When it comes to golfing destinations Italy traditionally hasnít ranked that high on the list, but with Ryder cup hero Costantino Rocca showing the way and the Molinari brothers Edoardo and Francesco along with Matteo Manassero taking up the reins golf in Italy has undergone something of a boom in the last couple of years.
With all three winning this year and the Molinari brothers playing in a winning Ryder cup team, no surprise then that on the back of all this positive publicity golf in Italy has started to boom.
Puglia is set to become a classic golf destination for those who enjoy a dose of history and sightseeing thrown in with their golf.
UNESCO sites Trulli of Alberobello, The Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera, Ostuni, The Appian Way and the city of Leccee are some of the most beautiful places in Italy to visit
Our base for the week was the beautiful Masseria San Domenico, which is part of the San Domenico Resort, choose between a luxury villa, beautifully appointed townhouse or room in the new hotel, or maybe the converted 15th century Maltese knights watch tower with spa.
Whatever your choice youíre sure to be impressed by the workmanship that has gone into all the accommodation.
All the stone is locally sourced and worked by local craftsman. Aldo - whoís family are the owners - has made it his mission that you see Puglia in all its glory, from the locally sourced food to the workmanship throughout the buildings. Itís a credit to him and the regional workforce.
Acaya Golf Club
The first track we played was the new Acaya Golf Club in Lecce, which is part of the Doubletree Hilton hotel resort. Standing on the first tee of this track you know youíre in for a tough ride when the wind blows. Itís a beautifully crafted track surrounded by the Nature Reserve of Cesine and is only a mile away from the Adriatic so the wind is always going to be a factor.
The opening hole is a par five of 480m (524yds) dogleg left and with the wind blowing into my face, I know I am not reaching this in two, but on a calmer day a birdie would be a great start to your round. The fairways and tees are immaculate and the rough is penal so you will need to plot your way round.
The 3rd is a beautiful hole of 290m (317yds) back into the wind and a drive over shrubs to an inviting fairway and a sculptured green. A good drive leaves you a little wedge in and another birdie chance.
The 4th a great birdie chanceBridge to the 10th green 14th with the old clubhouse
Next up is the par three 4th and par four 5th hole, but these are set to become the 18th and 1st once the new clubhouse has been built next to the hotel.
The 8th is a tough par three of 192m (210 yds) all carry over water and in to the wind I hit a 3 wood but you could be hitting a driver if the wind is really strong or you could choose to bail out right, but where is the fun in that? Youíre on holiday remember! The outward loop comes to a close with the par five 9th hole at 433m (473yds). It really does give you a chance to finish the outward stretch with a birdie.
The back nine starts with the beautiful par four dogleg left 10th at 328m (358yds) from an elevated tee, and with water to the left of the green your tee shot should be more for position than length. The back nine really donít have a weak hole among them and this truly is a great test of golf, with water coming in to play on five of the nine holes itís a course you will really enjoy. That cold beer in the old rustic clubhouse sitting out on the patio overlooking the 14th and 18th greens and the 10th and 15th tees will be the perfect finish to a beautiful but testing track.
San Domenico Golf Club
The next track was the San Domenico Golf Club. This was always going to be a tough track to play at the tail end of October, situated right by the sea. It was crafted by European Golf Design and with it also being set up for the final tournament on the European challenge tour I was hoping my game would be up to it.
The course was turned round for the tournament, but I will go through the holes in the order you will play them. I must admit you will have a tougher start than the pros had.
The opening hole is a 368m (402 yds) slight dogleg right with a drive across water to a very narrow fairway with the water continuing to run along the right hand side of the fairway and protecting the right of the green. Simples!!! If I were you, I would take advantage of the fantastic practice facilities they have here before stepping onto the 1st tee.
The second sees you heading towards the sea with a long par five of 508m (555 yds), I have to say the first five holes really set the course up. They are beautifully sculptured out of the land and the addition of water on the 1st and 5th not only make it a good test, but add to the overall aesthetics of the track.
4th looking out to the ocean5th with water at the front Looking out to the ocean
The front of the 5th green was shaved so close that too much backspin on your 2nd shot to the green could see your ball spinning back into the water.
This is also another track that really doesnít have a weak hole. What is going to be your biggest opponent apart from the length at 6410m (7010 yds) is the wind, depending on when you play and also what type of golf you enjoy. I love playing in the wind and seeing if I can shape shots using the wind. There is nothing more satisfying than walking off the 18th green having battled the wind and played well, sitting back in the clubhouse over a drink, with that warm feeling of achievement in your stomach.
The owners of both courses have more land to develop over the next couple of years and with its warm climate Puglia in future is set to become a great golfing destination. I would suggest you take this opportunity while the fairways are fairly empty and you can still get round in little over three hours without rushing and waiting. Throw in great food, wine, the regionís history and beautiful accommodation and you have the perfect destination.