“We want to be prepared in the event that one day a major tournament returns to Valderrama”
The shadow of a major world-class tournament hangs over Valderrama, although general manager Javier Reviriego remains tight-lipped in this respect. Discretion is, without a doubt, one of the key qualities of this flagship golf club.
Elected 2012 Manager of the Year by Club Manager Spain, Reviriego does speak openly about the renovation work that affects and will affect the historic 1987 Ryder Cup venue.
- Why undertake this improvements plan?
- The new executive committee entrusted me with the task of improving the course in an unmistakeable fashion. The course, of course, was already good but the idea was to attain world-class standards, and that’s what we’re doing. Our medium-term objective is to continue improving the course, to continue revamping it, because it is now a few years old (it was inaugurated in 1974 as Las Aves, and re-baptised as Valderrama by Jaime Ortiz-Patiño in 1985), to return it to the highest possible position in the world rankings. We don’t only want it to be presented in the best condition for our members and visitors but also prepared in the event that one day a major tournament returns to Valderrama.
- It’s a five-year plan and up till now, among other things, you have completely renovated the bunkers, repaired the buggy paths and improved the irrigation system. What is the next key project planned for the course?
- The next major work, and major investment, we will be undertaking involves changing the hydraulic irrigation system that we have to a new electric digital system. Hardly any courses now have hydraulic systems, and it’s an important job because you have to dig trenches, redistribute sprinklers, etc. We are currently in the process of evaluating the work to decide when to carry it out, because we will probably have to close nine holes and later the other nine. You can’t do that with the course open. The work will take about two to three months.
What we will start work on immediately is a job that affects four or five approach areas that are slightly contaminated with bad grass. We’re going to remove it, change it completely and cover it over. Our policy with the course is that it be completely cleaned up and free from bad grass.
- Are you contemplating the possibility of making modifications to the original design?
- We’re not going to make any changes to the design because we believe that the Robert Trent Jones design is sacred – it can’t be touched. What you can do is lengthen a hole to adapt it to the new times, but this course is so well protected that it really doesn’t need to be longer.
- Any other project that doesn’t directly affect the playing area?
- We have a project to build a small hotel of 10 or 12 rooms near the club parking area. In principle, it will be a hotel for members and guests. It’s a model followed by many American clubs, and also Loch Lomond in Scotland, with large, spacious rooms.
- This year Andalucía has not hosted any European Tour event, something that hasn’t happened since 1987. What’s your view about that?
- I always say, when I attend tourism forums or when I’m asked: the tourist business model for Andalucía has functioned quite well for many years because, among other things, there have been European Tour tournaments and people have had the opportunity at home, in many countries, to see top-level courses, with good players and good weather. That’s important, and I hope that the tourism ministry (of the regional government) reconsiders its position in respect of golf tournaments because I believe it is a very profitable way of promoting a destination, and this has been demonstrated in many studies – it’s not just my personal opinion.
The ideal situation is that good tournaments are held, not just any ones, but top-level events. What happened a few years ago was there were four or five tournaments and perhaps that was too many, especially if they were lower-ranked tournaments with relatively small prizemoney purses. I don’t believe that should be the model: the model should be two tournaments that have an impact, with world-class players. That is what really does provide visibility and helps to promote a destination. It’s so obvious that everyone’s now doing it, including our competitors such as Turkey, who are adopting the model that Andalucía adopted years ago: that is, hold important tournaments, and they are achieving results. It would be good if we returned to that path – that would be good, yes.