kilometers - the Serravalle Golf Club, opened for play in 2006 amidst Gavi vineyards and age-old woodlands, right beside a famous outlet where the temptation of shopping will not be denied. The Golf Feudo d'Asti, in the heart of the Monferrato hills, offers the challenge of its undulating fairways and rewards with the taste treats of local cuisine in which the white truffle is king. Closer to Turin, two courses that deserve to be tried are the Golf Club La Margherita and the adjacent Golf Club I Girasoli, two distinct yet complementary clubs with 36 holes in all. The first hosts national level competitions and championships, while the second, certified organic, is perfect for families because of its comfortable agritourism facilities.