Golf News 2015- The Year in Review
Jiménez Star Appeal Keeps Spotlight on Europe's Premier Golfing Destination
When it all seems quiet on the home golfing front, Miguel Ángel Jiménez invariably can be relied on to provide some fireworks and fun. The new year began in Andalucía disappointingly with no major international tournaments scheduled for a region which, over the previous half century, had hosted the first Ryder Cup held outside Great Britain and the United States, two World Cups, two World Golf Championships and a multitude of European Tour events.
Step up to the tee the oldest winner in the history of the European Tour, the cigar-chomping, wine-loving, Ferrari-driving man dubbed "the most interesting golfer in the world". The previous year (2014), JIménez had won in his debut event on the US Champions Tour, thus earning a place in the next season's opener, the 2015 Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii - which he also duly won.
Later in 2015, on a more modest stage, in his inimitably entertaining style, he welcomed leading local press and tourism representatives (including Andalucia.com) to the presentation of Swing Sevilla at the Miguel Angel Jimenez golfing academy between Málaga and Torremolinos.
The aim of the event, organised by the Prodetur tourism promotion organisation and with the slogan "There's another Sevilla - linking golf and culture", was to promote the appeal of Sevilla's golf amenities and encourage people to visit from other parts of Andalucía.
Sevilla province has six courses, one-tenth of Málaga's total, as Jiménez playfully pointed out before adding that it was definitely worth a visit. Like Málaga, Sevilla has hosted several important events over the years, including the 2004 World Cup, when Jiménez and Sergio García representing Spain finished second to England.
New regional government minister for sport
In March 2015, elections were held in Andalucía and a new consejero (minister) for sport and tourism, Francisco Javier Fernández, took over this vital post for the region. Fernández confirmed that sponsoring a major golf event was not high on the regional government's list of priorities (albeit not discounted entirely) but stressed that the sport remained a key element of the Junta's ongoing tourist promotional campaigns around the world.
The figures bear out the importance of this commitment: according to the minister, Andalucía welcomes more than 450,000 golfers a year, who stay longer and spend more than the average tourist, attracted in great part by the fact they can take advantage of excellent weather conditions for playing the sport every day, throughout the four seasons, when this is often not possible in the rest of Europe. In 2015, Turismo Andaluz undertook more than 50 promotional initiatives to attract new golfers and consolidate the loyalty of previous visitors to the region's 120 courses.
One of the Junta's most crucial 2015 promotions was, in fact, closer to home. Over 50 IAGTO golf tour operators from 17 countries met with 60 golf resorts, courses, hotels and other golf tourism suppliers from the Costa del Sol, Huelva, Almería, Cádiz, Sevilla, Córdoba and Granada at the inaugural IAGTO Andalucía Trophy held at Villa Padierna.
While the lack of a tour event in 2015 to focus the spotlight on Andalucía might have disappointed the tourism industry, golfers and fans it certainly hasn't halted the sport's growth. With around 70 courses and a major global airport hub, the Costa del Sol (including Málaga and the eastern end of Cádiz) remains Europe's premier golfing playground for both local residents and visitors, while other areas throughout Andalucía (both coastal and inland) also offer exceptional golf resort amenities.
Heading them all, of course, is Valderrama (host of the 1997 Ryder Cup and 16 Volvo Masters), which has once again been named by Golf Digest magazine as the best of Spain's 400 golf courses and 71st in the world ranking. Also in the top-10 of the Spanish list were Royal Sevilla (fifth), and Cádiz province clubs Royal Sotogrande (sixth) and La Reserva de Sotogrande (ninth).
ValdErRama bought by La Zagaleta
In December 2015, it was announced that the Valderrama Group had been bought by La Zagaleta Limited (owner of the ultra-exclusive La Zagaleta residential estate in Benahavís) for €40 million and that plans to develop a "Valderrama 2" golf, hotel and residential complex in the nearby Castellar municipality were now back on the front-burner.
Marbella - Río Real and Las Brisas
Meanwhile, down the coast in Marbella, Río Real - a venerable creation by Javier Arana, considered to be considered Spain's finest golf course architect - celebrated its 50th anniversary; and Las Brisas (twice host of the World Cup) completed a €5 million renovation of the course and other club amenities.
Golf Novo Sancti Petri
Also in a celebratory mood was Golf Novo Sancti Petri, which was inaugurated by D. Juan de Borbón (the current Spanish monarch's late grandfather) in December 1990, and was Severiano Ballesteros's first golf course design in Spain.
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