Major golf tournaments are not just a uniting of the world’s best golfers; they are meticulously orchestrated events that require months and sometimes years of preparations. As the trusted partner to the European Solheim Cup since 2004, over the next few months, we will bring you behind the scenes of the course preparations for the gathering of the world’s greatest female golfers to get a glimpse of what happens to ensure that the golf course is primed and maintained to tournament level conditions leading up to this epic event.
Turfgrass® is incredibly proud to be the official agronomist to the European hosting of The Solheim Cup for the past 16 years and was honoured to be appointed for the fifth consecutive European Tournament. Our journey to September 2023 began in 2020, when Finca Cortesin was shortlisted alongside several other strong candidate venues, evaluated, and eventually appointed as tournament host. From then the tournament agronomy programme commenced. At the beginning of the project, key stakeholders were appointed to have visibility into the tournament agronomy preparation programme which comprised: Ignacio Soto, Superintendent at Finca Cortesin and Chairman of the Spanish Greenkeepers Association, Davide Lantos, Director of Tournament Operations, Ladies European Tour, Francisco de Lancastre David, General Manager, Finca Cortesin and Julian Mooney, LET Tournament Agronomist. Proper course conditioning is the result of careful planning and hard work and the goal of this working group is to showcase the golf course’s best attributes to create a challenging and exciting experience for players and spectators.
On our first visit, we embarked on an in-depth course assessment, collaborating closely to outline target specifications for play and establish goals for improvements to be made to the course over the coming years. Finca Cortesin is no stranger to tournaments, having hosted the Volvo World Matchplay on the DP World Tour and demonstrating a high level of routine maintenance and continuous attention to detail associated with a world renowned 5-star resort.
Course improvements and tournament conditioning goals are agreed upon during this first visit. We carefully considered factors such as tournament traffic, safety measures, the environmental impact and the overall layout of the course to enhance accessibility and comfort for spectators. Following this, tournament tees are selected by the Tournament Director. In the case of Finca Cortesin, a decision was made to play the 1st from the existing 4th hole for the purpose of fitting in a 3,000-seat grandstand and associated viewing platforms, broadcast studios, large screen and spectator standing area. The 1st tee is a key part of the Solheim Cup spectator experience, hence the importance of this location and structure. This resulted in new tournament tees on the 1st and 11th holes, extended tees on several other holes and the remainder of tees being re-graded to enhance surface levels. Furthermore, extensive irrigation upgrades took place to enhance system reliability and distribution uniformity associated with the concept of precision irrigation. Included in these works was a boundary thinning and pruning programme, to open up lines of site for spectators and golfers. These course improvements were scheduled to be carried out during the winter of 2021/22 to allow sufficient time for the course to mature to optimum condition. At this point, most of our focus was given to the operational aspect of the course with consideration to creating a seamless and enjoyable experience for both players and spectators.
The golf corridors at Finca Cortesin are relatively narrow for a major international golf tournament, particularly holes 12-17. This placed importance on prioritising spectator movement, flow and the health and safety associated with the movement of large galleries around this portion of the course. Thus, various infrastructural enhancements were identified on this portion of the course to facilitate the staging of The 2023 Solheim Cup.
Our first team meeting to map out the course preparations for The 2023 Solheim Cup was very much a collaborative exchange of knowledge with the host venue, discussing tournament agronomy, course setup, and desired playability for the staging of a successful event. Each recommendation we made was carefully considered, assessing key factors such as agronomic conditioning and playability, aesthetics, traffic flow, infrastructure and environmental impact with the goal of creating an exceptional experience for spectators and players alike. As tournament agronomists for the Solheim Cup, Turfgrass® takes immense pride in supporting the Superintendent and his team in creating tournament-level conditions helping to set the stage for an unforgettable golf event.