Jacobson Extends Reach into Italy

Illinois-based golf course architect Rick Jacobson is moving his practice to the European market with a new resort project in Southern Italy. It will be the first original 18-hole course in Europe for Jacobson, who has extensive international experience in Asia.

RDV Development and VFI have formed a joint venture partnership to develop a seaside golf resort in the southernmost Italian province of Calabria. The development group has retained Jacobson to design an 18-hole golf course on the "toe of the boot" across the Strait of Messina from the island of Sicily.

Jacobson's layout will be part of the Jewel of the Sea resort on the white-sand beaches of the Ionian Sea. Featuring unspoiled Mediterranean coastlines, the development is situated in the "Southern Italian Riviera," an area rich in culture and history. The resort is aimed primarily at Northern Europeans, and is accessible by flights from Dublin, London, Germany, and Holland that take a maximum of two-and-a-half hours.

"The site is spectacular," said Jacobson. "No matter where you are on the golf course you will have dramatic vistas in the distance - whether it's the mountains, the sea, the rolling hills, local vineyards, or ancient castles. It's a very unique setting that we think golfers are going to love."

Jacobson has designed a course that ranges in length from 4,900 to 6,800 yards, with five sets of tees and generous fairways accommodating golfers of all levels. The resort property starts at sea level, but there is 250 feet of elevation change on the 200-acre layout, providing sightlines on a number of holes, he said.

Jacobson's goal will be to make the course enjoyable, unique, visually stunning and challenging enough to draw golfers back again and again. Flexibility in design will allow the course to play long and tough for single-digit handicap golfers and to host tournaments for professional and top amateurs.

"It's not very difficult to design a golf course that's hard for people to play," Jacobson said. "The challenge is to design a course that is aesthetically attractive and interesting enough that the average player can enjoy it, but also include elements that challenge top players."

Bunkering is one of the more important design elements of any course design, and Jacobson said he plans to use large bunkers inspired by those of Alister MacKenzie at Cypress Point. Fairways will be contoured to collect rather than repel shots of average golfers, while the bunkers will be located to challenge better players while not being too punishing for mid-handicappers. Greens will be relatively generous in size with moderate contouring, but with areas where pin placements can be tucked for tournament play.

Jacobson is taking a "green" approach to the course's maintenance. Native drought-resistant grasses will be used in non-play areas to assist in erosion control and reduce the amount of irrigation required. The course is scheduled to be completed in 2010.