Fernando Padrón joined the team at La Hacienda Links Golf Resort as General Manager Golf after the redesign of the Links course by American designer Kurtis Bowman. With extensive knowledge of the golf industry, he has held a number of senior positions at leading clubs in Spain and other countries, including Royal Valderrama and, most recently, PGA Riviera Maya Golf Club in Mexico.
We spoke to him about the overhaul of the Links course and La Hacienda Links Golf Resort’s journey to becoming a luxury resort.
Since Millenium Hospitality acquired Alcaidesa Golf Resort in 2019, the resort has undergone a number of changes. The most significant has been the upgrade to the Links course. What is the course like now? What differences will players experience?
The reworking of the Links course has been a success. After Kurtis Bowman’s renovation, the course is even more open to the sea, which can be seen from all holes now. Visually it is tidier and it is a real links course now, with Bermuda grass greens, good for movement, very well protected by bunkers. The result is a very enjoyable course to play, with hard and fast greens, where the wind plays a key part in a player’s handling of their game
This summer marks one year since the refurbishment. What are your feelings on it a year on?
It has been a positive result all round. La Hacienda Links is a course with personality and character now as well as unrivalled views. The choice of Bermuda grass for the greens has also been a success, in terms of playability and sustainability with the savings on watering which that grass variety brings. As for the bunkers, they are now of a very high standard and the zones of fescue grass around them and the rough give it the real look of a links course, as well as the added challenge for players.
What has the feedback from the players been?
The feedback has been very good and it is improving all the time because everything that was done is settling down as the months go by. Bear in mind that after a complete remodelling, as we have here, the course needs some time to bed down and will just get better from now on, both from a player’s and an agronomist’s perspective. Only three weeks ago we did the spiking and aerating and it has recovered very well and in record time, I have to say.
Architect Kurtis Bowman has been in charge of the reworking of the course and he has described La Hacienda Links as the great Spanish sea-front course. Do you agree?
Yes, totally in agreement with Kurtis. I had the pleasure of meeting him personally a few weeks ago and it was a delight to hear in his own words how the renovation of the course was conceived and carried out. One of Kurtis’s goals was to open the course to the sea more and several holes are now even closer to the water’s edge, such as the 5th, 11th and 13th greens.
When you are on the green at the 11th in particular, that feeling of hovering over the sea reminds you of America’s legendary Pebble Beach course.
Which is your favourite hole and why?
It is not easy to choose a hole because each one really has something, and they are all very different. If I had to choose one, I would probably say the 8th, a short par 3 but very technical and well protected by bunkers. The green is wide, but with little depth, which means that the shot must be spot on and, as the green has two levels, depending on the position of the flag and where the ball is, it makes it even more challenging.
La Hacienda Links Golf Resort has another course, Heathland, where improvements have also been made. What has that involved?
That’s right, we are continuing with the improvement plan and now it is the Heathland course’s turn. The tee boxes on the 1st have been improved and the fairway on the same hole has been widened, so now the landing area is better and avoids the problem that we had before of many balls going out of bounds after a good shot. It is fairer now.
We have also refurbished the lakes and bridges on the 8th hole, which are now more organised and form part of the game. The lakes have been waterproofed so they don’t lose water, using that resource better; on the 11th we have removed the dip in the landing area which obscured the view of the green – it is now a better hole and the second shot is no longer blind; on the 18th, which was previously a par 4, the tee boxes have been moved back and it is now a spectacular par 5 where we have managed to gain distance for a great final hole.
How would you describe the Heathland course?
Heathland is an 18-hole par 72 Dave Thomas designed course that runs through three valleys. The course offers a variety of natural landscapes, ranging from a plateau area with wide fairways and sea views, to scrubland surrounded by a nature reserve. Very different from the Links course, it means that within the resort we have two significant courses, each with its own characteristics but with the same quality of upkeep and service.
La Hacienda Links Golf Resort has signed an agreement with Fairmont Hotel & Residences for the management of the five-star luxury hotel under construction, due to open at Easter 2024. What can you tell us about the plan?
The plan is moving ahead at a good pace and in fact we are already having the first meetings with Fairmont staff to prepare the joint marketing strategy.
We are working as fast as possible both on finishing the hotel and the villas surrounding it, and we are paying special attention to following all the detail and quality standards of the Fairmont brand. I have had the chance to visit the show villa and have been impressed by the quality and design.
Will a major hotel brand like Fairmont definitively put La Hacienda Links on the map of the world’s luxury golf resorts?
No doubt about it. Joining a prestigious brand like Fairmont will help us a lot and we also share a similar target customer, which I think gives us a head start. What’s more, we will be able to reach the US audience, a market of more than 20 million golfers.
We realise Fairmont can help us a lot, but we also have to work hard to meet those high service and quality expectations customers are going to have. That is the exciting challenge ahead of us at La Hacienda Links Golf Resort.