Anyone making plans to go to Finca Cortesin, the Solheim Cup venue for 2023, had better start getting into training. And that applies as much to any would-be spectator as it does to a player. This Spanish venue located between Gibraltar and Marbella is truly stunning and has hills to take your breath away. In every sense.
Nowhere has views quite like Finca Cortesin, nestled in the Andalusian countryside between the Casares mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. Given a pair of binoculars, you could stand around the clubhouse and identify the players at any number of holes on the course below. Again, there is a downhill practice area where your average player will revel in watching his or her drives run an extra 40 yards. The entire course is in perfect condition and has featured regularly among the five best courses in Spain. It also has a five-star hotel attached which is among the best in Europe. The players will love it.
The service is similarly worthy of mention. However, as a Solheim Cup venue, Finca Cortesin does not represent a step up from Gleneagles in 2019. At Gleneagles, the gallery was larger than 80,000, with one of the main comments making the rounds during the week that the match finally had the feel of a Ryder Cup. Simply because of the size of the Finca Cortesin complex, the Solheim can only return to being the Ryder Cup’s little sister for 2023.
One prominent golfer who has represented Europe in a number of Solheim Cups has elaborated on why it is not a perfect fit for the occasion: “You can’t walk the course and it’s miles between some of the greens and tees.” (Buggies were used to ferry players from one to the other during what were yet three thoroughly successful Volvo World Match Play Championships.)
The same player went on to hazard a guess that organisers might be able to work something out with regard to crowd movement – and to wish them well.
"It certainly looks a lovely place in the pictures and, for all I know, they may hold one of the best Solheims of all time."
Dame Laura Davies
Dame Laura Davies is another with reservations. She cannot remember having played in front of a big crowd in Spain and struggled to think of any courses in the area which could accommodate one. But since Finca Cortesin is not a venue that she knows personally, she wonders if it might be a bit different.
“It certainly looks a lovely place in the pictures and, for all I know, they may hold one of the best Solheims of all time,” Davies said.
Though neither Spain nor England has held a Solheim to date, Davies had hoped that ’23 would be England’s year in that it would be the perfect time for the sizeable English contingent to be displaying their talents in front of a home crowd. To go through a relevant list of names, they have Charley Hull, Georgia Hall, Bronte Law and Mel Reid, who won the recent ShopRite LPGA Classic.
Plenty of people have asked why the Ladies European Tour failed to go down the modern route of holding a bidding process for ’23. Yet even before Gleneagles, rumour had it that Spain would be playing host that summer with Aloha Golf Club the venue getting the early mentions.
It was as word of a Spanish Solheim started to spread that we learned how a group of Englishmen – headed by David Hardy, a prominent figure in the world of finance – were having promising discourse with an English links of Open Championship stature. The LET invited Hardy to attend the match at Gleneagles, at which point he still was hoping against hope that a bidding process might be about to get underway. As it was, he very quickly ascertained that Spain was more or less a done deal.
“Of course we would have liked to have been fully considered,” said Hardy, ”but we don’t bear any grudges and we wish them all the best. We would still love to bring the match to England in ’27 and, as soon as things calm down, we’ll put our heads together and start talking about it. By then, we would hope for a proper bidding system to be in place so that everyone knows where they are.” (Dame Laura, for her part, is insistent that the LET should have listened to Hardy.)
Spain, in fairness, are not exactly undeserving when it comes to hosting the fixture.
Like England, they have not had the match before and, unlike England, they have been thoroughly supportive when it comes to putting on tournaments for LET players. Spain had three events on the 2019 schedule whereas England – though they warmed to the business of hosting the women for this year’s Rose Series – provided nothing other than a qualifier for the US Open and a Women’s British Open. To add to their credentials, the Spaniards have two great players to stir a home crowd in Carlota Ciganda and Azahara Muñoz.
It goes without saying that it did no harm to Spain’s cause that Marta Figueras-Dotti, chair of the LET, has been a leading figure in Spanish golf for years, and that Alex Armas, a sister Spaniard, is now the LET’s chief executive officer. The two of them will have their hearts set on making it a great Solheim and, with Mike Whan, the commissioner of the LPGA, playing his part, we can rest assured that the match at Finca Cortesin will be a success.
Ryder Cup’s little sister or not, it can still be a gem.