GETTING THERE

Fly Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) from Stansted to Bergamo (near Milan) and enjoy a two-hour drive through spectacular scenery to the southern tip of Lake Garda. Or fly to Verona, which is closer to the lakes, via BA (www.ba.com).

WHERE TO PLAY

You are surprisingly spoilt for choice in an area which until recently has been regarded more as a scenic holiday spot but is rapidly making a name for itself as a golf destination thanks to great courses.

Garda Golf Country Club, host of the 2003 Italian Open, offers a stern test with spectacular views over the lake, but at 7,000 yards off the back tees it may not be the best choice for your first game of the holiday. Instead try Ca Degli Ulivi, fun and popular with the locals, it offers 27 holes in the foothills around Garda town. Palazzo Arzaga combines golf resort luxury with typical Italian charm. A Jack Nicklaus-designed 18 holes and further 9 by Gary Player nestle below a 15th century country mansion. Wide open tee shots make for fun driving but beware of some tricky approach shots and the tough par 3s which have the potential to wreak havoc on your scorecard.

The final must-play of any golfing trip is the relatively new Golf Club Paradiso del Garda. It is reminiscent of The Oxfordshire or The Belfry with plenty of water and big undulating greens. A word of warning though ? when travelling to a tee time in the busy summer months, allow plenty of time for traffic on the main lakeside road.

OFF COURSE

A ferry trip around the lake is a must. Take it at a very leisurely pace, and stop off at the picturesque towns of Riva, Sirmone or Malcesine. Perhaps enjoy a long lunch at one of the riverside cafes.

Verona is an hour?s drive from Lake Garda. A visit to the Arena di Verona during opera season is recommended and don?t forget the visit to Romeo and Juliet?s balcony. Venice is a two-hour drive away but the tourist season runs from June to August and it?s advisable to stay away in these months.

There are many castles, churches, fortresses, places and museums in the towns bordering the lake, or take a leisurely drive into the olive groves and lemon and orange trees down the eastern side of the lake.

WHERE TO STAY

If it?s a touch of luxury with golf on your doorstep you?re after then the Palazzo Arzaga for you. Fine dining and top-class facilities means you will be struggling to drag yourself away to the golf course. It doesn?t come cheaply however. Golf Hotel Paradiso offers a great stay at a more affordable price, ideal for families or golfing groups.

Val Di Sogno, a typical family-run hotel, further north near Malcesine offers a warm welcome, fantastic food and a room with a view of the lake, it offered easy access to all of the major towns and areas of interest, while the golf was never more than 45 scenic minutes away.

CONTACTS BOOK

Garda Golf

T: 0039 0365 674 707

W: www.gardagolf.it

Ca Degli Ulivi Golf Club

T: 0039 045 725 6463

Palazzo Arzago Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort

T: 0039 030 680 600

W: www.palazzoarzaga.com

Golf Hotel Paradiso Del Garda

T: 0039 045 640 5802

W: www.golfclubparadiso.it

Hotel Val Di Sogno

T: 0039 045 740 0108

W: www.hotelvaldisogno.com

Golf packages ? MW Golf

T: 0870 746 9668

W: www.mw-golf.co.uk

Tourist Information

W: www.lagodigarda.it