Ignacio Soto, Director of Agronomy at Finca Cortesin, honed his expertise in golf course management through a program at Michigan State University (MSU) in 1994.
With a career spanning over two decades, he served as Head Greenkeeper at Atalaya Golf in 1995 and later assumed the same role at RCG Sotogrande in 2006. Since 2006, Ignacio has been at the helm as the Head Greenkeeper at Finca Cortesin.
In addition to his extensive professional journey, he has contributed significantly to the field as President of the Spanish Greenkeepers Association.
The Soto Story
Growing up in the heart of Southern Spain, my roots are deeply entwined with agronomy, as my family had been devoted to cultivating olive trees for generations. However, amidst a large family of nine, my father felt that the family business was becoming a bit crowded. It was during these formative years that I discovered my true passion – golf. I was the lone golfer in the family, and I embarked on this journey at the tender age of seven.
Upon completing my agronomy degree, my father encouraged me to explore studies that would merge my newfound passion for golf with my agronomic background. This quest led me to a life-changing discovery: a golf course management program at Michigan State University. It was there that I honed my skills and laid the foundations for a career that has spanned 28 years as a golf course superintendent.
And as I reflect on my journey, I can’t help but wonder if my children, currently studying agronomy, will carry on this legacy of blending agronomy with golf, ensuring our family’s love for the land and the game continues for generations to come.
What does it mean for Finca Cortesin to host the Solheim Cup matches in late September?
Finca Cortesin is very proud to have been selected as the first golf course in Spain to host the Solheim Cup. Being able to stage this prestigious event is a testament to our commitment to excellence in the sport. What truly sets us apart is our dedication to environmental sustainability and innovation. As the first venue in Europe to embrace warm-season grass throughout the entire course, we provide an unparalleled golfing experience year-round.
Additionally, we have taken significant steps towards environmental responsibility by using 100% regenerated water for our operations. This reflects our unwavering commitment to preserving the natural beauty of the environment whilst delivering top-notch golfing experiences.
What specific actions have been taken to prepare the course for the event?
Our relentless dedication to enhancing the golfing experience is evident in the extensive efforts we've undertaken, particularly in the lead-up to the event. One of our significant accomplishments has been the meticulous work on tee enlargement, where we've carefully expanded and redesigned tees to meet the rigorous standards required for the event.
These enhancements go beyond mere aesthetics; they are designed to ensure that players have a fair and challenging course to compete on during the Solheim Cup. Several holes have also been renovated under the expert guidance of renowned golf course architect Cabell Robinson.
Have any course modifications been carried out in respect to hosting the matches?
A significant alteration to our course layout includes changing the routing to feature our fourth hole as the opening hole for the Solheim Cup. This transformation offers the professionals a captivating start to their round, as they face a breathtaking, reachable par-4 that is beautifully ensconced by water hazards.
The sheer beauty and strategic complexity of this hole make it an iconic centerpiece, setting the tone for an unforgettable golfing experience during the event. With its strategic design and picturesque setting, this hole promises to be a true test of skill and a memorable spectacle for both players and spectators.
Have you had to increase the number of personnel who will be assisting you and your existing team for turf preparation leading into the Solheim matches?
A dedicated team of 25 skilled workers from our own crew, combined with the invaluable support of 40 passionate volunteers hailing from various corners of Europe. Each member of this collective effort is a highly respected head greenkeeper in their own right.
The usage of water on golf properties is becoming more and more of an issue for all superintendents globally. Outline your philosophy on water usage and the program you follow at the facility.
Our commitment to sustainability is exemplified by our exclusive use of 100% regenerated water, a source we take immense pride in. This becomes even more significant in the context of the severe drought conditions prevailing in Spain.
We are dedicated to being responsible stewards of our environment, and this eco-conscious approach not only showcases our dedication but also sets an essential example for others in our region.
Green speeds are another topic of discussion. Many facilities which have sloping greens are now trying to expand the availability of locations to situate the hole and therefore have attempted to keep overall green speeds in check. How important a topic is this for you and your preparation at Finca Cortesin in the Costa del Sol?
With our greens set to register between 11-12 on the Stimpmeter, players can anticipate a superb putting experience. These conditions, coupled with the natural undulations of our greens, promise a challenging yet rewarding aspect of our golf course that will test the skills of golfers during their rounds.
What is the biggest item of confusion that ordinary golfers have in regard to the working of a golf course superintendent?
Recognizing that a golf course is a dynamic and ever-changing environment, achieving consistent conditions on a daily basis can be a challenging task. Nonetheless, our unwavering commitment lies in striving for uniformity across all areas of the course.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally - what would it be and why?
It would be to go back to the basics, grow natural surfaces and use grass species well adapted to microclimates. Equipped with the right tools, we need to change the old philosophy of green wall to wall.
If someone meets you for the first time - what one word best describes your personality and work ethic?
Dedication and love for the game of golf.
How will you define a successful Solheim Cup event?
Our ultimate objective is to create an enjoyable experience for all stakeholders, including golfers, spectators, and everyone participating in this event. We aim to craft an atmosphere that fosters excitement and engagement, making the tournament a memorable occasion for all.
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