Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Castle Volturno, Italy

Castle Volturno is a Holiday Inn resort 20 klics north of Naples. The beauty of it is that you are near enough to get into Naples, Pompeii, etc, even after a morning of golf. Saweet! We stayed there a week, and I played 3 times. I could've played 6 times, but the ruins of Napoli & Pompeii called out to me . . .

This first hole looks kind of unimpressive, with the soccer fields on the left and the driving range on the right, but everybody's got to start somewhere . . . I stepped up after my 8 weeks of idleness (no golf) and ripped a drive with no warm up, straight down the middle with a tight little draw. It wasn't so high, but it bounced once by the 150m stake, and stopped. OMG. . . it was wet from rain and I was fighting heavy sea air . . . the course is only 5972m long, so I was looking for a little resort-golf tune-up, but it plays a lot longer.

Well, I thought that maybe I just hadn't got it solid, so I only hit a 5iron to the green from there,and came up short of the bunker on the front right of the green. But I lobbed my 3rd up close to the pin and punched the knee-knocker in for a start-off par. Never did so well again, since I kept muscling up on this first hole, trying to get closer, both on the drive and the 2nd shot.
By the time I finished the algebra on the 2nd hole, I figgered it was a choke-down half 7wood. 3 days in a row I putted for birdie on this sumbitch and didn't make it once. I never figgered I'd leave Italy with fewer birdies than either France or the Czech Republic. Nah, the water on the front right didn't bother me, but the green was contortured something awful.

So #3's a shortish par 5, 450m, against the wind rushing out to sea, so I figgered 3 shots, and I was fairly confident driving, so that long straight OB down the left side didn't bother me, but that hump . . . I don't know why, but I don't like that hump. I steer-jobbed away from it into the right rough the first two days, then forced myself to hit over it the 3rd day and hooked off it onto the cart path . . .that is not a better option.

This was some long, wet, tough rough, lemme tell you. Somehow, on this my first experience, I totally dug it out of there like a pro, off a downhill lie, but most of the time it grabbed my club and smothered the shot.
I don't know if you can see that green, tucked back into the trees on the hill. . . that's a 4 or 5 meter elevation to the front, and another meter or 2 to the back. A tough shot, even with a shortiron.

This was early March . . . so the course is totally playable, in good winter condition, but because of all the rain they'd had, the dang water hazards were creeping out of the hazards into the fairway. When I walked to the front of the tee, I could see that, but I still couldn't make myself hit far enough right to stay out of the water . . . plus I never could admit that the heavy sea air was holding my distance down to duffer length. I was in the water on this hole every day, more than once.

More than once, because the water hazard goes all the way down the left side, then in front of the green. The one day I went far enough right to stay out of the water, leaving a full  7wood to the green I calculated, my 7wood got heavy and I went into that water in front of the green. This is one tough hole. If it was drier, and you could get some roll, it'd play a little shorter, and the lie in the fairway would be a little fairer, but it'd still be a monster. It IS the #1 handicap hole.

Now, #5 isn't long but that tee shot is perplexing: you don't want to go left because of the creek (which was overflowing), but right leaves you with no look at the green which is tucked back uphill, in those trees on a dog-leg right.

See that green? It's a matter of practice for me to force myself to ignore those trees and just hit over 'em. . . but it's a 5iron at least . . . and 3 times wadn't enough.
This uphill 140m par 3 is almost unfair with these trees lining the fairway . . . a pin position on the left side of the green is actually screened away physically, not just mentally. I hit 6iron the first day, 5iron the 2nd, and 4iron the 3rd. Still no better than double bogey.

The #7 tee is right next to #4's, and they look like mirror images of each other. I guess you can see a little more here on #7, but all I could see was water. I hit a good drive the first day, but away from the water so it went up on the mounds in the rough on the left, thru the fairway . . . hadn't bitten off enough, but dang . . .

you can "just" see my ball sitting down there in the long, wet, tough rough. I couldn't dig it out with a 7wood. Not once in 3 days did I reach this green in two, even from the fairway. No roll at all on the drives, and soppy lies.
#8 is a good example of the mental basket case I was: 170m, but I couldn't reach it with a 3iron, even with what felt like solid shots. This hole was cross-wind, so I didn't think it mattered, but I have no good answer. This green is so huge, it's tough to putt when you miss the green, too.

I wasn't able to speak enough Italian to ask the proshop what kinda bushes these are, they just said "Native Bushes". They're wiry, short, squat hedges like I played in in Australia, and heard about in Britain, I think. The fairway looks even tinier than this in person, with a 20knot side wind buffeting your tee shot.

I tho't there was about 300 yds to that wall of bushes, so I hit all I had, thinking I could get over them with a second shot to up near the green on a 480m par 5, but I always still seemed 100m from the bushes, looking at that tiny alley.

but yeah, there's all kinds of room once you get past that wall, there on the right side of the fairway, and even out into the rough, but it still was my 4th shot to the green, instead of a 3rd.
I asked the pro about this design, which seemed unusually punitive to me, and he said that the course architect had thought that they could manicure those trees out of the fairway, but then they found out they were protected as Native Plants, so they had to leave them alone . . . 8^D . . .

So: I gotta say, here and now, that this is the toughest front-9 sequence of holes I ever played, and 4-5-6-7 are the toughest 4 holes in sequence . . . maybe I'd feel different in drier conditions, when I was trained up to my a-game, but I am saying that I am taking that into consideration when I make my assessment. On paper, I underestimated how difficult they would be, but windy and wet, they will just knock your dick in the dirt.

#10 looks like a links course, doedn't't? Well, the back9 is. This is one of those split concept courses: front9 park-style; back9 linksy. Down on the tee, I couldn't feel the wind at all, blocked by the hotel and trees, but I was pretty sure it was right-to-left. and there is OB at that fence on the left, so I aimed right over that last little tree.
Didn't work . . . I wound up here in the right rough trying to dig my ball out of the hay all three days. The green is over this hill, sitting up in a little valley, so the green is elevated with a closely mown fairway all around it. Well, you can feel the wind howling now, so I didn't hit the green once from the fairway . . . well, I did the 3rd day and it bounced right over into the swale behind the green. Tough.
The par3 #11 goes straight out to see, with the beach-barrier right behind the green. OH I was so worried  I was going to hit it over the green. What a fool. I mean the wind was with me, so I hit a 5iron and came up 4 clubs short. The next day I hit a 3iron and still came up a club short. The last day I hit a 7wood and wound up pin-high in ankledeep rough ayard off the green. Tough, tough, tough.
The par5 12th runs down along the beach, cross-wind. You can see from the picture that they've had some stormy weather: the beach is all over this fairway. I never worried about hooking OB on this hole. I hit 3 perfect teeshots, low bullets with power fades . . . I think one of them went almost 220m . . .8^D . . .
the bare-sand lies for the 2nd shots didn't bother me, but the 3rd shots kept giving me trouble, either blading or fatting. This green is huge, forming a double-green with the par3 #17. BFD. It was so torn up by the weather and the rabbits you had to get into the leather to have a makeable putt. The 3rd day I had a birdie putt from 10 ft and couldn't even get close.
the par 3 #13 was another mystery to me . . . I had 2 one-putt pars on this hole. The first day I hit a 5iron - solid - and came up 1 club short; the second, 3iron with the same result. OB was right behind the green again so I didn't want to hit 7wood, but since it had gotten me to the green with the wind on #11, I figgered crosswind would be ok, but I missed the green left.

The par 4#14 must be back into the prevailing wind, rather than cross-wind like it feels, BUT it is also 400m uphill, too, so it just plays very long. There's a little water hazard (larger because of the rainy weather) on the right but I figgered I would be way past that, but I could just barely get over . . . and the first day I had to pick my ball up out of casual water too. . . IT was a 3shot par 4 for me all 3 days.
The next two days I aimed away from the water and tried to allow for the crosswind and wound up in the weedy mounds in the left rough . . . THAT is no place to be.

The par 5 15th is 532m, which at sealevel on this wet course was playing 600 yds, to me. It felt like a very long walk back to the tee from the 14th green.
It took me two days to figure out how to get into the fairway, instead of the right rough on my drive (another brain-lock distance & strategy problem). So on the first 2 days I had to lay up short of the water then lay up left of the water and the green, and go for a 1putt par (missed both makeable chances).
but on the 3rd day, from the fairway I hit a 5wood into a tiny corner over the first water and left of the 2nd water . . . only 150m from the green, but dang . . . that was chancey. . . I hit a 5iron, but I didn't believe in it, and it came up short, miraculously skipping over the water onto the shore. No up and down this time, either.
#16 is straight downwind, out to see, but plenty of room behind the green (#17), and only 333m so I'm thinking I could smooth a drive dang near or even onto the green.
But it was too wet and the air too heavy. Best I could do was 3 9iron attempts. But no birdies and no pars
#17 is so non-descript looking it's hard to describe. It's the longest par 3. I did the best with a 3iron the first day. The green is well guarded by bunkers but the hard sand in the bunkers was easier to work with than the soft sand out around the green complex.
#18 is intimidating par 5. . . not that it's so long, but it goes crosswind, then against the wind, with some nasty looking trash inside the dogleg and from the appearance, nuthin but trouble on the right side . . . #12 is over there, but you can't see it . . . all I could see was the beach barrier OB. All 3 days I hit flier slices that looked like they had flown that OB, but then when I would get to the ball, it would still be in the fairway right side.
all the other pictures I took with a real camera the first day, when it was sunny. This 18th tee shot was with my celphone camera on a "soft day" as the Irish taught Mr Science to call it.
So you can see from this last picture how the fairway turns up away from the beach, into the wind. It seemed unbelievable to me that I would hit Driver-3wood-5iron on a par5, but thats what I did. Only one par, the last day to show for it.
So an excellent golf venue, and a very interesting course. I think the front is more gruelling than the back but the 2 9s make an excellent contrast of entertaining golf. About the hotel itself and Naples, I will talk on ja nikdy poznat.

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