He is passionate about golf, for him more than just a sport but rather a philosophy of life that has, for many years, dominated his raison d’être… A veterinarian who decided to pursue a masters degree in business management in order to manage a golf course that had been built by a company owned by his family. That was two decades ago and he remains as enthusiastic about golf as he was the first day.
Ignacio Iturbe Escolano, a man who exudes joy and positivity through all his pores, runs one of the two current 18-hole clubs east of Málaga capital city, Baviera Golf. It is a flat course that is characterised by wide, undulating greens, a great diversity of hazards that facilitate a variety of strokes and an ideal design for players of all handicap levels. The variety of the holes and the incomparable views, both to the Mediterranean and to the mountains that protect the course from northerly winds, ensure that a round at Baveira is even more enjoyable than just a sporting outing. And the same goes for the clubhouse, which offers a restaurant, sauna, jacuzzi, gym, caddy master, pro-shop and day-care service, among other amenities.
Baviera Golf is at the far end of Málaga province, bordering Granada. What are the advantages of being the eastern-most course on the Costa del Sol?
The micro-climate in this sub-tropical area is one of its main attractions - hence the cultivation of mangoes and avocados - as well as the low population density and its proximity to Málaga and the international airport.
And the disadvantages?
Not being a golf destination. It lacks several projects that need to be developed, so that golfing clients, when visiting for an average of seven to 10 days, can change courses, as they do in other areas on the Costa del Sol.
What tend to be the best memories golfers take home after finishing a round at Baveira?
The services we provide… Not only that Bavaria Golf is in perfect condition, but also the changing rooms with sauna and jacuzzi, a large pro-shop, first-class gastronomy using products from the area, very professional staff, etc., all of which which makes us one of the favoured options when it comes to the relationship between quality and price.
Apart from an 18-hole course, with what other facilities and services does your club offer?
We are preparing new medical services for heating and muscle problems, as well as the gym, pádel tennis courts, and other alternative experiences.
According to the majority of golf club managers on the Costa del Sol, courses in the area have been experiencing significant increases in occupancy for some years. Can we now completely put behind us the crisis that affected us so much just a few years ago?
Forget it, never. It is important to keep it in mind, but it is also true that there has been a general growth in tourism - with national records - and in our segment we are regaining percentages lost in past years. However, we should always remember that we touched bottom very recently, together with the rise of IVA (VAT), which had a decimating effect on business.
Can we learn anything positive for golf from that long lean period?
Periods, in general, tend to be cyclical and you always have to be alert to signals that give us time to react; these experiences we live through are what help us mature.
You have extensive experience dealing with golf tourists. What are the main motivations for golfers when deciding on one or another golf destination?
We - the Costa del Sol in particular and Andalucía in general - are a well-established destination, highly appreciated by customers and market leaders in certain source countries. When talking about golf, with our weather and services, we are talking about a five-star destination. We know our clients well and what they seek to fulfil their requirements.
On what pillars do you think the promotion of a leading destination for golf tourism, such as the Costa del Sol, should be based?
Seeking out emerging markets, as is already being done with the Royal Andalucian Golf Federation and Costa del Sol Tourism and Planning Board, without neglecting the already consolidated ones, as well as improving infrastructure and ending the seasonality of hotels that close during the golf season.
There has been a lot of talk about innovating to attract new golfers, especially younger ones. Any observations in this regard?
It is very important to “plant seeds” in order to boost player numbers in the near future. To that end, the federation’s youth committee and others are opening up communication lines into schools, helping to familiarise students with the sport, with special offers at golf clubs for adults to accompany their children, and encouraging the development of golf academies... but without overlooking the adults, and the women’s, seniors’ and men’s committees are taking care of that on an ongoing basis.