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Florence Golf Club.

First Course at Parco San Donato (1899 – 1920)

According to the different editions of the Nisbet’s Golfing Guides the Florence Golf Club was founded in 1899. This is confirmed by Golf Illustrated dating March 2, 1900: “The Florence Golf Club was instituted in March of last year and the members play over a nine-hole course which abounds in natural hazards. The course is close to the town. The Hon. Secretary is Dr. Stuart Tidy, 10, Via du Panzani, Florence, from whom all particulars can be obtained.

This date is double confirmed by the Golfing Annual 1901-02 which bears the first mentioning of Florence GC giving the following description: “The course, of nine holes, is in the old Demidoff Park at San Donato. The turf is good, and the hazards consist of hedges, trees, a dyke, etc. There is a good clubhouse on the ground, which is within easy reach of Florence (about a mile and a half distant.)”

In 1905 the first Italian Amateur Open Championship was played in Florence and A.W. Butchart, brother of C.S. Butchart, who later was professional in Berlin-Wannsee, employed as club professional.

By 1910 J. Olgiati was the club professional; Hon. Secretary was G. Turri, 20, via Tornabuoni, Florence.

Following is a description of the course from Nisbet’s 1912. “The course is situated about 250 yards outside the barrier of Ponte Alle Mosse, and can be reached by electric tram in quarter of an hour from Duomo. The course is flat with natural hazards, roads and pollarded trees, artificial bunkers have been added. Bogey 36”. The secretary at this time was A Mavrogorvato, 5 Via Alfieri. The professional was Louis Prette.

 

Florence Golf Club. Article from Florence Herald May 1914.

From the Florence Herald May 5th 1914.

 

The Google Map below shows the location of the former course in Parco San Donato.

 

 

Second Course at Ormannoro (1920 – 1934)

In September 1925 the (US) Golf Illustrated has a report titled “Golfing in the Shadow of Monte Morello – The Course at Florence So Popular That it Will Soon be Enlarged” The article describes a new 9-hole course which was laid out by Julian E. Caccia, M.I.C.E. to be in fine condition, having a modern clubhouse and excellent restaurant with moderate prices. The patrons of the club include the British and American Ambassadors to Italy, the prefect of Florence, the Mayor of Florence and the Duke and the Duchess of Sunderland. The active officers are: Vice-presidents, Mr. Fabio G. Caccia and Mr. J.W.Spalding; Hon.-Secretary-Treasurer, Mr. Julian E. Caccia, M.I.C.E.; Assistant Hon. Secretary Miss Margery Magnay and Count Alerino Palma di Cesnola. The season is from October 1st to July 1st. “The course is beautifully situated at Ormannoro, a delightful three and one-half mile drive from Florence, in the Valley of the Arno with the bluish-purple Monte Morello and hills lying northward dotted with the beautiful villas that have helped to make modern Florence so attractive…” A member of the club describes the course “It is truly an ideal spot; at times it is difficult to keep one’s eye on the ball, and yet almost never loses a ball on these links; the winter months are never too cold for golf and the temperature at Ormannoro is always warmer than in Florence.”

The previous descriptions were most probably made to make the reader want to play golf at Florence, but the reality might have been different, as the following description from 70 anni di Ugolino by Stefano Esente published in 2004 are indicating:

It was the time when Florence was expanding as a city in the direction of Prato where on was already fearing that one day the city Florence would stretch out till Pistoia.

“In 1920 it was still the beginning of these phenomena and the choice for the land at Osmannoro was most probably due to the fact that not expensive as it was half-marshy and difficult to be sold for housing or industrial purposes. Osmannoro was not considered by the people from Florence to be a nice place. There was even an expression “He is a Osmannoro” referring to a location where few people live and after all nobody wants to live, this expression after all derived from the insane, acquitrinous, flat area of land with no trees near todays Florence Peretola airport.”

Esente further stretcher out, that all this indicates that Osmannoro was not a representative location, and certainly not a touristic or social attraction, like today’s course at Via Chiantigiana in Ugolino. It even seems that Giuliano Caccia, who found the location, thought this would only be a provisional location for the golf course.

He finally gives us the following course description: “The course at Osmannoro was flat and constructed without too much inventiveness or fantasy. When the golfers made their appointment for the next match they usually said “I’ll see you tomorrow in the marsh” though again referring to the alluvial piece of land” 

 

Florence Golf Club. Course layout.

Layout of the nine-hole course.

 

Florence Golf Club. The golf course.

View of the Florence course.

 

In 1925 the course measures 2,320 yards and the nine holes vary in length from 160 to 420 yards as follows: No.1, 345; No.2, 280; No. 3,160; No.4, 250; No.5, 165; No.6, 280; No.7, 165; No.8, 420; No.9, 250. Bogey is 35. These figures seem to correspond more or less with the layout plan from 1930 that I found in the Guide Plumon. “Several ditches, a small lake and a number of bunkers form the hazards and make playing interesting.”

 

Florence Golf Club. Golf Plumon revised course layout 1930.

Revised course layout from Golf Plumon 1930.

 

Finally in 1934 a new 18-hole course designed by Peter Gannon was officially opened at L’ugolino some 12 km south of Florence. Since then the club operates under the name Circolo Golf Ugolino.

The location of the second course below – one can see a pond which seems to be the pond that was once in the centre of the golf course.

 

 

The Google Map below shows the location of the former clubhouse, called the red hut (it is one of these houses typical for Italy, standing next to roads, in Pompeian red color. These houses were usually owned and erected by A.N.A.S., the Italian state firm responsible for keeping streets and motorways operational. When the Firenze Golf Club changed location in 1920 this house became the clubhouse) the former clubhouse can still be found here.