Solheim Cup 2023: Insights of Finca Cortesin’s Golf Course Manager
A partnership between ICL and Finca Cortesin golf course
As the prestigious Solheim Cup approaches, all eyes are on the green, both literally and metaphorically. The thorough care of golf courses, where every blade of grass plays a vital role, is a testament to the dedication and expertise of greenkeepers like Ignacio Soto. In an exclusive interview, Mr. Soto, Golf Course Manager at Finca Cortesin, venue of the Solheim Cup in Spain, shares his insights on the present and future of greenkeeping, offering a glimpse into the challenges and changes that lie ahead.
A journey through time and terrain
Soto’s journey to his current role has been a lifelong exploration of his passion for golf. With a deep-rooted love for the game since childhood, he pursued a degree in agronomy in Spain, which laid the foundation for his specialized education in turf management at Michigan State University. Returning to Spain, he immersed himself in the field, improving his skills at renowned courses like Valderrama and Sotogrande. An active participant in the greenkeeping community, Soto’s contributions include serving in leadership positions within greenkeeper associations.
Ignacio Soto presenting his views on turf management at an ICL conference in Malaga, Spain.
A strong connection with nature
For Soto, greenkeeping is a harmonious blend of two passions: golf and nature. He says: “A dedicated greenkeeper must not only understand the nuances of the game, but also cherish the natural world that forms the backdrop of the course. The intimate connection with both the sport and the environment underscores the heart of greenkeeping.”
Evolution of the greenkeeping landscape
Comparing the past with the present, Soto highlights the transformational power of education and technology. He says: “Greenkeeping today is different than what it was in the past. Advancements in education, particularly the availability of specialized degrees and the accessibility of information online, have ushered in a new era of greenkeeping.” Greenkeepers are now armed with a wealth of knowledge that their predecessors could only dream of. As Soto points out, “the emphasis has shifted from simply managing the turf to becoming adept managers of people and environmental resources.”
The Finca Cortesin Golf Course, one of Europe’s best, is maintained by a team of 20+ greenkeepers led by Ignacio Soto.
The greenkeeper of the future
Looking ahead, Soto envisions significant changes in greenkeeping over the next two decades. For instance, the electrification of machinery, the emergence of new grass varieties tailored to diverse climates, and the proliferation of organic and biological tools to combat pests. He adds: “Robots, guided by GPS, will revolutionize the industry, though the human touch and expertise will remain irreplaceable. I can imagine that a greenkeepers’ workspace in the future will be a room full of screens; a high-tech hub, overseeing robotic operations and environmental conditions.”
Sustainability as a core value
For greenkeepers, sustainability is a core value. Soto emphasizes that every greenkeeper harbors a deep appreciation for nature and seeks to minimize their ecological footprint. Soto: “Utilizing recycling water for irrigation, educating the public about their eco-friendly practices, and engaging with local communities are just a few ways greenkeepers strive to create a sustainable balance between the demands of golf courses and the environment they inhabit.”
Challenges and opportunities on the horizon
In the coming years, greenkeepers face both challenges and opportunities. A huge challenge according to Soto is the coming pesticide regulation changes and the need for new strategies to maintain course quality without relying heavily on chemical pesticides. He emphasizes on the importance of communication between golf courses and associations to showcase the industry’s commitment to sustainability.
Partnerships in greenkeeping
Not only the communication between golf courses and associations, but also industry collaboration in general is crucial to face the (sustainability) challenges, according to Soto. He says: “Companies like ICL can play a pivotal role by understanding the unique challenges faced by greenkeepers in different regions and developing targeted solutions. These partnerships can help greenkeepers maintain course quality while adhering to evolving regulations and sustainable practices.”
Soto’s advice for greenkeepers
Soto’s advice for fellow greenkeepers is timeless: “A strong foundation in agronomy, a willingness to embrace technological advancements, and a deep-rooted passion for both golf and nature. The challenge lies in adapting these principles to a rapidly evolving field, where the combination of tradition and innovation defines the future of greenkeeping.”
In the lead-up to the coming Solheim Cup, held from 22-24 September, Ignacio Soto’s insights and dedication is a reminder that greenkeeping is not just a profession, but a dynamic interplay of science, creativity, and environment. As the golf course awaits the world’s finest golfers, the hardworking turf ambassadors stand ready behind the scenes, ensuring that every putt and swing takes place on the highest quality turf nurtured by expertise, dedication, and top quality products.