At the beginning of March he joined the management team at La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links Golf Resort, after having spent the past four years managing one of the most prestigious clubs in the Mexican Caribbean, PGA Riviera Maya. Previously he worked at Royal Valderrama Club, Salamanca... Fernando Padrón is an experienced professional who excels wherever he is, but above all else he is one of those people who makes you wonder: why are there not more like him in the world?
Four years managing a golf course in the Mexican Caribbean. What would you highlight from your experience there?
The experience has been very positive, both personally and professionally. I would highlight learning different ways of working, getting out of the "comfort zone" and, due to its proximity to the US, gaining knowledge of the American market.
PGA Riviera Maya is one of the finest courses in that part of the world. What would you say is the general standard of the courses over there? Equal to or above our average? Don't hold back!
Indeed, PGA Riviera Maya is a great Robert Trent Jones Jr design in the middle of the Mayan jungle and surrounded by cenotes (sinkholes). In my opinion it is, together with Mayakoba and Playa Paraiso Iberostar, one of the three best courses in the Mexican Caribbean. The level of the courses there is very good, generally using Paspalum grass because of its tolerance to saline water and also because, aesthetically, it provides a special touch due to the bright green tone of this cespitose variety. I wouldn't say that they are better or worse than ours. They are certainly great courses in a very special environment such as the Mayan jungle and the cenotes, despite being fairly flat courses with minimal undulation.
We assume that you would have enjoyed a great time during those years....
Without a doubt. The state of Quintana Roo and the entire Mexican Caribbean is a paradise for tourists and golfers alike, a place that is highly recommended. In addition to paradisiacal beaches you can find Mayan ruins, cenotes, first-class gastronomy and, the most important thing, friendly and pleasant people. Places like Tulum, Isla Holbox and the Xcaret park are a must.
The prize for the winners of the Andalucía Golf Challenge Circuit is a week of tourism and golf in the Riviera Maya, playing the course that you have managed, PGA Riviera Maya, as well as Playa Paraíso and El Camaleón (Mayacoba). What would you say to those who eventually win this trip or who join it? Do you think it is a highly recommended experience for any golfer and their companions?
The first thing is to congratulate those who manage to win on this circuit because they will be able to enjoy an exceptional golf and leisure experience, playing great courses in a wonderful environment. It is certainly a highly recommended experience and one that they will never forget. Even the companions who do not play golf will have many alternatives for having a great time. Everyone who goes wants to come back – there must be a reason why.
Before your Mexican odyssey, you spent several years at Royal Valderrama Club. What memories do you have from this period of your professional life?
My experience at Valderrama was sensational and the memories are wonderful. Having the opportunity to work at such an iconic club as Royal Valderrama was a unique opportunity and I will always be grateful to Javier Reviriego for having confidence in me. The opportunity to be involved in the organisation of the Open de España and the Andalucía Valderrama Masters, as well as the daily coexistence with members who identify so strongly with the club, is something I will always cherish.
You are returning to the Costa del Sol to manage a great golf resort, with a recently refurbished course, La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links. What can you tell us briefly about your new destination?
I have just arrived and the first impressions are very positive. We have two great courses and superb facilities, with a first-class clubhouse. The reform of the Links course has been a resounding success. Now ahead of us we have the exciting project of consolidating La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links as one of the benchmarks of Sotogrande and the entire Costa del Sol.
The resort you now manage is located very close to courses such as Royal Valderrama, Royal Sotogrande, San Roque, La Reserva, etc. Do you think it is on a par with those great courses, that it can be spoken of in the same breath as them?
Undoubtedly the Sotogrande destination is very well positioned and has great golf courses. Hacienda Alcaidesa is making a major investment to be at the level of those courses. We are ambitious and do not only want to have two great golf courses but also a first-class restaurant, a professional golf academy and top-level player services.
What would you especially highlight about La Hacienda Alcaidesa Links? Has the renovation transformed the course or essentially respected the original design? We assume that the renovation has improved it considerably...
The refurbishment has been comprehensive and the greens and bunkers have been modified and the landscaping has been thoroughly updated, taking special care to "open up" the course to the sea, as it has outstanding views of the Mediterranean which, before the refurbishment, were largely obscured by the vegetation. The result is a first-class course in an exceptional environment, and with a much higher level of maintenance than before the renovation.
We are sure you are happy to be back on the Costa del Sol after several years away but to be honest – don't you miss the Mexican Caribbean a little bit?
Well, a little bit these first few days, because of the cold weather we are having. No, seriously, the Riviera Maya is a fantastic place where I have left very good friends and I hope to return on holidays, but the Costa del Sol and Sotogrande is my home and I am extremely happy to be back and to join this great project, and I’m very grateful to Millenium Hospitality for this opportunity.