By Javier Reviriego, general manager of Real Club Valderrama
It’s now been several weeks since Real Club Valderrama hosted the Spanish Open, and we’ve had time to evaluate the tournament and reach some conclusions. I believe it is important to understand properly how to measure the success of an event of this magnitude.. Often the interests of the “main actors” (host club, sponsors, destination, federation, European Tour, etc.) are not aligned and that’s why we need to undertake a detailed analysis from various “angles” or points of view.
It is essential to evaluate the staging and organization (fan experience), the sports side (show) the media impact (especially digital), the public attendance figures, the course’s image and presentation, the famous TV ratings and, of course, the prestige and reputation these kinds of professional tournaments provide to the club and the destination and country where it is located. We can consider it to have been a major success when the combination of all these factors has been positive, and there has been a win-win situation for all those involved. In general terms, I believe we have fulfilled all the objectives we set out during the preparation of the Open, and this certainly encourages us to continue working towards hosting more top-class tournaments in the future.
For us, the most important aspect as host club was to present the course in superb condition and to make it a good challenge for the pros. I believe that, in spite of the short amount of time we had to prepare, we more than achieved our objectives. During the tournament, a lot was said about the difficulty of the course set-up; Valderrama has always been a tough course and, furthermore, I believe it is clear proof that a course does not have to measure 7,000 meters to be competitive and that the essence of the Robert Trent Jones design has thus prevailed over time. It’s a course that rewards strategy, shaping the ball flight and, especially, accuracy – more than other qualities such as power and length. It can be said that this represents a return to what golf has always been, a game of skill and ability . As an avid golf fan myself, I have to say that I don’t always enjoy, week after week, watching professional golfers destroy particularly long courses with winning scores of 15 or 20-under-par. Valderrama is different and it will continue to be so.
We should not overlook the enormous impact in tourism that tournaments such as these have for a destination like Andalucía, and specifically the Costa del Sol. There is no better promotional vehicle for a region than showing the best players in Europe competing under a brilliant sun on one of the best and most iconic courses in the world. The TV hours are priceless, especially when the audience figures are much higher than the average for most European Tour events (perhaps the “Valderrama effect”).
It is important to communicate this aspect when referring to professional tournaments. It’s the unresolved issue for our industry: we need to “shake off” the image of golf being an elite sport (which one segment of the press insists on propagating) and communicate in a professional manner the direct and indirect wealth generated by our sport. Other countries and destinations understand perfectly well the benefits of associating tourist promotion with hugely prestigious professional events, and Spain cannot afford to lag behind. I understand the Spanish Federation is making a major effort and I also understand that the Junta de Andalucía (regional government) is prepared to make a commitment to tournaments such as the Spanish Open to promote Andalucía internationally.
I also believe it is essential to communicate the various European Tour events’ association with charity causes – something the Americans beat us on hands down. They always make sure to report on the funds raised and charity contributions of each tournament held on the US PGA Tour; they very clearly understand how this notably improves the tour’s image and prestige.
We need to do the same in Europe, and the relationship between Royal Valderrama Golf Club and the Sergio García Foundation is a clear example of this: more than €60,000 were raised for the fight against cancer and a great effort was made to communicate this to the media. It’s a positive message that can only serve to improve our industry’s image.
I believe the new vision of the European Tour, led by new CEO Keith Pelley, will without a doubt encourage European countries and companies to make a commitment to hosting and sponsoring professional tournaments. It’s very difficult to compete with the PGA Tour, mainly because the leading European golfers play most of the year in the United States. I am very confident that this will change over the next few years. Keith Pelley has outlined a series of objectives which include taking the best tournaments to the best courses, and I believe this strategy is spot on. If we want to attract new players and sponsors, golf needs to be above all else a good show, and that is certainly the case when watching the best players compete on the finest courses.
Valderrama’s history has been forged by hosting major tournaments; it’s part of our model as a club, and we will therefore continue to work towards attracting the best players in the world to our course. For now, it is the right moment to express our appreciation to Sergio García, to the various sponsors, to the Spanish Federation and to the European Tour for helping us enjoy a great Spanish Open.