“NICKLAUS IS PARTICULARLY PROUD OF HIS BARCELÓ MONTECASTILLO COURSE”
Located in one of Spain’s vintage wine-producing cities – also famous for its horses – Barceló Montecastillo Resort is a true gem in Andalucía, among other reasons because it is home to the only golf course in the region designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus. Resort manager Ignacio Martín Ondé talks about Barceló Montecastillo’s main attributes and characteristics...
To what extent does the fact that Jack Nicklaus designed your course influence golfers when they are deciding where to stay and play?
Having a Jack Nicklaus Signature course is, without any doubt, a decisive factor encouraging our clients to visit us. In addition, in Andalucía it’s the only course with his signature, which makes it doubly attractive. Added to that is the fact that not only is it an exclusive design but Nicklaus himself has said he is particularly proud of the course, given the challenges he faced sketching the layout and the spectacular finished result.
His mark is patent in every corner, enabling players to sense the challenge on each hole. This is just one of many reasons why our clients visit us year after year – we have very high rates of repeat clients.
As well as having a course designed by the finest golfer in the history of the game, what other amenities and services are offered to golfers by Montecastillo?
At Barceló Montecastillo Golf Club golfers will find all the services they need, whatever the level of their game. For professionals and experienced golfers – as you can imagine for a course that has hosted top international tournaments – the club offers the highest quality driving range, putting and chipping green, and approach practice areas. We also have an academy for those who are just starting out in the sport or who want to fine-tune their game. In addition we have a pro shop, a large fleet of buggies, carts, and clubs for hire from the leading brands. All these services are complemented by the diverse range of amenities provided by a five-star resort.
What is the typical kind of client at Montecastillo?
We have a fairly balanced mix of clients. We could say that 50 per cent are Spanish and 50 per cent are international. The main nationality within our international market is British, followed closely by German and Scandinavian. In line with our desire to diversify our clientele in recent years we have focused on France, and we are obtaining excellent results, which makes us think this could soon become one of the key markets.
The 18th, with its spectacular views from the elevated tee and the lake that borders the fairway and green, is undoubtedly the star hole on the course, but what others would you highlight?
I would dare to say that the 18th is one of the most well-known in Spain. Completing a round in such spectacular fashion is something that stays in the memory of our visiting golfers. Nevertheless, there are others that are just as iconic and challenging as the 18th; for example, the 9th and 13, with magnificent views from the tee and where driving onto the right part of the fairway plays a decisive role in the final result. Another part of the course I would highlight is the 10th, 16th and 17th, which surround the impressive island lake. On these holes you can appreciate the essence of Nicklaus’s signature design, a perfect synthesis of his defining water hazards and large bunkers.
This course has been the venue for six European Tour events: five Volvo Masters and a Turespaña Masters. Is it possible that another tournament of this category will be held here again?
Yes, for sure, we’re talking about a course designed to host competitions at the highest level. While the last few years might not have been particularly encouraging for those aspiring to host the best tournaments, we are now considering the option of a major competition, and we’re working in that direction. Everyone agrees that Montecastillo is a course that – thanks to its design and history – should be on the European Tour schedule once again.
With two official-sized pitches and other complementary amenities, you attract many Spanish and international professional football teams. What are the most important teams that have trained here?
One of the major challenges facing the industry is to overcome the seasonal nature of tourism, and that’s why at Barceló Montecastillo we decided right from the start to provide a series of amenities and services conceived to offer leisure alternatives throughout the year. The facilities created with that objective in mind included our football pitches. Designed in accordance with instructions from Sir Alex Ferguson, they are regularly used by the world’s top teams. The Spanish national team, Real Madrid, Barça, Manchester, Bayern and a long etcetera of teams are of the opinion that our sports amenities are outstanding for their training preparations. Every year numerous teams visit us, in both winter and summer.
The service of a spa is a growing demand among golfers and all kinds of clients, especially during the winter months. What amenities and services are there at Montecastillo?
Spas are a classic service complementing golf at hotels. Today you would not think about creating a hotel focused on golfers without having a facility of this kind. In our case, in addition to a U-Spa – the name of Barceló’s spa brand – that extends over 1,400 square metres and includes a complete water and cabin circuit for all kinds of treatments, we now also offer a new service specialising in health.
We’ve created Barceló Montecastillo Sports Clinic by Beiman, a special centre where top specialists can treat our clients for any illness, pain or discomfort related to sport. We offer various programmes orientated towards wellbeing, including one specifically for golfers – for those requiring treatment for an ailment that prevents them from playing golf in perfect condition. This represents one of our main commitments over the past year to diversify even more our already complete range of services.
The hotel has been honoured three years in a row with the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. What does this recognition – based on the opinions of your clients – mean for Montecastillo?
Listening to our clients is a priority at Barceló Montecastillo. TripAdvisor has become an indispensable tool for us, together with other measures we use to assess clients’ opinions and take them into account when planning improvements or new services. Having received this honour three consecutive years only makes us more committed – if that were possible – to providing clients with a service based on excellence and unique experiences. We are in the middle of a transformation process that began two years ago with the renovation of the rooms and which continues in 2015 with the remodelling of the communal areas and our convention centre. These initiatives have enabled us to position ourselves as a flagship golf resort on an international level.
Jerez is a city with many tourist attractions, but what are those you would recommend to clients as indispensable?
In many ways Montecastillo is a destination in its own right, as we have all the ingredients for those who don’t necessarily want to leave our installations. However, our privileged location in Jerez, just 20 minutes from the beaches and the entrance to the route of the white villages, makes us the perfect setting to get to know an area of great touristic interest. I would, without a doubt, recommend a visit to our bodegas, the equestrian shows and, above all else, a stroll through the centre of Jerez which, for me, is one of the must-visit cities for people travelling to Andalucía.