San Domenico Golf is part of San Domenico Hotels Group, which also includes Borgo Egnazia, and is located in Savelletri di Fasano, Puglia - in the heel of the boot of Italy. Both the course and the estate of Borgo Egnazia are superb and have so much to offer for the discerning golf tourist.
It is remarkable that this beautiful estate only opened in 2010, built from scratch using hand-cut local tufo stone, which has mellowed and aged so as to look so far more mature than its years. The concept of the project was created by the Melpignano family, and then brought to life by local designer Pino Brescia: the aim was to recreate traditional architecture with a contemporary twist. Their mission was: “To provide our guests with an experience that can’t be enjoyed anywhere else and is based on local authenticity, spirit and beauty.” The result is dramatic and totally unique.
On arrival in the evening, one is met by a delightfully tranquil scene of lit candles and lanterns lining the entrance lobby of the main hotel building, leading to an ancient olive tree adorned with paper leaves and lights. All around are artistically placed ornaments, urns, candles, hanging lanterns (in groups of four to represent the four seasons and elements), large baskets of locally produced walnuts, all adding to the relaxing ambiance. The colour scheme is universally cream and white – seating, cushions, candles, the tiled flooring and the stone of the walls. There are many small, intimate seating areas, with fires crackling, candles flickering, and then other more open areas for groups, creating a wonderfully serene atmosphere with the low-level lighting. This feel has been carefully crafted and it certainly has the wow factor.
The site is split into three areas: La Corte, Il Borgo and Le Ville. La Corte is the main hotel building with 63 rooms, bar and the Due Camini gourmet restaurant, which serves delicious food and has a lovely ambiance, with more candles, interesting lighting and central fire places. The bedrooms are beautifully appointed with subtle lighting, comfortable beds, stunning en suites and balconies.
Il Borgo is at the heart of the estate and is a large area with 92 different styles of houses amid narrow streets that wind their way to its own central square, complete with clock tower and fountains, where live music, events and festivals are celebrated throughout the year. There are also several swimming pools restaurants, and four tennis courts. And then there is the extraordinary Vair Spa, indoor pool and sauna - more about this later.
Finally, there are the 29 villas with private gardens and pools, which are discrete and luxurious and ideal for those who wish to have total privacy. It is easy to run out of superlatives when describing these villas – suffice to say, every last detail has been refined and set for maximum luxury.
With so much varied accommodation across the estate, Borgo Egnazia provides a great place for anyone to visit. In the main hotel, children are welcomed only in the Borgo and the Villas during the busy seasons, which allows adults and older children to enjoy the elegance and tranquility of this outstanding spa resort.
There is also alternative accommodation at Masseria Cimino, a few minutes’ drive away from Borgo Egnazia. Masseria Cimino aptly means rustic chic like ‘nowhere else’, and comprises of 15 rooms furnished in a lovely Mediterranean style. All guests stay on a half board basis, which means gathering each evening around large tables eating the day’s special menu – potentially an ideal location for small groups, and provides a more rustic and informal lodging than the main hotel.
Room rates in the main hotel start at 240 euros per night in the low season, based on double occupancy in La Corte Bella room, with breakfast included.
The San Domenico Golf Course is situated a few minutes’ walk from La Corte. It was first opened in 2003, having been constructed to a very high standard; it was designed by the renowned the European Golf Design team, which has created many fabulous facilities across Europe and beyond. Since opening, the course has played host to the PGA Europe Challenge Tour Grand Finals, with many great players having already enjoyed the course.
The course has five sets of tees and measures just under 7000 yards from the back, with a par of 72. The terrain is lightly undulating, with the holes peppered with large, fairly shallow bunkers, water hazards and gnarly old olive trees and cacti. As a resort course, the rough is cut back for most of the year, but can easily be encouraged if a major professional event is planned. There is normally a gentle breeze - which is a real blessing in the summer months - and adds greatly to the interest when playing the course. The undulating greens are in perfect order, true and fast, and the fairways are marvellous to hit from. The fairways are not overwatered, and provide a good opportunity to run the ball, yet the ball sits invitingly on the springy turf, thus giving many of the features of links golf, without the bone hard ground. Visually, the course is a treat: you can see the Adriatic from almost every point on the course, glistening and twinkling in the background.
The clubhouse, which contains a great bar and restaurant, pro shop, caddy master, changing rooms and reception, is made of the same mellow tufo blocks as the rest of the resort. Once again the restaurant is outstanding and a poor round can quickly be forgotten after a delicious feast on the terrace. There is also a superb variety of practice facilities, with covered bays as well as plenty of opportunity to hit balls outside, either from mats or from the grass teeing area. Practice balls are free at San Domenico and are stacked attractively in pyramids for any golfers who wish to warm up, take a lesson or work on their game. There are several putting and chipping greens and practice bunkers, all conveniently located close to the clubhouse. San Domenico is a great place to play but also to work on your game, and it is not surprising that increasingly more groups of Northern European visitors are booking to break up the winter. Unusually, the green fees are more expensive in the hotter months of the summer, which are often less popular in other hot climate courses. The peak season for visiting Borgo Egnazia is July and August, when all of the accommodation is taken and hundreds of people enjoy the facilities. The course is very busy during this very hot period and it is then the sea breeze becomes a real luxury. In the off-season, hotel guests can enjoy the course from 50 euros a round, which rises to 96 euros for the busiest two months of the summer. For those wishing to play the course without enjoying the accommodation, the green fees are substantially more.
The course has an exotic feel, partly because of the wonderful olive trees, some of which date back a few hundred years, but also the course is defined by waste areas and an array of splendid cacti, where - although awkward to hit from - balls can still be found and played, or players have the option to drop clear with a penalty. Vast rosemary bushes and pretty bright flowers add greatly to the experience, with a glorious assault on the senses.
Food & Wine
There are six different restaurants in the resort, and all offer a slightly different style of exceptional cooking. There is the gourmet Due Camini restaurant in the hotel, as well as a wonderful fish restaurant, Pescheria Da Vito, located by the sea in the summer months, a rustic experience at La Frasca, or sociable and fun evenings to be had at Mia Cucina, where there is an open kitchen. Here it is also possible to attend weekly Apulian cookery lessons, where the cook from the Melpignano’s family home prepares dishes in front of the guests, teaching them classic local recipes.
With so much of the produce grown not just locally, but actually on the estate, there is a very distinct style to the catering at Borgo, all of which is in perfect time of the location, history and seasons. The standard of the food is way beyond what anyone would be likely to expect even at the most luxurious hotels in the world, but the simplicity of each dish is the real joy: artichokes are a local speciality and with a delicate blend of home grown olive oil and a touch of garlic, a delicious course is made. It is still possible to start the day with bacon and eggs, but the vivid green apple juice is not to be missed!
Local Puglian beers are light and refreshing, whilst the Puglian wine is dangerously good - local vineyards warmly welcome visitors to come and tour their estates and taste their produce. The wine list at the Due Camini gourmet restaurant contains 600 labels, including 450 from Puglia itself.
The Vair Spa
Recently awarded as the World’s Best Wellness Spa at The Boutique Hotel Awards, the Vair Spa is truly exceptional. Vair means ‘true’ in Apulian dialect and is dedicated to caring for the body and soul. There are a number of specialist therapists, including authentic shaman, naturopath, aromatherapy, Kneipp hydrotherapy, Spa life-coaching, vipassana meditation and also, of course, traditional spa treatments. Stephano Battaglia, an orthobionomist, heads up the Avemmari treatment, which teaches how to live in harmony with your own body, dealing with the stresses and imbalances, to lead to inner happiness. The Vair spa menu covers 14 programmes and offers tailored treatments for individual guests, from one day to two weeks. All spa journeys include unique psychoaromatherapy session and colour tests.
The spa itself comprises of 5 pools, Roman Baths with a tepdiarium, calidarium and frigidarium, a saltwater flotation tank, sauna, Turkish baths and an indoor pool; there are also nine massage rooms, along with beauty rooms, fitness and lyengar yoga studios, and a spa cinema, so it is true to say that this most special of spas covers everything one would need.
Youngsters aged up to 7 are well catered for with the Trullalleri Kid’s, the Marinai junior club for those aged 8-12, and for the teenagers there is the Tarantari Teen Club. A huge array of activities is on offer to the children, including swimming games, ceramic design, treasure hunts, baking, and bike trips. There is also a fantastically well-equipped nursery for the under 3’s with caring staff on hand, so that parents can really allow themselves to relax knowing their children are totally safe and entertained.
The entire team of staff have been imbued with a great ethos for customer care, which extends way beyond the efficient delivery and removal of food with a smiling face. All of the staff are trained to engage with the guests on a personal level and go out of their way to help visitors understand and experience the magic of the region. They are a really friendly and genuine and greatly add to the magic of a visit to Borgo Egnazia.
A stay at Borgo Egnazia is a real joy. As one of the world’s finest holiday destinations, it is not cheap, but there are excellent deals to be had if you visit in the quieter months. It is fascinating and beautiful, and the golf is great fun too. There is also much to explore in the Puglia region, with its ancient and fascinating history, so allow plenty of time to drive around to savour all that it has to offer.
More details can be found at: www.borgoegnazia.com