Is Marco Simone ready for its Ryder Cup close-up? We’ll all find out soon
I stumbled up to the TreviFountain the way every visitor to Rome should: in the dead of night, with a coin in my hand and a stomach full of red wine.
The fountain is said to lend mysterious powers to those who offer an airborne donation of a Euro (or more), but those powers depend upon your tossing technique. There’s a particular and prescribed dance to it all: coin in your right hand, back turned, eyes closed. Legend has it that those who make a gift to the fountain in this way will earn a return trip to the Eternal City.
Back in 2015, I’d tossed a coin over my shoulder in this same spot and hoped for the best. Now, I was looking to go two for two. It was spring 2023 in Italy, but a long, hot summer loomed. Soon, Rome would welcome the only golf tournament befitting its own scorching flair for the dramatic — the Ryder Cup — and I’d arrived to see how things looked before the circus came to town.
The morning after my date with the Trevi, I trekked a half hour outside of the city to the suburb of Guidonia, site of the venue — Marco Simone Golf and Country Club — hosting this year’s Cup. It was Italian Open week, but it was clear that construction for the real show was only half complete. As I stared out at the course, the caddie for an Italian pro named Arron Zemmer walked in front of me. Were things feeling Ryder Cup ready? I asked. “I hope not,” the caddie said. He shot his index finger out to the horizon, where the bones of a massive grandstand, built for some 5,000 people, surrounded the first tee box. Other bleachers of only slightly less imposing size were littered throughout the property. “I hope there’s more of that,” the caddie added.
If the early build was any indication, there will be no shortage of energy when the Ryder Cup arrives in Rome this week. There will be no shortage of people, either. Some 40,000 of them are expected, with tickets sold out months in advance. One local told me that single-day passes are selling for €400 on the secondary market. That’s more than a fan would pay to see the most hotly contested European soccer match.
For the Romans, it registers as something of a shock. Golf has never been a national sport — Francesco Molinari’s 2018 Open Championship victory remains the lone major for an Italian golfer — and events on Italian soil have been few and far between.
Then again, the Ryder Cup could be exactly the kind of uplift golf in Italy needs, particularly in the wake of the sport’s most disruptive two-year stretch in memory. As it turns out, some highly passionate stories — friends becoming enemies and vice versa — don’t need much translation.
From LIV to la dolce vita, there’s no question that golf has arrived in Rome, but will it return after the conclusion of the 44th Ryder Cup?
Ask the Trevi.
By Roman standards, Marco Simone Golf and Country Club is still sparkling new. The golf course — opened for public play in 1989 and renovated by Tom Fazio in 2018 — has a history shorter than even the Eternal City’s newest landmarks.
By pro-golf standards, though, it might be even newer. Heading into the Ryder Cup, the club will have hosted just three professional golf tournaments: the 1994, 2021 and 2023 Italian Opens of the DP World Tour. Otherwise, Marco Simone is a secret not only to the average golf fan but to those at the top of the game, which explains, in part, why both the American and European teams had scouting trips in the last few weeks.
When they arrived, they found a course with an ageless charm befitting the host city. And if the rolling countryside wasn’t enough to convince them of that fact, the thousand-plus-year-old castle that serves as the course’s namesake, logo and primary landmark should have done the trick.