Later this year Marbella-born Azahara Muñoz will be be returning to the scene of one of the most cherished moments in her career. The Ladies European Tour has just announced that the 2020 Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España will be played at Royal Guadalmina Golf Club from 26-29 November.
It was at Guadalmina where a young Azahara learnt to play the game before becoming an international star, and US LPGA Tour champion, and also the club where she won a second consecutive Spanish Women’s Open crown in 2017.
The previous year, at nearby Aloha Golf, Muñoz became the first Spanish women’s golfer to win her home Open. She also finished second behind Dutchwoman Anne Van Dam in the 2018 edition at La Quinta, and was joint fourth when the event returned to Aloha in 2019, also being won by Van Dam.
This year’s Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España will be the final tournament of the 2020 Ladies European Tour, offering a €600,000 prize fund (double last year’s total) and setting the scene for an exciting finale of the Race to Costa del Sol (the new LET order of merit).
Spanish star Jon Rahm will be in the marquee group on Thursday when the US PGA Tour resumes officially for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak halted golf around the world three months ago.
The three leading players in the world ranking (which was frozen when the main global tours went into hibernation) will be the main featured group in the first tournament back, the Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial in Fort Worth, starting on Thursday (11 June) – albeit without fans allowed on the course.
Rory McIlroy (1), Jon Rahn (2) and Brooks Koepka (3) also played together in the first round of the 2020 Players Championship, after which the event was cancelled and the subsequent Tour schedule put on hold.
The omens are good for 25-year-old Rahm, if he can recapture that day’s form: he carded 69, while Koepka had a 70 and McIlroy a 72.
Apart from McIlroy, Rahm and Koepka, other star groups will be Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose, and Phil Mickelson, Gary Woodland and defending champion Kevin Na.
The overall strength of the field is highlighted by the fact that, in total, 101 of the 148 players have won on Tour.
In all, 15 of the world’s top 20 ranked golfers will be teeing up in Texas. Among those missing are Adam Scott (6), Tommy Fleetwood (10) and Tiger Woods (11). Scott has expressed his concerns with the tour’s COVID-19 testing protocol, and is not expected to return to competition for two months, in the lead-up to the newly-scheduled majors. UK-based Fleetwood explained in May that the quarantine times for international visitors would also most likely keep him away from the US for an extended period.
“It isn’t impossible for me to play,” Fleetwood told Golf Digest. “Far from it. But two weeks of quarantine at both ends of a trip across the Atlantic is a huge issue. That factor really made my decision for me. To go over and play in the three events scheduled for June would eat up seven weeks of my life. That’s more than double what a trip like that would normally take. I wouldn’t want to be away from my wife and kids for that long.”
Woods, meanwhile, has only played once professionally at the Colonial, finishing joint fourth in the 1997 event.
The US PGA Championship, at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, has been moved from May to 6-9 August; the US Open until after the official 2019-2020 season concludes, from June to September 17 to 20 at Winged Foot in New York; and the US Masters at Augusta, normally in April, to an unprecedented late-autumn date, 12-15 November.
The Tokyo Olympics (now including a golf competition, re-introduced in 2016) have been postponed until 2021; and a decision is still pending on the Ryder Cup, due to be held at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin from 25 to 27 September.
European Tour Update
The European Tour plans to resume its 2020 season with the launch of a new six-week “UK Swing”. Suspended on 8 March due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the Tour is scheduled to return to action in July and continue to December.
All tournaments will initially be played behind closed doors, and all will be “subject to stringent safety and testing protocols set out in the Tour’s comprehensive Health Strategy, which will continue to evolve, aligned with international government guidance and health guidelines”.
The “UK Swing” begins with the Betfred British Masters hosted by Lee Westwood, at Close House, near Newcastle, from Wednesday 22 July to Saturday 25 July, followed by the English Open (Marriott Forest of Arden), English Championship (Marriott Hanbury Manor), Celtic Classic and Wales Open (both at The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport) and finally the UK Championship (The Belfry).
The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation, due to be held from 29 April to 3 May at Royal Valderrama, has not been rescheduled in 2020.
Resumption of Women’s Tours
Both the US LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour were also forced to cancel tournaments from March to June.
The LPGA is scheduled to resume on 23 July with the Marathon Classic in Ohio; while the LET is due to return to action with the Ladies Scottish Open from 13 to 16 August. This follows the announcement this week that the Evian Championship – one of five women’s majors, and due to be played from 6 August at the Evian Resort Golf Club in France – has been postponed until next year.
In Spain, the La Reserva de Sotogrande Invitational (scheduled to be played in May) and the Mediterranean Ladies Open (Terramar Golf Club in July) have been “postponed”, but the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open (at a club to be confirmed) is still scheduled for 6 to 9 November.
Which golf courses are open?
We are trying to keep you updated about the golf courses with which we collaborate that have already confirmed opening dates. Remember that right now it is mandatory to pre-book your green fee. You can do it by clicking on each link or calling us from 09:30 to 15:00. Keep in mind that these indications and dates are informative and will be subject to changes based on the government regulations.
- La Sella Golf: May 11
- Las Colinas Golf & Country Club: May 11
- Bonalba Golf: May 11
- Vistabella Golf: May 11
- Lo Romero Golf: May 11
- Puig Campana Golf: May 11
- Campoamor: May 11
- La Marquesa: May 11
- Campo de Golf Villamartín: Open
- Font del Llop Golf Resort: May 18
- Altea Club de Golf: May 11
- El Plantío Golf: open
- Alenda Golf: May 22
Spain’s golf courses are preparing to re-open their facilities – and we couldn’t be happier! We believe this could help reactivate tourism in general, and promote and enhance the Spanish brand outside our borders.
A new golf protocol has been presented to Spain’s health authorities, incorporating a series of proposed measures and recommendations for golfers. Many other countries are already allowing golf to be played in accordance with similar protocols. Golf has specific characteristics which mean it can be both accessible and safe following the COVID-19 outbreak.
These include the fact it is a non-contact sport, so security measures can be maintained, it is played outdoors, and tee times can be booked online.
#COVID-19 has changed everyone’s life, and for us it has been a hard few weeks trying to look after our clients. First of all, those who were already travelling, and then those who needed to cancel their trips. And all this while we moved our operations to enable the whole team to work remotely. Nearly all the pending cancellations have already been processed, and we will be continuing to closely monitor the situation over the next few weeks.
The tourism sector, and by extension the commercial golf sector, is likely to be the most affected in Spain by this crisis, mainly because a lack of confidence will last longer than the effects of the virus. The decrease in sales has been absolute, so we have adopted a series of key measures, including temporarily reducing our business hours. They are now from 10am to 3pm from Monday to Friday, although we will be making adjustments every week, depending on demand and how the situation evolves.
This is unquestionably the most serious crisis experienced in the golf tourism sector in the 25 years since we launched GolfinSpain, an anniversary we were just about to start celebrating. Nevertheless, we have already decided to consider this period of “global shutdown” to be an opportunity and take advantage of the time to continue incorporating improvements to our website and the products we market.
We would like to send our thoughts and affection to those golf clubs and hotels that are suffering severely from this situation, and we also want to reassure all our clients and suppliers of our financial solvency and liability insurance as a travel agency, together with a restructuring plan that we have already applied. These ensure that we can approach this sales stoppage without suffering any financial risks and still be able to offer the best guarantees. Together, we will come out of this stronger.
The first course that Seve Ballesteros designed in Spain will be the new 2020 venue for the innovative Andalucía Match Play 9 event.
Iberostar Real Club de Golf Novo Sancti Petri Golf (in Cadiz province) hosts the European Challenge Tour event from 11 to 14 June after the first three editions were held on the Costa del Sol.
The change of setting coincides with celebrations to mark the 30th anniversary of “Destino Turistico Chiclana”, the Costa del la Luz resort area where the course is located.
One of three Spanish events on the 2020 Road to Mallorca (Challenge Tour), the €200,000 Andalucía Match Play 9 is highlighted by a novel format beginning with 36 holes of stroke play. The top 64 players qualify for the weekend, competing in a series of nine-hole match play duels. On Saturday the opening knockout rounds will be played on both the front nine and the back nine; while on Sunday the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final will all be contested on the front nine.
The first three editions of the tournament were won by Aaron Rai, 2017 at La Cala Resort (Mijas); Liam Johnston, 2018 at Valle Romano Golf (Estepona); and Eirik Tage Johansen, last year also at Valle Romano.
Welcoming the event, Iberostar Real Club de Golf Novo Sancti Petri manager Rafael Hernández Alcalá said, “This golf course has hosted some of the best golf events in our country and it is now time to welcome the Challenge Tour players for this innovative format. It will be great for the game, they will enjoy playing the course in its best conditions and the golf course will have the deserved impact.
“This is the 30th anniversary of Destino Turistico Chiclana – a golf benchmark in Europe – and it allows us to showcase our golf club, which has been growing and getting better over the years, as proved by all the recognitions received, not only for the golf courses but also for our facilities.”
Added Jaime Salaverri, president of the Royal Spanish Golf Federation’s professional committee, “The Andalucía Match Play 9 is the only event on the Challenge Tour to be played in this format and it will help the players to prepare for similar events later in their careers.
“The Spanish players have always played well in match play and we hope that the fourth edition and the 30th anniversary of the golf course will be celebrated with a Spanish triumph.”
“Besides having the opportunity to play two different formats in the same event,” concluded Royal Andalucian Golf Federation president Pablo Mansilla, “the Match Play 9 holes will be very good for the speed of the game, and for the spectators to enjoy watching golf filled with drama. There is no doubt that it will be a great golf test among the best players on Challenge Tour.”
Ryder Cup heroes Thomas Bjørn and Lee Westwood will return to the venue where they made their debuts in the biennial contest between Europe and the United States, confirming they will tee it up in the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation from April 30 – May 3.
The pair made their Ryder Cup bows at Real Club Valderrama in 1997, when Europe, captained by the late, great Seve Ballesteros, retained the coveted trophy with a 14½ – 13½ victory.
They contributed 3.5 points to the European cause, as Westwood earned two points alongside Nick Faldo in foursomes and four-ball matches, and Bjørn earned a half in the Sunday singles against Justin Leonard, adding to the point he won with Ian Woosnam against Leonard and Brad Faxon.
Westwood is bidding for a European record-equalling 11th Ryder Cup appearance at Whistling Straits later this year. The 46-year-old is just outside the qualification spots for Padraig Harrington’s side, but is currently second on the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex after his victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA in January.
“There isn’t much you can say about Valderrama that hasn’t already been said,” said Westwood. “It’s a fantastic golf course, and 1997 was very special because I made my Ryder Cup debut there and then won the Volvo Masters a few weeks later.
“It is an incredible test of golf, and it’s testament to Robert Trent Jones’ design that it has remained unchanged over the last 30 years. It’s a course that we all enjoy playing, and credit goes to Sergio Garcia and his foundation for helping to develop this tournament over the last four years.”
His close friend Bjørn is also looking forward to returning to the venue where his Ryder Cup journey began, culminating in his victorious captaincy two years ago at Le Golf National, Paris.
“Valderrama is an excellent golf course, and a test which we all enjoy returning to,” said the 15-time European Tour winner, who celebrated his 49th birthday earlier this month. “To make my Ryder Cup debut in a side captained by Seve, in his home country, and at a world-class venue, was incredibly special.”
The pair will join a host of other European Tour stars at Real Club Valderrama as the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters returns to the famed venue in April.
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This magnificent 18-hole course designed by José Canales is located on the banks of the Guadiana River. The layout enables golfers to enjoy an exceptional setting at the river mouth, with views of the Algarve region in Portugal. The course facilities include a driving range, pro shop and clubhouse with a café-restaurant.