This September signifies a momentous occasion for women’s golf as the Solheim Cup makes its debut in Spain marking an important milestone in the tournament’s history. We get an exclusive insight into the clash from Francisco de Lancastre, the General Manager of Finca Cortesin, the prestigious host venue for this year’s event.
Team Europe are hoping to secure a third consecutive victory in this biennial event, building on their impressive 15-13 triumph at the Inverness Club in Ohio just two years ago. Suzann Pettersen’s side will enjoy home advantage at the stunning Finca Cortesin and there may even be a small flavour of the UAE golf industry on show at this year’s event. The club’s current general manager De Lancastre spent several years working in Dubai as well as Abu Dhabi and is now playing a pivotal role in the management of the upcoming Solheim Cup.
I started my career at Monte Rei Golf & Country Club which is in Portugal. I was there for five years, and then for three years I was working at the Els Club in Dubai. Following that I had two years as the Director of Golf at Finca Cortesin. Then, I went to Abu Dhabi where I was Director of Golf at Saadiyat, and then Cluster Manager for the three clubs in Abu Dhabi including Yas Links. But now, I’ve been back at Finca Cortesin as general manager for two years and really enjoying it.
The UAE is a great place for golf in the world. If you work in the industry it’s a great school. You learn a lot about the different ways of managing large clubs with large operations. You are very lucky in the UAE to have many of the best tournaments in golf, being exposed to that is a great opportunity for anyone who works in the golf industry there.
It’s great. We’re very involved as the host venue, with the entire resort involved in hosting this huge event. We’re going to have two areas of focus, obviously the golf course is the key element to it but also the players and the teams will stay in our hotel. Our hotel is one of the best hotels in Spain, in Europe, so it’s great to be able to host them here to make sure they have the Finca Cortesin experience. That’s something many aren’t used to as they will be in a hotel outside the golf course. It’s really easy for them while competing in a big tournament.
It’s a really great course. It’s a Cabell Robinson architecture design, and it’s a track with elevation. It’s long, has amazing greens and it’s definitely a match play golf course. I think it’s a course that suits this style of format because of how it’s designed and laid out. The agronomy is extremely good here, so the conditions the players are going to find are always tournament conditions. If you visit us as a guest or client from the Middle East region, you will be used to it. Our service levels are what you would find there as well so from start to finish of the guest journey we are looking after you. It’s a real highlight.
We have a couple of holes which people normally like the most. The course has a lot of variety in terms of design which is great, and you gave some visually stunning holes. One thing we’re doing for the tournament is to change the routing for the first six holes. Hole number one is going to be our normal hole number four, which is drivable par four with a lake. So everyone on the first tee will be able to see the entire hole, which is a great feature. It also creates a fantastic match play situation, because it’s drivable and you have a lot of water. From the start they’re going to have decisions and think about what they’re going to need to do. It’s going to become a very recognisable hole in the future. Also, our signature hole since the day we started, our 13th hole which is par four with a beautiful green complex, that’s normally a hole that people remember just because of the beautiful environment. Every hole is different and strong on its own, but these two will be the ones people will probably enjoy the most.
In terms of service and amenity that you have in the UAE it’s very similar to Finca Cortesin. Here, we really look after the experience you have on the day. As a rule we don’t take more than a 100 golfers day to make sure everyone has a great experience, it’s a different set up in the UAE but in terms of experience, course condition and all of that stuff, it’s similar.
People here in Spain are used to big golf events because it’s a golfing nation with the likes of Seve, Jon Rahm, Carlota Ciganda and many others. There are Spanish players that are ambassadors of golf in Spain. You can definitely see the fans getting behind the event. Being located in our region in southern Spain is a huge element as we are a normal destination for a lot of people to come and play golf. Everyone feels very comfortable in Andalucía, Costa del Sol, our region. It makes it easier as well for the fans to have an excuse to come and see the tournament. It’s such a global event now which is great to see. The promotor is targeting to 70 to 75 thousand for the week. That will be very focused on Friday, Saturday, Sunday so great numbers for the tournament. I’m sure that it will help to create a superb atmosphere here at the golf club.
I think it’s going to be very close. If you look at the rankings both teams have amazing players right up there at the top of world golf. Suzann Pettersen, the captain for the European team, has been here at Finca Cortesin a lot already. She loves the place and she has some good ideas for what she wants in terms of course set up. That’s the advantage of being the home course captain. Stacy Lewis, the American captain, she came as well. She loved the golf course. We have Bermuda greens which is common in the UAE but not so common in this part of the world. Obviously the American players are also used to playing on Bermuda greens. I think it will be very interesting and the fans will be able to take advantage of that.