One of my great, and very few skills, is my golfing radar. If anyone is talking about the game in any shape or form I will be onto them and eager to join in. As such I found myself chatting to four blokes from Thirsk who were on the same plane from Leeds/Bradford to Barcelona, having perked up at the brief mention of Lumine.
One, a member, raved about the place and couldn’t have been more full of praise for the general manager Calle Carlsson. General managers don’t normally get a mention in a casual chat, or are even known about, but Carlsson had been a great find.
In his words he had turned the place around and was a big reason why the resort was now staging the Final Stage of Q School. My new friends would be playing a bit of golf in the area and then watching the last couple of days, keen to see how the pros do it.
As such I sought out the very personable Swede to see how he, and the resort, have gone from a new resort, to a bit of a struggling resort to staging one of the biggest weeks on the European Tour’s calendar.
“I played for 11 years, never full-time as I was more teaching. I had a couple of top 10s on the Challenge Tour and got to Second Stage at Q School and, in the winter, I worked with tour operators as a pro taking people on trips. So I know what the player wants in a week like this.
“The resort is relatively new, we are celebrating 10 years next year. I came when Troon Golf took over in 2010 and we have almost tripled the number of rounds in that time. The place was struggling and it was hard to contact tour ops. All the rounds played were by locals – only 1.6% of the revenue came from international guests, that number is now more like 70 per cent.
I have a great team who are used to hosting events. We have previously hosted Second Stage, which has around 90 players, and the Challenge Tour and the PGA of Europe fourball which has grown into an incredible event. That used to be 36 teams but is now full at 120 which means 240 pros so that is huge.
We also host the Swedish Winter Series and we started that five years ago. I missed that when I was a pro in the winter, we were dying to go away and play.
“The European Tour don’t pay anything, they organise the whole event and we provide different services. We have to close the two courses for nine days so we have around 70-110 long-stay guests that we have to pay for them to play somewhere else. Then there are the extra hours working on the course as we want it to be presented as well as possible.
It is the same with the food and beverage but we have some return on that. We are there to support the tour – they come with a big team, around 40, and we provide the starters and look after the range and things like water and food on 1st tee. We do it for the prestige and to grow our brand and to grow the awareness of the course. To have 156 ambassadors who hopefully go back and say good things about this relatively new resort down near Barcelona is great for us.
And we can use the European Tour logo in our marketing and that gives us a stamp of quality, which is the same as being managed by Troon Golf.
“The feedback we’ve had from the European Tour has been great. I think the courses are improving each year, in another five years they will be incredibly good and it has been nice to see that both courses are as challenging as each other. I’m surprised that some players preferred the Hills, the Lakes is the tougher test.
The courses are going to get better and tougher with each year. There isn’t much rough but it is quite tough, three days before the first practice rounds of Q School we have 400 rounds being played by visitors so we can’t have the rough too hard as they won’t come back.
PGA Catalunya, who previously hosted the Final Stage, is amazing but the two courses are quite different in terms of difficulty. Ours are almost exactly the same so that proves that we have 36 really challenging courses.
“It has always been the vision of the owners to be one of the best in Europe and they are continuing to invest in the resort – the goal is to host the Spanish Open or a European Tour event here.
If we did get the Spanish Open it would be on the Lakes just for operation purposes. We have a bigger range, bigger restaurant and clubhouse, there is more parking and space for grandstand and the access is easier so it would be is a straightforward choice.
We had Second Stage for five years, we will have Final Stage for three years and then see what happens.
“I love golf tournaments, they are in my blood and I love hosting any event. Q School has a different vibe to anything else and you notice how important it is to the players. You notice on the fifth day that it is quieter. The only really nervous player I have seen was Johan Edfors climbing out of my sofa watching the World Cup qualifier between Sweden and Italy!”