Tag Archives: Verdura Spa & resort

Italy: The Latest Home to Links Golf

An American golf course architect designing a seaside links in Scotland, just down the coast from St. Andrews, is akin to an English chef cooking coq au vin at Le Cordon Bleu. But that’s just what California-based Kyle Phillips managed to do a decade ago at Kingsbarns Golf Links. In his latest overseas venture, Phillips has laid out two spectacularly scenic yet understated 18-hole courses at Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, the new Rocco Forte Collection resort on the southern coast of Sicily.

The five-star resort–just over an hour from the international airport in Palermo and near the historic city of Agrigento, with its Valley of the Temples–has much to speak for itself, as Luxist noted in reporting the opening of the property. Not the least of Verdura’s attributes are suites and villas appointed with assorted mosaics, ceramics and artifacts culled from this primordial island by the interior designer Olga Polizzi, Sir Rocco Forte’s sister. The amenities also include four restaurants, among them a Sicilian trattoria, and a gelateria.
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A Swanky Italian Job

Given the effect that volcano’s have had on travel plans recently,Tim Smith was somewhat relieved that Scicily’s best-known landmark – Mount Etna – did not disrupt his trip to visit Sir Rocco Fortes latest development, Verdura.

The eighty-minute drive from Palermo airport to the Verdura Golf and Spa Resort provides a glimpse of just how beautiful and seemingly unspoilt Sicily is. Quiet roads took me through a largely rural landscape of citrus groves, olive trees and vineyards which, added to the sublime coastline, explained Sir Rocco Forte’s delight in securing oceanfront property upon which he instructed noted architect Kyle Phillips (Kingsbarns, The Grove) to create a golfing experience worthy of its location.

Having scoured the area, Sir Rocco eventually settled on a flat piece of agricultural land near the ancient town of Sciacca, on the south coast of Sicily, which he particularly liked for its “away from it all” seclusion. A keen golfer himself, he explained to me at a brief meeting in London, prior to my visit, that he liked and shared Phillips’ philosophy on course design, feeling that it mirrored his own approach to hotels. ‘What he wanted was an original idea – one that would provide something unique for this part of the world.

Phillips duly obliged, carving out two courses that closely intertwine as they play through the Sicilian landscape. In keeping with design principles that emphasize the use of contours to create strategy’, Verdura features gently undulating fairways and has a pleasing linksy feel. The strength of both layouts rests with a series of holes running hard by the sea – given a half-decent wind you might even feel the sea-spray on your face standing on the green at the par-four 8th on the West Course.
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On Site: Verdura Golf Resort

Italy, as this magazine has not been shy to point out, has almost everything in place to be one of the world’s greatest golf destinations. It just needs more golf. So those of us who love both golf and Italy were cheered when the new Verdura resort, developed by British hotelier Sir Rocco Forte, and featuring two eighteen hole courses (plus a nine hole par three track) designed by Kyle Phillips, opened, quietly, late last summer.

Verdura closed for the winter, partly as a result of the well-publicised financial difficulties of its parent company, partly in order to allow the team to work on the golf courses, and partly because the Sicilian climate, though delightful from early spring through to late autumn, is not that conducive to attracting tourists in the dead of winter. The Forte company having secured its future with a new financing package, the resort has opened for its first full season with a sense of optimism about the place.

First the good bits: Sicily is a beautiful island, with mountains, beaches and culture all in plentiful supply. Verdura sits on a really special piece of property, all 270 hectares (550 acres) of it; hemmed in by hills, it spills gently down to the water’s edge, creating sea views from most parts of the site, plus a sense of seclusion from the outside world.

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“Golf Boom” in Sicily

That’s what Kyle Phillips called it — “a golf boom.” For someone in the golf and travel industry I like the paring of those two words but I’m naturally skeptical.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Phillips, who designed Kingsbarns in Scotland. Phillips was in New York to promote his latest 36 holes in Sicily at the Verdura Golf & Spa Resort (pictured above). That makes four new courses in Sicily, which gives the island off the coast of Italy a total of six courses to choose from. Yes, I’d say that qualifies as a boom.

The Verdura resort is owned by Sir Rocco Forte of the Rocco Forte Collection (13 high-end hotels or resorts all over the world). Forte told me he’s an avid golfer who loved the look of Kingsbarns, which is why he hired Phillips for his first dip into the pool of golf.
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Phillips’s Verdura Resort in Sicily Will Appeal to Ardent Golfers, Moneyed Aristocrats, Beach-loving Girlfriends

I knew I was in trouble when Britt saw the glossy photos of sun-drenched beaches, fragrant orchards, and Sicilian villas.

“Sicily?” she asked, suddenly interested in the pictures on my writing desk. It was the new 45-hole Kyle Phillips-designed Verdura Golf and Spa Resort. She opened the brochure to a two page spread of cliff-side green sites and an ultra-modern Sir Rocco Forte-owned luxury hotel overlooking a promontory on the Mediterranean. “This looks fantastic. But how are you reviewing a golf course you’ve never played in a country you’ve never visited?”

That’s a good question. I’m not actually reviewing the golf course. I can’t, I haven’t played it. But I can report that Kyle Phillips – still rightfully in highest demand after his brilliant work at Kingsbarns – was recruited by Sir Rocco to build a Kingsbarns for him, this time in a much more hospitable climate, and that – should you find yourself in Sicily – you will be able to get to play great seaside golf at quite a fair price a la carte and, apparently, there’s a hell of a hotel there if you have cash to bleed.

More importantly, while chatting with Phillips about Verdura, I got him to open up about his ideas about golf design, golf travel, and the future of the golf industry in general. By creating a natural looking landscape and incorporating the crucial ground game elements of links golf, Phillips accomplished the impossible at Kingsbarns: he built an indisputable modern masterpiece in the shadow of hallowed St. Andrews. Now he’s continuing to build a solid portfolio of high-end, but rock-solid strategic designs across the globe using the same principles. We can only hope we get to see him bring the same old-school golf design concepts to affordable public designs here in America soon and often.
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What Sir Rocco Forte says about his project…

“From the outset I wanted to create a truly luxurious resort which offered exceptional golf, spa and dining experiences amid panoramic views and spectacular design. The rugged south west coast of Sicily provided the ideal setting for the Verdura Golf & Spa Resort.

“The decision to move into resorts was a natural progression for us and a key element in the growth strategy of the business. We will be looking to attract the same leisure and corporate customers that currently stay in our other properties as well as expanding into the family market.

“For golfers Verdura offers a first-rate experience with 45 holes of the highest design set into the Sicilian countryside with superb views of the Mediterranean. As a resort it presents every possibility with a spectacular 4,000 square metre Spa, specialising in luxurious Thalassotherapy and Aromatherapy treatments.
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The Sicilian Job…

A partnership between Sir Rocco Forte and leading golf course architect Kyle Phillips has created a stunning new destination in Sicily called Verdura Golf and Spa.

Sicily’s southwest coast now promises much for the traveling golfer who samples the new Verdura Golf & Spa Resort. The resort’s excellent three courses, designed by world-renowned architect Kyle Phillips, will open for its first full year in March 2010, and it is expected that Verdura will quickly become a ‘must-play’ destination for golf aficionados.

According to Sir Rocco Forte, chairman and CEO of the luxury hotel company The Rocco Forte Collection, no other golf resort on the continent can compare to Verdura. “There wasn’t anywhere in Europe that offered the kind of golfing holiday I was after,” claims Sir Rocco, who spent eight years nurturing Verdura as the company’s first resort venture.
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