After a successful professional career at various golf clubs and with the Pryconsa business group, Kostka Horno Elósegui has “landed” at Royal Sotogrande Golf Club to take the controls of what he describes – justifiably – as one of the finest golf clubs in Europe.
Kostka has a solid background, not only practical but also theoretical. In the United States, he studied business management and administration, specialising in golf courses, and on his return to Spain his first job was at the Señorío de Zugasti club in Navarra. Three years later he moved to Lanzarote to manage Costa Teguise Golf.
A couple of years later he returned to the mainland to join the Isla Canela company. He started as director of golf and later added other top executive responsibilities within the Huelva business group: hotels, marina, real estate development, second golf course... In total, 15 years in that destination, until a few months ago the opportunity arose to join one of the most iconic golf clubs in Spain, Royal Sotogrande, as general manager.
"With the children already at a certain age, we believed as a family that it was time for a change and for me to return fully to my sector, which is the one I know best, which I have grown up in, and for which I have been trained," he explains. "Also, adding to my knowledge of golf all the other experience that I have acquired – especially during the last eight years – from the corporate management of a company of Pryconsa’s significance and importance."
On 1 July, he officially took over from another top professional in the sector, Agustín Mazarrasa, who did a magnificent job for 10 years at the helm of Royal Sotogrande and is now in charge of another of Spain’s most renowned golf clubs, Royal Puerta de Hierro in Madrid.
"All of us who love this sport," says Kostka, "are familiar with this course, but Royal Sotogrande is much more than a golf course. For me, it is the standard-bearer at a national level."
The exciting professional challenge he faces is an added stimulus. "It is not only the 18-hole course, but the management of a club like this encompasses many areas and not just those directly related to the members' sphere."
In this sense, he says, “We have an important commercial job of selling external green fees, even if it is a small number, and managing the restaurant and catering business, which for me is the most spectacular aspect at a culinary level as far as golf is concerned, with our chef Mikel Landa a true gem of gastronomy.”
“And then we also have the nine par-3 holes and the spectacular short game area, which was built in 2017 and is a benchmark for all high-level players on the European Tour who live in the area, who ask us if they can come to play and practise and prepare for certain championships.
“In addition, we have a gym, swimming pools, and tennis and pádel courts, although undoubtedly the two main foundations of the club are this jewel of a course and the dining facilities, which are impressive. Royal Sotogrande is undoubtedly one of the finest golf clubs in Europe.”
Without detracting from the clubs where you have worked previously, does Royal Sotogrande represent a major qualitative leap in your professional career?
Undoubtedly. The fact that I left what I did in Isla Canela, the position I had with Pryconsa, managing the group’s general operations, highlights the importance that Royal Sotogrande has for me. It gives me a lot from a personal and professional point of view. There is no more important club for me, and in fact I would not have moved for any other club than this one. This is excellence in its purest form.
-What can you tell us about the course?
From what I have seen and felt when playing it, and from what players at the highest level have said to me (for example, several of those who played the Estrella Damm NA Andalucía Masters in neighboring Valderrama), the course is among the best in Europe, without a doubt.
The large investment that was made in 2015 and 2016, returning to the original design of Robert Trent Jones Sr from 1964, and also with the remodelling being overseen by his son Robert Trent Jones Jr and Fleury and the architects who were here with the original sketches, enabled us to once again enjoy a jewel from 1964.
Those of us who were familiar with the other course can see the magnitude of this huge renovation, which I believe represents the club’s turning point. Agustín Mazarrasa led the project with the previous board and I think he marked a before and after in Sotogrande. The nine-hole par-3 course and the short game area were also renovated, and they were raised to the same high level as the main course.
After a remodelling as exhaustive as the one that was carried out then, is any other – even small – revamp planned in the short term?
There is a master plan that we are going to continue developing at a maintenance level, and which we are already executing, and we have to finish the golf course paths. They are major investments that must be made to add a bow to the overall renovation project.
A lively social life is characteristic of Royal Sotogrande…
It has that great advantage that I was also looking for with the change. I would not have accepted a static club, without much of a social life. There are 2,500 members, with a summer season that is always in full swing, but also with a lot of activity throughout the year. We are currently at the start of November (when this interview was held) and this is the day to day scene: groups arriving non-stop, dinners on Fridays, Saturdays, brunch on Sundays… we don't stop. Soon we will be in the midst of the Christmas season, with lunches and dinners for companies that have members in the area. In short, the social activity never stops, and this is what gives life and longevity to a prestigious club like this one.