Circolo Golf Villa D'este A.S.D.

GEO Certified® 08/2015
Telephone: +39 031 200200

Executive summary (English & local language)

Golf Club Villa d'Este is located in the province of Como in northern Italy on the shores of the small Lake Montorfano, just two kilometres from the Swiss border. Its geographical coordinates are 45° 46' 38'' north latitude and 9° 08' 08'' east longitude in the municipality of Montorfano.
Golf Club Villa d'Este’s golf course dates back to 1926, when some shareholders of the company owning the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este supported its construction based on a design by the English architect Peter Gannon. The property covers a total area of approximately 55 hectares. The golf club is situated on the Como hills overlooking Lake Montorfano in a forest of over thirty thousand trees. Chestnuts, pines and birch trees create an incomparable beautiful natural setting, a corner of paradise that was and continues to be a favourite destination of the world’s most sophisticated golfers. The golf course is included in the Nature Reserve of Lake Montorfano (Regional law no. 86 of 30 November 1983) with which it shares a tree heritage management plan aimed at enhancing native vegetation. A number of public trails frequented by the local population wind through the property.
Golf Club Villa d'Este is the only Italian golf club to have adopted an environmental management plan for the years 2011-2020 (Paolo Croce, Massimo Mocioni, Elena Ballabio - 2011).

Il Golf Club Villa d'Este è situato in nord Italia, nella Regione Lombardia, in provincia di Como, sulle sponde del piccolo Lago di Montorfano a pochi chilometri dal confine con la Svizzera. Le coordinate geografiche sono 45° 46' 38'' di latitudine nord e 9° 08' 08'' di longitudine est nel Comune di Montorfano.
Il percorso del Circolo Golf Villa d’Este risale al 1926, quando fu realizzato per iniziativa di alcuni azionisti della società proprietaria del Grand Hotel Villa d’Este, su disegno dell’architetto inglese Peter Gannon. La superficie complessiva del Golf Club è di circa 55 ha. Esso sorge sulle colline comasche che dominano il Lago di Montorfano in un bosco di oltre trentamila alberi. Castagni, pini e betulle contribuiscono a creare uno scenario d’incomparabile bellezza naturale, un angolo di paradiso, meta preferita da sempre di golfisti esigenti, provenienti da tutto il mondo. Il percorso risulta inserito nella Riserva Naturale di Montorfano (legge Regionale 30 nov 1983 n° 86), con la quale è stato condiviso un piano di gestione del patrimonio arboreo allo scopo di valorizzare la vegetazione autoctona. All'interno della proprietà si sviluppa una serie di sentieri pubblici frequentati dalla popolazione locale. Il GC Villa d'Este è l'unico circolo di golf italiano ad essersi dotato di un piano di gestione ambientale per gli anni 2011 / 2020 (Paolo Croce, Massimo Mocioni, Elena Ballabio - 2011)


Villa d’Este golf course was constructed in 1926. The 18-hole course is located in woods on the northern side of a moraine hill south of Lake Montorfano. With respect to the original area of the wood included in the Club property, only certain areas of woodland have been preserved; their surface is variable, more or less regular, and they separate the holes or are located outside the golf course.
The number (over 4,200 registered trees) and composition of the current tree heritage result from selections from the pre-existing wood. The trees are mainly native and are arranged in strips and thickets between the holes and outside the golf course.

Numerous wooded areas, especially in the lowest golf holes, preserve the composition of the original wood in the areas under observation, i.e. pine and oak trees. The most widespread and abundant tree species on the golf course are Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), silver birch (Betula pendula) and sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), as well as English oak (Quercus robur) and Cornish oak (Quercus petraea), though they are less frequent.
Other wooded areas have a more varied plant composition: oaks are more dominant and are accompanied by common hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) or chestnut. These formations are similar to oak-hornbeam groves or chestnut groves. However, if compared with the local microclimatic conditions, the vegetation potential is that of pine-oak groves.
There is a wet area near holes 13, 14 and 15 with a small natural pond of great natural interest. On the banks of the pond are alders, dominated by the common alder (Alnus glutinosa) typical of riparian lowlands and hilly areas in Lombardy. There are also numerous specimens of common alder in the treed areas of the lowest holes closer to the south shores of Lake Montorfano, a zone with very damp soil. There are, however, no alders at the highest holes. The alder is of high naturalistic and conservation value, because the habitat it provides is home to rich flora and fauna biodiversity with several rare and protected species. It is extremely rare throughout the Po Valley Plain in the Lombardy region and is safeguarded as a priority habitat under Directive 92/43/EEC.
Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), an exotic American species, is quite widespread throughout the golf course and is dominant in some wooded areas, though less abundant than the three main species of pine and oak.
Over the years other exotic ornamental tree species have been planted throughout the golf course, especially northern red oak (Quercus rubra) and eastern white pine (Pinus strobus). Both species are from America and were used for reforestation after WWII throughout the high plains of Lombardy, because they are fast growing and disease resistant. Ornamental species are more common in the wooded areas of the highest holes, which have a lower percentage of plant species of naturalistic interest.

Important flora species

There are flora species of high conservation value due to their rarity or their role in the ecosystem. With the exception of Ilex, these are wetland plants (hydrophytes) typical of lakes and ponds:
Nuphar lutea, Nymphaea alba and Trapa natans are aquatic species with submerged roots and leaves and flowers floating on the surface of water; the latter two are safeguarded under Regional Law 10/2008 (pursuant to Regional Law 33/1977) and Trapa natans is included in the Regional Red Lists as a vulnerable species.
Potamogeton lucens, Potamogeton perfoliatus and Potamogeton pusillus are submerged aquatic species
Typha latifolia has roots under water or in wet soil and a non-woody stem. It grows along the shores of surface water bodies
Ilex aquifolium is a relict species of wood safeguarded under Regional Law 10/2008.

The animal species reported include: Erinaceus europaeus (Common hedgehog), Sciurus vulgaris (Red squirrel), Lepus europaeus (European hare), Buteo buteo (Common buzzard), Ardea cinerea (Grey heron), Anas platyrhynchos (Mallard), Anas crecca (Eurasian teal), Meles meles (European badger), Dendrocopos major (Great spotted woodpecker), Turdus merula (Common blackbird).

The site is not included on any protected areas, but borders the SIC of Lake Montorfano. The golf course is not fenced in, allowing free movement of animals and people walking along the trails in the woods. In addition to the historic clubhouse, which has been kept almost unchanged since 1926, there are old stone bird snares (roccoli) used in the past by local bird-catchers.

The current plant composition of the turfgrass along the golf course is probably very different from the original species established in 1926. Climate change, different needs of the game, progress through new technologies and equipment, as well as different maintenance needs have progressively changed the nature of the turfgrass. Briefly:
Greens - Agrostis stolonifera (50%), Poa annua (50%)
Collars - Agrostis stolonifera, (50%) Poa annua (50%)
Tees - Lolium perenne, Agrostis stolonifera, Poa annua
Fairways - Lolium perenne, Agrostis stolonifera, Poa annua, Cynodon dactylon, Festuca rubra
Semirough - Lolium perenne, Agrostis stolonifera, Poa annua, Cynodon dactylon, Festuca rubra, Poa pratensis,
Rough - Lolium perenne, Poa annua, Cynodon dactylon, Festuca rubra, Poa pratensis, Poa trivialis, Festuca arundinacea, Festuca ovina

Note: summer monocot (thin leaf) and dicotyledon (broad leaf) weeds are excluded, because their presence is quite infrequent.

In line with the club’s environmental management plan, a series of tests have been conducted in recent years to identify the turfgrass species best suited to Villa d'Este GC’s climate and soil conditions, in terms of drought, disease and wear resistance. A variety of Lolium perenne has been identified and the plan is to plant it on all of the fairways.


The area of Lake Montorfano, where G.C. Villa d'Este is located, has a mild sub-continental climate, typical of hills and highlands above 400 m abs north and 500 m abs south in the Piedmont region, Ligurian and Emilian Apennine and Alpine and Pre-alpine foothills (except inside slopes). According to data collected over the past 10 years by the club weather station, average minimum temperatures are -4.5°C in January, and average maximum temperatures above 30°C in June and July. The cold period lasts more than four months (November, December, January and February) with minimum temperatures below 0°C and maximum temperatures below 20°C. Precipitation is concentrated mainly during spring (April-May) and late summer (August-September) with minimum rainfalls in January-February and June -July. Atmospheric precipitation is 1,000 mm/year on average.

Villa d'Este GC has always taken great care in managing its water resources. Water consumption has been reduced considerably by constantly reducing irrigated areas. Water supply sources have been added (in the past irrigation water was taken exclusively from Lake Montorfano, in 2011 the club was connected to the industrial aqueduct in Como). This has significantly improved environmental performance. Thanks to this operation, the Club was awarded “Committed to Green” certification in the Water category in 2010 by the Italian Golf Federation. Total water consumption is certainly one of the lowest (less than 52,000 m³/year) for an 18-hole golf course. The average of the past three years (2012-2014) shows a reduction of 19% compared to 2011 data. Water use in the Club House and Maintenance facility remains stable at 4,000 m³ with an average of 6,425 m³ over the previous three years (2009-2011)

The irrigation system is computer controlled. Both hardware (inspection on an annual basis) and software (periodically updated) are monitored regularly. A new pumping station was installed in 2011 with six inverter pumps allowing the station to distribute water more efficiently, while saving electricity.

Actions taken to correctly limit water consumption are:
The evapotranspiration rate is monitored by a weather station connected to the irrigation system, with daily readings. Water doses are based on needs related to turfgrass water losses.
Adoption of an overseeding program using the most drought-tolerant variety of Lolium perenne. The program is the result of the experiments carried out under the environmental management plan.
Use of wetting agents.
Intensification of turfgrass aeration to limit compaction and thatch formation (core drilling, slicing, verticuttings and topdressings).
Reduction of irrigated areas (minimum possible surface area).
Installation of urinals with a photocell sensor-controlled flushing system and showers with air-water mixing in the Club House.


The club is currently working to reduce energy consumption at all levels. As regards electricity in the Club House, conventional light bulbs have been phased out in favour of energy-saving light bulbs and LED spotlights. A new highly energy-efficient pumping station was installed in 2011.

The Club House and Maintenance facility are heated using methane, which is a more environmentally-sustainable resource. All golf cars have electric motors as do some cutting machines. Work is being done to insulate all buildings starting from the roofs for true thermal insulation.
Over the past three years, gas and electricity consumption for heating has decreased drastically. Electricity consumption from 2012 to 2014 decreased by 42% (from 292,875 Kwm to 171,053 Kwm), and the 2012-2014 average dropped 20% with respect to the previous three-year period (from 284,553 Kwm to 225,896 Kwm). Methane consumption declined by almost 28.5% (from 60,564 m³ to 43,298 m³) from 2012 to 2014, while the 2012-2014 average decreased by approximately 30% (from 70,927 m³ to 50,039 m³) with respect to the previous three-year period.
For hydrocarbon consumption for transport, diesel use remained unchanged from 2012 to 2014 (about 15,000 l/year), whereas a significant decrease has been observed in the period under consideration with respect to the previous three years, down 18% from the 2012-2014 average in comparison to the previous three-year period (from 18,330 l/year to 15,000 l/year). Petrol consumption remained stable from 2012 to 2014. A 35% decline was recorded in the 2012-2014 average with respect to the previous three-year period (8,692 l/year to 5,666 l/year).

Heaters are computer controlled, to diversify heat depending on the environment.

Some mowing machines are fitted with electric motors. All buildings have double-gazed windows. The roof of the Maintenance facility has been renovated with insulating materials. External lighting has twilight sensors.

Supply Chain

After drafting the 2011-2020 environmental management plan and the obtaining ISO 14001 certification, the club committed to selecting only accredited suppliers. For turfgrass management, the club has begun a program to reduce the application of pesticides and use natural organic fertilizers. The club has begun testing the “Biogolf” protocol (exclusively organic management) on Hole 4. Special attention has always been paid to waste management: separate collection has been practiced for many years and this practice will be expanded with recycling bins throughout the golf course by the end of the year. Since the drafting of the 2011-2020 environmental management plan, the club’s general policy has been to reduce the use of nutrients and pesticides as much as possible. The plan foresees increased adoption of organic products year after year. In this respect, GC Villa d'Este stands out from other Italian clubs, because it has replaced chemical fertilizers with natural organic ones. The products chosen by the Club are made using a cold industrial process, which can administer the necessary microorganisms needed to decompose the organic matter to the turf. At the same time, it is difficult to have a wide variety, at least until the industry decisively chooses these products. What counts with this type of fertilizing program is not to decrease the quantity of elements applied, but to enrich the soil with organic matter and reduce leaching potential to zero. After a few years of such applications and once the organic balance of the soil has been restored, after being depleted by decades of mineral administration, nutrient reduction will be a natural and gradual process. At the moment, this means that we are not able to decrease applications on all surfaces. The rough is not fertilized.

For some supplies (sod, flowers, shrubs and trees) companies and nurseries near the club are chosen as privileged suppliers. All products requiring a technical and safety data sheet are purchased only if they have one. The club is renovating the golf course signs and recycled plastic materials will be used for this purpose.

Out of 32 suppliers, 18 are located near the club (within 10 km) and 14 are within 10 to 100 km.

All maintenance practices aim to reduce the incidence of pathogens and therefore the following operations are considered as standard:
Continuous surface monitoring in order to apply curative treatments only when the intervention threshold has been reached, avoiding scheduled applications.
Aeration and thatch control through verticutting and topdressing programs.
Soil decompaction. The club has purchased two ad-hoc machines: an air injection machine and a slicer.
Dew removal.
Poa annua control using mechanic means on greens.
Manual weed removal on greens.
Overseeding with a specifically tested variety of Lolium perenne (three-year test) on Villa d'Este’s climate and soil conditions.

More specifically, the following have been recorded during 2014 with respect to 2013:
N – : 4.39% reduction on greens, 40% on tees and 20% on fairways.
P – : 114% increase on greens and 38% on fairways. 32% reduction on tees. (P increasing can be explained with the gradual introduction of organic natural fertilizers).
K – : 34% reduction on greens and 56% on tees; 5% increase on fairways. (K increasing on fairways can be explained because Potassium is increasing deseases resistence to turf with the advantage of reducing pesticides. See below.

The absolute value of reductions of N on fairways is very high.
As regards pesticides, we use only products approved by the Ministry of Health. Their use depends on the environmental conditions and type of surface (no treatments are applied to rough and semi-rough and no insecticides are used). More specifically, the following reductions have been obtained over the last three-year period:
Fungicides: 50% increase on tees (but the absolute amount is only 7.5 kg), 62% reduction on greens and 68% on fairways
Herbicides: no application on greens, 406% reduction on tees, no application on greens and increase (49%) on fairways
Insecticides: reduction of 17% on greens, increasing of 67% on tees (but the absolute value is just 2 kg) and no application on fairways.
With respect to the other Golf Courses in Po Valley (Golf Courses and Traditional Crops: a Comparison of Inputs - P. Croce1, A. De Luca2 and M. Mocioni2. European Turfgrass Society Conference – Pisa 2008) we have:
Fungicides: reduction of 37,66 %
Herbicides: reduction of 82,67 %
Insecticides: reduction of 95,22 %

Clippings are returned to the turfgrass on tees and fairways. Clippings on greens are collected and distributed manually on the semi-rough. Recycling bins will be progressively placed throughout the golf course.

Pollution Control

Because of its inclusion in the Lake Montorfano Nature Reserve and the 2011-2020 environmental management plan, the club is required to apply an extremely rigid policy preventing and avoiding pollutants released in the soil and in the atmosphere, for both golf course maintenance and Club House and Maintenance Facility management. As regards maintenance practices on the golf course, the club endorses an organic approach in choosing its fertilizers and a very careful one when selecting the very few pesticides still used.

Water from supply sources (industrial aqueduct and Lake Montorfano) is occasionally tested, and visual inspections are done daily. Outlet water is analysed visually daily. No monitoring is done on the biological quality of water.

The water used in the Club House and in the Maintenance Facility is treated as required by law and is sent to a septic tank before being discharged into the sewage system. Machines are washed on the washing platform and washing water is separated from biological materials and mineral oils.

All activities related to the use, storage and disposal of potentially toxic and dangerous substances are performed as required by law. Pesticides are stored in a separate, insulated, dry and aerated building. The equipment garage is covered and enclosed. Pesticide and fertiliser packaging, exhausted mineral oils, batteries, petrol and diesel fuel filters, and cooking oils are disposed of as required by law and are temporarily stored in appropriate receptacles and containers.

Fuels are stored in underground tanks as required by law and resistance tests are conducted on the walls. Filling pumps are covered and have a collection basin in case of spills.

Over the past few years, we have been experimenting a completely organic maintenance program on Hole 4 (no chemical fertilizers are used according to the rigid BioGolf protocol). The results are encouraging and the turfgrass quality has not been adversely affected. The objective for coming years is to implement this maintenance program on the entire golf course. By adopting the BioGolf protocol on the whole golf course, potential pollution will be fully prevented.


Although the club is private and very prestigious, the local community is free to use the trails crossing the golf course to travel from one village to another.
Maintenance practices are presented on the website and on the club notice board. The environmental management plan has been distributed and shared broadly. The Club cooperates fully with the Lake Montorfano Nature Reserve management team and our cooperation was essential for two reports: the Club environmental management plan for the years 2011-2020 and the tree heritage study. The Club will be celebrating the club’s 90th anniversary next year and will be organising events that will also involve non-members and local residents.

The club employs almost exclusively local residents. Staff members are regularly made aware and informed of the correct use of water resources, emergency and accident management, waste sorting and energy conservation. The club organizes visits to other golf clubs a couple of times a year, also abroad, in order to broaden its employees’ knowledge and experience. The Club Manager and the Superintendent graduated from the Golf National School of the Italian Golf Federation.

The Club was awarded “Committed to Green” certification in the Water category in 2010 by the Italian Golf Federation. It is the only Italian golf club to have an environmental management plan.

Thanks to excellent leadership, the club enjoys good relations with local authorities: municipalities, provinces, Nature Reserve administrative office and the local population in general.

In recent years special attention has been devoted to landscaping, as well as aesthetic and ornamental aspects. A wild area measuring 300 m x 30 m was created, where blueberries and brooms are cultivated. Heather was planted below the tees of Hole 18.
For a number of years now, the club has adopted a tree heritage management plan to protect and preserve native trees of great beauty. Wood benches have been placed on tees and bins and signs have been replaced with metal ones. A large hedge was planted to hide the warehouse and the pump house’s electric panels. Hornbeam was planted to delimit the parking area and a screen of plants to conceal the little house at Hole 15.

The club notice board provides information on all club activities. The website is constantly updated and includes plenty of information.

The Club enjoys an excellent reputation in the Italian golf world, as well as within the local community.

Documentation Reviewed


Golf Club Villa d'Este is a club with a long tradition and has hosted the major Italian Amateur tournaments for more than 50 years: the Italian International Amateur Championship. In 1973, the club was chosen as the site of the Italian Open. For several years, the club has been applied a policy of greater responsibility towards the environment and has set itself the objective of becoming fully sustainable for golf course maintenance. Water input is practically irrelevant when compared to the average of the other Italian golf courses and the adoption of the BioGolf protocol for experimental purposes on Hole 4 is an important step toward adopting a complete organic maintenance program. Currently, the integration of natural organic N in club distributing programs has reached 30%.

Certification Highlights

It is the only Italian Club to have an environmental management plan for 2011-2020.
It is the only Italian Club currently testing the BioGolf (exclusively organic management) protocol on a hole.
Tree heritage management and care (specific plan drafted in collaboration with the Lake Montorfano Nature Reserve), which is one of the most prestigious in Italy.
The Club was awarded “Committed to Green” certification in the Water category in 2010.
Strong commitment to reducing the use of pesticides and increasingly replacing chemical fertilizers with natural organic products.