Finca Cortesin Brings Its A-Game to the Solheim Spotlight By Jeff Neuman

A Met Golfer Expanded Content Travel Feature

Competitors in the 2023 Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin Golf Club in Andalucía, Spain, will face a dramatic choice on their very first shot of the match: From a tee perched high on a hillside, they will have to decide on the opening par-four whether to risk the carry of 230-250 yards over water to the putting surface below, or play out safely to the right and pitch their second to a steeply sloped green. The shaved bank won’t make it any easier; neither will the raucous singing crowd in the observation stands surrounding that first tee. It is surely the most nerve-jangling start ever faced in these international matches, offering beauty and peril in equal measure.

The view from the first tee and the challenge ahead.

The opener, which plays as the fourth hole in the everyday routing, is one of several half-par holes that will tempt the top pros from the LPGA and the Ladies European Tour in their biennial matches. Reachable par-fives and drivable par-fours are among the notable features of this Cabell Robinson design that hosted the Volvo World Match Play Championships on the men’s European Tour in 2009, 2011, and 2012. Those same features make it a very enjoyable resort course from the appropriate tees, though with plenty of bite in the form of greenside bunkering and fast greens. The course winds its way around the hillsides surrounding the hotel, meaning that there are few flat lies and many little ridges in the wide fairways. Forced carries are kept to a minimum, unless you insist on tackling the black tees at 6,727 meters (7,357 yards). The whites, at 6,946 yards, and the golds (6,435 yards) have Slope Ratings of 139 and 138 respectively; there are also sets at 5,703 and 5,306.

The resort is on the Andalucia coast in Southern Spain.

The lake provides a test for golfers on the third hole (left), while the par-five fifth (center) may tempt players to go for the green in two. The par-3 sixth (green at the bottom of the photo) features a large, flat green.

The par-3 12th features deep bunkers and a large but challenging green.

Finca Cortesin’s signature hole is the par- 4 13th, lined with Acebuches trees.

The event will take place September 18-24, beginning with the two-day Junior Solheim Cup (past Met Area participants: Sarah Brown and Stephanie Kim, 2009; Karen Chung, 2011 and 2013; Nicole Morales, 2013; Katie Li and Megha Ganne, 2021), followed by two practice days and then Friday and Saturday team play (four morning Foursomes and four afternoon Four-Balls each day), ending on Sunday with 12 singles matches. In fact, though, the matches could be held tomorrow, since the golf course is always in immaculate condition – the greens quick, the fairways groomed, the wall-to-wall Bermuda grass providing an excellent playing surface while adding to the challenge of the sloping fringes and even moderate rough. The greens were converted in 2017 to environmentally-friendly Ultradwarf Bermuda, providing year-round consistency.

Team Europe celebrating after winning the 2021 Solheim Cup.

With all that said, the golf course will not be the first thing I think about when I recall my recent visit to Finca Cortesin. There is something timelessly gracious about the resort from the moment you pass under the white archway into the entry area. A finca is an estate with a manor or farmhouse in a rural setting; the owners of Finca Cortesin have paid meticulous attention to the details that create a sense of comfort and ease. There are small surprises everywhere: a wooden farmhouse door; lacquered hats on display molds on the shelf of an alcove; a quiet library off the lobby for reading or just thinking; a Moroccan-themed lounge opening onto a courtyard; a weathered metal washtub on a table in a corridor – remarkable grace notes in a five-star accommodation that is just fifteen years old.

Yet it is most certainly a five-star destination, one chosen by Travel + Leisure in 2020 as the best resort in Spain/Portugal and #11 on their list of best hotels in the world. It consists of 67 suites, each with its own private outdoor space (balconies with sea or golf-course views on the upper floors, hedge-bordered patios and grass for the ground floor). There are three pools at the main building, one indoor by the spa and two outdoors – an Olympic-length adults-only spot and another featuring a bar and grill that’s an ideal lunch spot (don’t miss the grilled octopus). There’s another pool at the beach club a kilometer away, accessible by a quick shuttle and featuring its own open-air restaurant with outstanding paellas and imaginative salads (papaya and shrimp in a coconut curry dressing? Mmmmm). A different bar has live music in the evening and tapas and cocktails all day in a room with a men’s club vibe; El Jardín de Lutz offers modern takes on Spanish cuisine at its indoor/outdoor seating; and a short walk brings you to the resort’s Italian restaurant, Don Giovanni. But the true show-stopper is REI, where the Basque chef Luís Olarra prepares Japanese-Mediterranean fusion dishes of great beauty and finesse. On a recent night, the tasting menu consisted of fourteen courses, each just a bite or four, starting with shellfish, progressing through seabass and bream and tuna, a selection of nigiri sushi, building to grilled turbot and the evening’s lone meat offering (beef cheek with teriyaki and truffled potato puree), closing with a yuzu parfait. Matched with appropriate wines, sake, and sherry, it was an unforgettable adventure in tastes and textures.

“We never like to use the word luxury,” says Francisco de Lancastre David, the general manager of golf and leisure operations, “but for us it's understated luxury -- simple and approachable, and obviously providing the service that you expect in a resort like this, but always in a very understated way. Because at the end of the day, we feel our clientele has been everywhere, they've traveled to the best hotels in the world, the best resorts in the world, the best golf courses in the world. And our differentiation is that when you come here, you have a lot of space [to relax]. You have a great product, but everything is understated.”

Exactly. Finca Cortesin doesn’t try to do everything, it simply tries to do the things it does exceptionally well. The world will get a glimpse during the Solheim Cup, when only the teams and a few official representatives will get to stay at the hotel, but the full experience is available to all who visit. It casts a glow that has staying power, and beckons you to return again and again.