Italians love sport, and they're good at it. Think of Italy and think of football, cycling, fast cars, fast motorbikes, skiing, speed skating and other winter sports. You may not know that Italians are also exceptionally good at basketball, volleyball, athletics and watersports. They perform well in tennis and the national rugby team is improving annually.
Quite obviously, Italians really do love their sport - so what about golf? Historically, golf in Italy dates back more than a hundred years but it has somehow just not caught on in the way that it has in countries like the United Kingdom and United States. In these countries golf is played both as a sport and a social medium and many of the clubs are oversubscribed.
Looking at the list of sports in which Italians are high achievers the most obvious thought is that they only seem to enjoy lively, fast and physical activities. Perhaps the patience required to hit that perfect shot and the time it takes to get around the golf course are all too much for the average energetic, excitable Italian. It could also be that the outdoors, Mediterranean lifestyle leaves them feeling that they don't need an excuse to get out in the fresh air and socialise with like-minded people. After all, particularly in the countryside, they are surrounded by their families, mostly eat outside and a lot of them spend all day working outside too. Then of course, in the evening, there is the famous daily passagiata in which they stroll along the streets and piazzas chatting to relations, friends and neighbours.
There are quite a few very good golf courses in beautiful settings all over Italy and golf is played, but, perhaps for the reasons above it is just not that popular. It is interesting to note that many of the most popular golf courses in Italy are located near to major cities, and there are many more in the industrial north than in the south. It could be that one of the reasons for playing golf is in order to wind down after a hard day in a high powered job. That lifestyle does not exist in most of Italy, particularly southern Italy where life is slower, more relaxed and pretty much unchanged.
In spite of the lack of enthusiasm for the sport Italy has managed to produce some first class golfers. One of the most successful male golfers Italy has produced is Costantino Rocca, born in 1956 and now playing in the European Seniors Tour. There are the two brothers Eduardo and Francesco Molinari from Turin, both of whom have won individual titles and as a pair won the World Cup of Golf in 2009. The most recent up and coming Italian golfer is the young Matteo Manassero who, at the age of 16, became the youngest ever winner of the British Amateur Championship.
The Italian Open (BMW Italian Open) for men has been held annually since it was founded in 1925 and has been part of the European Tour's schedule since 1972. It is played during the month of June at the Royal Park Golf and Country Club near Turin.
Perhaps golf will really take off in Italy one day and then, no doubt, they will become champions of that sport too. Meanwhile, Italy is becoming a very popular destination for golfing holidays as the generally mild climate makes it possible to play golf all year round. Italy is home to some excellent golf courses, including some designed by famous names such as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Robert Trent Jones. Nearly all of the golf courses in Italy are set in breathtaking scenery and some of the courses are quite challenging. Add to this the fact that the major courses are usually within easy reach of a major city which offers plenty of art, history, culture and good food for days off the golf course.
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