Why is it that golf is not such a big hit in Italy? This is the kind of pleasantly perplexing question that might float into one’s mind while enjoying a walk in the rolling green hills of north Lazio, Tuscany or Umbria or while relaxing on the beach under a clear blue summer sky.
It is not to say that golf is not played in Italy or that good golf courses are not to be found. Less than an hour’s drive north of Rome Fiumicino airport, set in beautiful green countryside and a short distance from the sea, the golf course at Tarquinia country club is a fine example of what Italy has to offer golfers.
However the sport doesn’t seem to enjoy the same popularity it does elsewhere as in the British Isles for example. A quick internet search for golf courses in Italy revealed just 12 courses in the Lazio region, an area with a population of over 5 million inhabitants. A similar search for courses in Ireland, an area with a similar population, revealed hundreds of courses.
So can this be interpreted as a lack of enthusiasm for the sport amongst Italian people? Could it be due to some difference in temperament or the national psyche? Amongst their many qualities Italians are not noted for their patience and the several hours it requires to complete a round of golf may be just stretching their ability to stroll about in a calm and leisurely manner for an extended period of time. Golf is widely considered to be a relaxing sport and so could it be that excitable Italians prefer high tempo sports to ones designed for relaxation? Or is it that Italians are already sufficiently relaxed so as to not have need of a sport to help them unwind?
Some possible explanations could be loosely grouped under a social/economic heading. In countries where golf is established it tends to be widely used as a means of building social and business contacts. Italy is a country with respect for traditions and with a longer history of advanced culture than most. It should come as no surprise therefore that highly developed social customs, evolved down through the ages, are unlikely to give way overnight to modern day habits.
Italy is also quite a densely populated country and with the importance of agriculture there is a great deal of pressure on whatever free land is available to produce the substantial amount of olives, grapes and tomatoes required.
Also noteworthy is that many of the countries where golf has flourished depend to a large extent on tourism. These countries were prepared to invest large amounts in courses and other facilities in order to reap the returns generated by the additional holidaymakers attracted. Tourism also plays a large role in the Italian economy however people planning a vacation in Italy are generally more interested in the unrivalled cultural patrimony, architecture and vast array of priceless artworks on display in cities from Rome to Florence, Siena and Venice to name but a few.
In concluding, it is difficult to identify one single reason why golf is not more popular in Italy but it is likely that some combination of the aforementioned factors has contributed to a slower take-up of golf in Italy than in other countries.
The good news for golf lovers planning to visit Italy on holiday or business is that good courses are to be found. For those arriving at either of Rome’s international airports the course at Tarquinia country club offers wonderful panoramic views of the beautiful Maremma region while also enjoying the benefits of being close to the seaside.