Savelletri | Anyone for Golf?

You could be forgiven for not associating southern Italy with golf, just this once. Apulia, for instance, is fast becoming a golfers’ paradise, and, even better, not too many people know that yet.

Set against a hillside just 1½ kilometres from the Adriatic coast, Masseria Torre Maizza is a grand place to chill out in luxury and get in a few warm-up rounds. The 17th-century Masseria has all the architectural features of a typical fortified manor house in these parts, including vaulted ceilings and huge fireplaces. Now a five-star resort, it still has a vast, working estate with olive groves, orchards and vineyards.

So there was room for a short golf course too, right outside. Nine holes but wicked, we’re told, in an incredible setting of ancient olive trees, stone walls going back a couple of thousand years, water hazards and bunkers that include an ancient wolf pit – which now traps only your golf balls. Walk out of your room and you’re on the first tee.

Other amenities at Torre Maizza are a rich and scented Mediterranean garden, a walled heated pool, a spa and fitness centre and a private beach. The barman is a genius with cocktails, and award-winning chef Vito Giannuzzi does wonderful things with products from the home farm and fish fresh in from the harbour at Savelletri in Le Palme, the atmospheric restaurant in the old stable block.

But if you care to lug your clubs longer and harder and take on a tougher sporting challenge, a Mediterranean links rated among Italy’s finest is just 2 kilometres down the road. San Domenico is an 18-hole, par 72, championship course set along the shoreline, home to the PGA European Challenge Tour Grand Final.

And less than an hour away by car are four other fine 18-hole courses.

For good weather, superlative food and wine, and great golf without the hordes, start here.