Verdura Resort scores with first-class golf and sustainability
There are many potential favourite holes at the two golf courses at the Verdura Resort in Sicily. After all, the sea is so close and the coast is omnipresent. On normal spring days, when the season starts, nature looks quite peaceful here. 550 hectares of land that stretch almost undeveloped in the west of the Italian island.
Partly destroyed by flood 2018
The fact that golfers will be able to experience the two courses for the first time in spring 2022 after their partial redesign has to do with the fact that things are not always sunny in Sicily either. A major flood in November 2018, following torrential rains, washed away part of the golf holes that opened in 2010. Some places had to be closed. In the end, architect Kyle Phillips redesigned 14 holes. A slow opening followed in summer 2021. Now, in spring 2022, the maintenance work should be so far that the pitches of the 5-star resort, which belongs to the Rocco Forte Group, are top again.
The experiences of the flood have left their mark. The island’s government had 20 kilometers of the Verdura creek, which flows inconspicuously from the sea through the resort grounds northeast, cleared and cleaned to ensure better flow in the future.
More flood zones and better drainage
In order to be prepared for future extreme weather, the design of the courses, especially the East Course, was adjusted. “For example, we created a three-meter-wide stream that runs through the site,” explains golf director António Castelo. In addition, there are numerous indentations and low flood zones, which in future will be able to collect water before it floods the fairways.” The drainage system is now significantly more efficient and pumps water back into a reservoir. Then it is used as irrigation water.
Large areas of rough along the fairways
The aridity of Sicily and the resort’s exposed position on the coast have meant that the use of water has been a major issue from the resort’s inception. The Bermuda grass variety, which requires relatively little water, has been the first choice since the redesign of the pitches. Large rough areas should not be watered. However, at least at the end of November 2021, the greenkeeping team was still struggling with the fact that fat weeds in particular had settled in the rough areas. The planned clear fescue rough, which is otherwise known from links courses, was still a distant dream in Verdura.
When it comes to other sustainability issues, the resort, which has a total of 230 rooms and suites, impresses with many details: there are countless bikes on the large site. Whether from the room to the golf restaurant or from the spa to the beach – the 350 or so bikes are put to good use. On the other hand, you hardly see any cars. A significant part of the resort’s energy is obtained from a photovoltaic system. A water recycling system is installed in all hotel buildings.
More than 3000 olive trees
If you take a close look around the outdoor areas of the complex on the bike tour, you will discover numerous species of birds and insects that have settled here in view of the numerous new plantings. As part of the Foresta Verdura Resort project, 680 new plants were recently planted on an area of 230 hectares, so that there are now a total of 7700 trees in the park. Guests have the option of donating a tree as well, which will then be planted within the park. The neighbouring farmers can harvest the fruit from the trees free of charge and market them themselves.
The Verdura Organic Farm, which opened in 2014, largely supplies the restaurants with regional vegetables and herbs: from aubergines to rosemary to wild fennel – the selection of edibles from the 2,600 m² vegetable garden is large. Production can hardly be closer to the guest.
Guests who don’t just want to concentrate on playing golf as a guest can take part in the olive harvest from the 3047 olive trees. The production of Verdura’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil according to traditional techniques ensures the preservation of the typical aromas: orange, mint and basil are unmistakable.
Involvement of the local population
The attempt to involve the residents of Sicily and the local region as much as possible in the operation of the resort has been going on for more than ten years. With a view to the topic of greenkeeping, this is not always an easy task: the reseeding and maintenance of the freshly designed fairways on the relatively difficult and stony terrain requires a lot of specialist knowledge and work. Thinning out the roughs is labor intensive, but urgently needed, because the average golfer otherwise loses countless balls off the fairways.
Demanding top golf
Irrespective of this, the combination of first-class golf and nature has an impressive effect on the visitor: long, difficult par 4 holes, played into the wind, alternate with short but quite tricky par 3 holes. The green complexes are interesting and often difficult, the surroundings of the greens are often a challenge. High handicap golfers would do well to hit one of the front tees. Otherwise, each of the two places quickly becomes a very demanding task. In such a case, the only thing that helps anyway is a view of the sea and the coast. Golf lives from the experience of nature – and not just from the result.