Design Notes

Spain's Finca Cortesin debuts new first hole for 2023 Solheim Cup

Peter Matkovich and Louis Oosthuizen to design new Heritage La Reserve layout in Mauritius; Jim Lipe continues Punta Mita renovation in Mexico; Ombria Resort in Portugal to open in 2023

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While the new first hole for the 2023 Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin measures only 278 yards in length, the par 4 offers plenty of risk and reward.

Finca Cortesin in Malaga, Spain, venue for the Solheim Cup in September 2023, has unveiled a brand new first hole that is intended to inject instant excitement to the match-play competition.

Architect Cabell Robinson, who toiled for a generation for Robert Trent Jones Sr. before venturing out on his own, designed the original par-4 hole, which measured 431 yards from the back tee. The redesigned hole now measures 280 yards and will serve as a drivable par-4 for the bold player. Led by Finca Cortesin managing director Vicente Rubio, in consultation with the Ladies European Tour and tournament organizer Deporte & Business, the hole features a slender fairway and a large lake on the left-hand side that extends to the front of the "large but lively" green.

"This new first hole is very much a risk-and-reward hole," Rubio said. "Players can either try to reach the green with one shot or play more conservatively. The design of the hole and the great difference in height between the tee and the green will make it a spectacle, and I have no doubt that it will be a success. The characteristics of the new hole will also allow us to accommodate more than 1,000 people around the first tee, which will make for a great atmosphere and the perfect hole to start a Solheim Cup."

Players to already take a go at the new hole include Suzanne Pettersen, the European captain, who, with nine appearances in the Solheim Cup, is very familiar with what it feels like when a player prepares to hit that first shot.

"The sensations you experience have nothing to do with other moments you can experience in golf, like leading a major, because in this tournament you don’t just play for yourself, you do it for your teammates, for your team," Pettersen said. "You put all your heart into hit and you want to give your best. The first tee of the Solheim Cup is all adrenaline and energy."

Stacy Lewis, the American captain, also had a look at the radically changed opening hole at Finca Cortesin and showered it with praise. 

"I don’t think we’ve ever had a first hole like this in the Solheim Cup," she said. "You can reach the green but the water comes into play quite a lot. It’s like an amphitheater. The stands are going to be high up, practically above you, which will make the public feel very close. It’s definitely a great hole for the Solheim Cup."

Heritage Golf Club in Mauritius is in the process of adding a second 18-hole course, La Reserve Golf Links, that will complement the resort’s existing course, Le Chateau. Designed by top South African architect Peter Matkovich, with countryman and former Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen consulting, La Reserve will wow with ocean vistas from every hole.

"It’s a challenging course and not for the faint-hearted," Oosthuizen said. "We’ve worked with the land to create a strategic, undulating course that plays in the traditional links style, with running fairways, pot bunkers and long grasses. The location is breathtakingly beautiful with incredible views of the Indian Ocean."

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Environmental sensitivity has dictated the parameters of the project, with La Reserve situated alongside a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Former sugar cane fields have been carefully cultivated with native island grasses, creating new, species-rich grasslands, promoting ecological diversity and important carbon sequestration. The developers intend to take every necessary precaution to ensure the best stewardship possible, with a view towards GEO Certified Development status.

Scheduled for a December 2023 opening, La Reserve will be exclusive for members and Heritage residents only and the club plans to host a DP World Tour event soon after the course opens.

Jim Lipe is continuing his renovation project at Punta Mita, a resort and residential community near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Jack Nicklaus designed both courses at Punta Mita — the Pacifico, which opened in 1999, and the Bahia, which debuted in 2009. Lipe was formerly a Nicklaus associate.

"Jim has a foundational understanding of the original design elements for both the Pacifico and Bahia golf courses and will deliver a new energy to the area," said John McIntyre, Punta Mita's director of golf .

Phase I, which Lipe completed in November 2021, involved Pacifico’s greens, greenside bunkers, green surrounds and tees. Greens were regrassed with TifEagle Bermudagrass and enlarged and recontoured, and the surrounds were regrassed with Trinity Zoysia. Phase II, which began in April 2022, revolves around Bahia’s tees, greens and green surrounds.

Ombria Resort in Portugal’s Algarve region is anticipating a spring 2023 opening for its hotel and golf course. The development will incorporate a five-star hotel and residences, spa, apartments, townhouses, villas and restaurants, in addition to the golf course.

Situated in the hilly Barrocal region north of Loule, approximately a 20-minute drive from Faro Airport, the resort is inland, though just a few miles from the beaches. The 18-hole signature course, designed by Portuguese architect Jorge Santana da Silva, has been thoughtfully integrated into the countryside and plays around and among ancient rivers and mature trees, already earning the GEO Foundation’s prestigious ecolabel certification.

The first nine holes are set into hillsides along a winding water course that originates in the nearby Fonte da Benemola natural reserve. The back nine twists through the idyllic valley of the Ribeira de Algibre, providing an overall experience that emphasizes beauty and variety.