A tenth anniversary is usually a time for reflection in all relationships, including a work and professional one such as this. A moment to stand back and think about where you are and where you are going. It is at this very juncture that we interview Javier Reviriego, who has been CEO of Real Club de Golf Valderrama since 2011.
Running one of the most prestigious golf courses in the world must be a source of immense personal and professional pride. You have been in charge for ten years; do you remember the moment you joined the Club?
To be honest, I remember it as if it were yesterday. I joined on 1st August 2011, after six fantastic years at Finca Cortesin. The Board of Directors of Valderrama asked me to begin a process of renovation, modernisation and improvement of all aspects of the club. The first months were far from easy; we had to make a lot of changes and we made some very difficult decisions, but they were the right ones. I was very fortunate to have the unconditional support of our President, Nuno Brito e Cunha, and all members of the Board.
What position was the Club in when you arrived?
They were difficult times. We were in the midst of an economic crisis, the club had had a lot of members leave and green-fee income had dropped significantly. In addition, there was a clear lack of investment in the property. Both the golf course and the clubhouse were showing the effects of the passage of time and there was a real need to carry out reforms and more investment.
Do you remember the first decision you made?
In those first days, I focused all decisions on improving the service and the experience of the members. I was, and I still am, very clear that what is most important is that members enjoy the club and feel at home. The experience of coming to Valderrama has to be unique and special. This is essential for this club model to survive, since all our members can choose any other place in the world to enjoy their leisure time.
RCG Valderrama oozes golf history from every corner. Volvo Masters, Amex Cup, Spanish Open, Andalucía Masters and of course the 97 Ryder Cup. Any fan would be overwhelmed by so much history. Does that happen to you too or are you used to it?
It means I respect it. It is an enormous responsibility to lead Valderrama and I assure you that in all the decisions we take, we are really conscious of how they will affect our image, history and reputation.
You must have experienced some very exciting moments at Valderrama, do you recall any in particular?
I have experienced many fantastic moments, but I would say that two stand out for me: Sergio García’s first victory at the Valderrama Masters and the day we signed the purchase of the course and the facilities for the members.
It is often said that nothing is perfect, although Valderrama is pretty close. Do you have room for improvement?
Of course, at Valderrama we are constantly asking ourselves how we can improve. This is essential if we want to maintain quality and the standard of excellence. On the course, we keep on investing and making improvements every year, it is the basis of our club, and we have to focus on ensuring that the course is in the best possible condition. We compare ourselves with the best courses in the world and our main aim is to stand out from them all.
We also continue to stive to improve the clubhouse experience. We have recently carried out a refurbishment of the entire facade and improved the landscaping. In the restaurant we also keep up a constant process of improvement – a few weeks ago we hired Pedro Muñagorri (holder of two Repsol-guide ‘Suns’) as new Executive Chef.
The ability of people to travel has been tremendously affected by the Covid-19 pandemic; Valderrama normally welcomes visitors from all over the world and has members from 40 nationalities. How has all this affected the Club?
Logically, the pandemic has had a negative impact on visitor income, but, on the other hand, we have had more interest than ever from new applicants to be club members. In fact, in the last year we have admitted members from more than 10 countries. I believe many people’s way of life has changed with the pandemic and parts of the world such as the Costa del Sol will emerge stronger from what we have all had to live through.
Valderrama has hosted more than 25 top-level professional tournaments and this is part of its essence. One of the objectives of the Club was for the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters to become a Rolex Series tournament. What requirements did the Club have to meet? What is involved?
We have always said that our goal is for the tournament to grow every year. It is becoming more and more difficult to put on a high-level event in Europe, that is a fact. The best players are in the US and this makes it increasingly hard to attract sponsors.
At Valderrama, with an enormous effort from the Board of Directors and the team, we have managed to attract sponsors who have committed for several years. I believe that we have done everything needed for the European Tour to include us among its list of featured tournaments. The venue and its history deserve it.
A new era is on its way in professional golf, soon there will be some news and it could have a direct impact on the Estrella Damm Andalucía Masters.
The Valderrama Masters 2021 is coming up on the horizon and this year it will be held from 14th to 17th October in the end. What can you tell us about the spectators and the players who will be coming?
Both Jon Rahm and Sergio García have commented in various media that they intend to come and play the tournament and this would be great news for us. Besides that, it is in our interests that the tournament is held with spectators, but we are waiting on the European Tour and the Junta de Andalucía to make a decision. There will be news shortly and I hope it is positive for all golf fans.
It seems golf in Spain has the wind in its sails – the Solheim Cup in 2023 and Jon Rahm’s triumph at the US Open. Do you agree? What do you think the next few years will look like?
The Solheim Cup is undoubtedly great news. In my opinion, it will have a very positive impact on visitors from the US, but we must step up promotion in that part of the world. To date, I don’t think it has been enough, probably because of the big influence UK tourism has on Andalucía. To be specific, I think that the Sotogrande area, with courses such as Valderrama, San Roque, La Reserva, Finca Cortesin and Real Club Sotogrande (and soon Alcaidesa as well), can compete on quality with any destination in the world. Americans, when they want to play golf, only travel to top destinations. I hope that the Solheim will help the American market ‘wake up” and consider the Costa del Sol when planning their trips.
Jon’s rise to the top is magnificent news. In this case, he will have a big impact on young people and will definitely help golf to grow in Spain. I have always thought that media stars play a decisive role in promoting sport. I’m sure Jon will win many Majors and lead the world rankings for many weeks. We have to take advantage of this situation to increase golf’s visibility in the media.