CASERAS, Spain — There’s nothing like the first-tee experience at a Solheim Cup. But there has never been a first tee setup quite like what players will experience in Spain. More than 1,000 fans will pack an elevated grandstand that overlooks a drivable par 4 with ample risk/reward and views of the sea.
“I don’t think everyone will go for it,” said European vice captain Laura Davies of a downhill 280-yard tee shot that requires players to carry a lake. “But I think 80 to 90 percent will have a go.”
While the drama that plays out live on television will be eye-popping from the start, the behind-the-scenes luxury at Finca Cortesin will be talked about among players for years to come.
“As far as what we’ve had in years past to this one,” said U.S. captain Stacy Lewis, “the accommodations and just the ease of it – probably the best we’ve ever had.”
Lewis toured the resort on a site visit but will stay at Hotel Cortesin for the first time with her team this week.
“There’s a snow room,” marveled Lewis of the luxury spa. “They were cleaning it the day we were there, but legitimately has snow in it.”
The golf course at Finca Cortesin, located in the south of Spain in the Costa del Sol region, debuted in 2007 and the hotel opened two years later. In 2020, “Travel + Leisure” named it the best resort in Spain and and the second-best in all of Europe.
With only 67 spacious suites on property, there’s an intimate feel to Finca Cortesin, where small, one-of-a-kind details like the ornate doors and floors that were salvaged from an old convent make every turn about the place feel special.
Take a tour of @FINCACORTESIN, the luxury resort that will host the @TheSolheimCup teams next September in Spain. This spectacular property is frequently rated the top hotel in Spain. (More on the golf to come!) pic.twitter.com/g6NSXONzJ8
— Beth Ann Nichols (@GolfweekNichols) May 26, 2023
Tropical courtyards and sweeping seaside views from private balconies will help give players a sense of calm during a pressure-packed week. If there’s a moment to spare, a walk under the arches in the rose garden might do well to clear the mind.
The restaurants on property each offer a unique and elegant experience, from the taste of Spain at El Jardin de Lutz, where the millennial olive trees are a sight to behold, to REI, the hotel’s signature restaurant that combines traditional Asian dishes with Mediterranean influences. The 14-course Tasting Menu offers guests an adventure in flavor and flare.
Francisco de Lancastre David, the resort’s general manager for golf and leisure operations, said European captain Suzann Pettersen had the hotel’s Beach Club reserved for an evening’s festivities. Located less than one mile from the hotel, the breathtaking oasis features an infinity pool overlooking the sea.
With roughly 80 courses in the region, de Lancastre David said the golf season – September to mid-November and then March to May – is crucial in extending the area’s popular summer leisure season.
Those who have made bucket-list trips to Scotland and Ireland often pick Spain as the next destination on their list, de Lancastre David notes, and with five of Spain’s top-10 courses, including Valderrama, the 1997 Ryder Cup venue, in the Sotogrande area, Finca Cortesin is uniquely positioned.
“We have the best hotel by far in the region,” he said.
American players will arrive in Spain on Sunday, and while Lewis calls Monday a free day, she predicts all 12 will find their way out to the course.
While the Americans get a crash course leading into the Sept. 22-24 competition, Ireland’s Leona Maguire was part of a European contingent that took a trip to Finca Cortesin last November.
With travel restrictions keeping European fans away at Inverness two years ago, Maguire looks forward to playing in front of home fans for the first time.
“I know there’s a lot of Swedish that winter down there,” said Maguire of southern Spain. “There’s a lot of Irish people that do as well.”
It’s a short walk down a stone path from the hotel lobby to the clubhouse at Finca Cortesin, though players will have their own entrance to the locker room.
“It’s always a bit nicer when you stay onsite,” said Davies. “The bus rides are good fun, but it’s just nice when you come off the course after a long day, go to your room and then come down to the team room.”
Set on more than the 500 acres of land on the Andalusia coast, resort visitors can fly into the Malaga airport, less than an hour away.
The golf course, designed by Cabell B. Robinson, hosted the Volvo World Match play in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Players who are familiar with and fond of Bermuda grass will have an advantage on Finca Cortesin’s hilly terrain.
While this week’s setup is not a particularly long test, it is a ball-striker’s course, and as de Lancastre David is quick to note, the importance of being able to work the ball both ways, sometimes on the same hole, is crucial.
The course will be rerouted for the event, with what’s typically the fourth hole serving as the dramatic opener. Only the first six holes are impacted by the reorder.
“I think it’s a really good match-play course,” said Davies, “a very fair course. You hit a good shot, you get rewarded. You hit a poor one and you’re going to be on the side of a mountain and good luck. Having said that, there’s plenty of room. The fairways are very wide.”
Elevation changes and long distances from green to tee will be a challenge for spectators, making it a long haul for double-round days.
The setup of the course, however, is short enough that Lewis said she was freed up to choose who was playing the best, rather than worry about length off the tee or penalizing rough.
Team Europe comes to Finca Cortesin looking to win three in a row as the Solheim Cup is contested on Spanish soil for the first time. For most, next week’s broadcast will be their first look at this lush Mediterranean property.
Truly one of the game’s most luxurious escapes.
Take a look at some resort pictures here: