The Solheim Cup, the women’s version of the Ryder Cup, is gradually getting closer to the Costa del Sol. The Malaga provincial government is still trying to negotiate an agreement with the European Tour to host the competition in which the USA and Europe face each other every two years, in 2023. Also at the negotiating table are the Junta de Andalucía, the Mancomunidad de Municipios of the Western Costa del Sol, the Royal Golf Federation of Andalucía (RFGA) and the Spanish Royal Golf Federation (RFEG). If the attempt is successful, this will be the first time since its creation in 1990 that the Solheim Cup has taken place in Spain, and only the fourth time outside Britain.
The president of the Costa del Sol Tourist Board, Elías Bendodo, says that Malaga province has all the technical requirements, tourist facilities and infrastructure necessary to host the Solheim Cup, which is the biggest women’s golf event in the world.
Bendodo points out that the women’s Open de España was held at La Quinta Golf & Country Club in Benahavís, something which “confirms that the Costa del Sol is a leading destination” in this sector. He also insists that “the province fulfils all the technical characteristics and has all the tourist infrastructure needed to host a world sporting event of this type”, which is something the organisation of the Ladies European Tour (LET) insists upon for the Solheim Cup. Several courses in Malaga province, he says,“pass the cut demanded by the organisation in terms of competitive level, length, expanse, maintenance, equipment, machinery and organisation of staff”.
Another requirement is that the courses have spacious areas for stands and hospitality marquees, because world-famous events of this type attract thousands of golf fans during the competition.
Apart from meeting these conditions, the destination also “easily exceeds other requirements, such as the capacity and quality of hotels on the Costa del Sol, and the connections between Malaga province and the principal airports in Europe,” says Bendodo.
The Costa del Sol’s candidacy, announced during the World Travel Market in London after a meeting with representatives of the Ladies European Tour, “is a historic opportunity which we can’t afford to miss,” he says.
The Malaga provincial government considers that its application to host the Solheim Cup “is unbeatable and would be a recognition of the effort we put in to promoting women’s golf. This is evident because we have hosted the Open de España for three years as well as 62 per cent of the biggest women’s tournaments which have taken place in Andalucía, such as the Andalucía Cup, the Interclub, the Irma Stemmann Selections Trophy and the International Pitch and Putt Championship”.
Although he has not mentioned specific dates, Elías Bendodo is confident that within a short time “we will be able to celebrate being the official host of the Solheim Cup, because our proposal includes making the Costa del Sol the mecca for women’s golf over ten years, with the Solheim Cup taking place in the years before and after the Spanish Open”.
Quality of the courses
Mark Lichtenhein, chairman of the Ladies European Tour, who attended the Spanish Open, agrees that the Costa del Sol “is a prestigious destination and is famous in the world of golf for the number and quality of its golf courses”. He says “we must recognise the way the administrations have promoted women’s golf by hosting the final of the Women’s Open and, as it has more than 70 golf courses (67 per cent of all those in Andalucía), it is the European destination with the highest number of facilities”.
Bendodo stresses “the double importance” for the Costa del Sol in hosting the Solheim Cup in 2023, describing it as “a unique opportunity to showcase everything the whole province of Malaga has to offer in terms of tourism, and it will also reinforce our commitment to developing women’s golf, a field in which we have been working for years with the Royal Golf Federation of Andalucía”.
For the Costa del Sol Tourist Board, the Solheim Cup would be a major benefit for golf tourism, which is one of the most important sectors in the province, because “it is an excellent way of attracting year-round tourism” to the area.
Although little information is available about the direct economic impact of the Solheim Cup, the promotors consider it “a tool of incalculable value for attracting American visitors,” a market in which the Costa del Sol still has a considerable margin for growth.
Golf tourism in Malaga province is led by players from the UK, followed by Scandinavia, Norway, France and Germany. This is an important and strategic tourist profile, because on average they spend 1,827 euros on their trip including transport and accommodation, and about 148.46 euros a day on the golf course, which is far more than other types of tourist.
The biennial Solheim Cup is played by 12 teams representing Europe and the USA and is one of the most popular sporting events in the world. It takes place over three days, like the Ryder Cup, and numerous activities are organised beforehand.