Continuing insight into our Director of Instruction, Ricardo Jimenez Eliaeson secrets about his life in golf and coaching:
Ricardo: I was a Tour player for 25 years, playing mainly on the Spanish Tour and European Challenge Tour, but also playing some events on the main European Tour. I was fortunate enough to play with all the best players who were around then. That was an amazing part of my life and I was very grateful to all the pros who I learned so much from.
My only goal was to earn enough money so that I could play the next tournament but I also thought about raising a family and when that moment came, I, of course, realised that I had to find a more stable job. I opened a golf academy in Marbella that quickly took off and became a success and I was lucky at this time that the academy allowed me to both teach and continue to play competitions.
At the beginning of 2006, I received a call from Javier Reviriego, director of golf of a new project called Finca Cortesin. I came and played the course and was then offered a job that I simply couldn’t turn down. The project was just awesome and the rest, as they say, is history! I have been working at Finca Cortesin for 14 years and I only have thankful words for the trust they have placed in me for all of these years. In some ways, I prepared all my life to get this job. I am 100 per cent convinced that education is a key factor in becoming a good teacher and when I was playing competitively, I spent all my time researching, assisting at seminars, watching the best instructors and training myself in different areas to become a golf coach.
Best tip you ever got from a Tour pro?
The best tip I ever had was from my lovely Scottish teacher Don Ross. I was a very technical player and I was in the middle of a big slump. It was so bad that I was thinking about quitting competitive golf. He was my teacher in the last part of my amateur career and I never hit the ball and scored as well as this part of my life. He returned to Spain after six years working abroad and he gave me a call and told me to come and see him in Montecastillo. When he saw my swing and the way I was hitting the ball and performing on the course, he could not believe it. I had lost my inner essence; resilience in the search of the perfect swing. He looked deep into my eyes and told me to stop thinking and to just start hitting the bloody ball. I spent the next month with that sole thought on the golf course and it really worked. I was the perfect example of a player that had got lost trying to reach perfection.
What kind of exercises do you do to warm up?
The main exercise I focus on is stretching. I’m a true believer that the more flexible you are, the longer you can play in time, especially when you get older. I also do functional exercises and strength exercises.
Describe your golf game in four words.
What player on tour does your game most resemble?
All the players that miss a lot of greens!
What is your favourite memory of beating your fellow golf professionals?
in 2003, I won a big tournament on the Spanish circuit where I beat Pablo Larrazabal the last day. We were playing together in the last group on the Sunday and I never in my life felt so tight in my forearms than when I had a one-metre putt to win the tournament. I moved back from the ball, took a deep breath and put the ball in the hole. The job was done. I remember driving home and I was so proud because I had finished first out of 144 players playing that week. And that will never change. That was a cool feeling.
You have been a vital member of the Finca Cortesin team for 14 years. Tell us something the average golfer doesn’t know about Finca Cortesin’s golf course?
Finca Cortesin is an amazing golf course and I’m still trying to learn how to score here. I love courses which require you to play all the clubs in your bag and Finca Cortesin is one of them. You have to be long but accurate from the tee and you have to learn to attack the holes, with that I mean that sometimes you have to play away from flags if you do not want to mess a hole. When you get to the green, you have to put yourself in the right spot if you don’t want to three-putt, and if you miss the green, your short game has to be precise and creative. If you learn to play the course the way the designer wanted us to play then scoring is possible, but if you want to really enjoy your round, forget about being aggressive and think about how I can put the ball in play and play to the widest part of the green. In order to do so, you need to know the strengths of each hole and what your weaknesses are. Never try to play one of your weak shots against the strengths of the hole.
One of the things that we’re most proud of at Finca Cortesin is our Jack Nicklaus Golf Academy. With the golf course and club still shut, we took the chance to sit down with our director of instruction, Ricardo Jimenez Eliaeson, to unearth a few secrets about his life in golf and coaching.
Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us. Firstly, can you give us an insight into your family background, who inspired you to follow a career in golf and how you got into coaching?
I was born in Stockholm in Sweden but moved to Spain when I was three years old and have been here ever since.
I started to play golf in 1986 at Torrequebrada Golf Club and, believe it or not, my first teacher was Miguel Angel Jiménez. I owe so much to the Jiménez family and without their support in my youth, I would never have played golf. I did all kind of sports growing up but, when I tried golf, I was hooked immediately. From the very beginning, I understood that I could never master this fantastic game and that I was not playing against other players but that I was playing against the golf course, and I think that was one of the best lessons I have received from Miguel Angel Jimenez.
When did you know you first had a thing for golf?
This is one of those questions that is very difficult to answer but, in my case, I always knew that I could be a very competitive player because I love competition. I consider myself a very good competitor but, having said that, it’s one thing to play against amateurs and quite another to play against professionals. I remember one tournament when I hit two drives in a row to rough on the left-hand side. In both situations, my ball was deep in trouble and I had to use my sand wedge to leave myself exactly 100 metres to the flag. In both distance wedges approaches I left my ball next to the pin, that is when I knew I could become a much better player.
Being director of instruction at a Jack Nicklaus Academy, how does this association help in your coaching and your student’s development?
I have always been fortunate enough to be surrounded by great teachers. Many of them were more technical teachers while some were more ‘feeling’ teachers and others were more mental teachers. I have also been fortunate to have seen all the best teachers over the last 20 years and, together, they gave me a pretty good understanding of the whole picture.
Golf is not about instruction; it is about teaching people. If you teach people, you can help them to improve their games but if you keep teaching instruction, it will be very difficult to get good players and the best of their games. We are all different; we are built differently, we think differently, we understand differently, we learn differently so, therefore, we have to adapt to our students. Nicklaus Academies help me to deliver a more comprehensive and easier message to players. In general, coaches make golf too complicated and use terminology that doesn’t help, so I consider myself more like a skilled developer coach. If a student can improve their skills around their game, then I think they will be happier because they will feel that they can perform much better. That is my passion, to make them better.
What’s the greatest joy you get from teaching golf?
You probably will not believe it but the greatest joy I get from teaching is when you can get players striking the ball like the Tour players (with this, I mean the proper sound of the club hitting the ball and then the turf) and then turning around to me, with a big smile on their face, and telling me “What a shot”.
What’s the one thing you’d like to teach your kids about golf that will help them through life?
I believe golf is like life, a long path with a lot of obstacles in the journey. You are going to fall down plenty of times and you have to learn to stand up and keep walking. Do it step by step, grind, be resilient and enjoy the journey because that is when you are going to learn about you and your game/life.
Tell us a story about your last non-golf adventure.
Since I was 20, I always had the dream of going on holiday to the Black Forest in southern Germany. Last year, knowing that my kids were getting older, we planned the trip to the Black Forest and the Austrian Alps so we could spend 10 days traveling in a car and living together. It was a fantastic experience that I highly recommend to anyone. It was fantastic to be able to spend some quality time with my wife and children, and we fell in love with the Black Forest and the Austrian landscapes.
JAZMINE COCKTAIL by Daniele Maroni, HeadBar Tender and Drinks & Cocktail Manager at Finca Cortesin.
Jazmine, is one of the signatures drinks at the Blue Bar at Finca Cortesin. It became really popular in Summer 2019, because it is a fresh and fruity cocktail, has a good energy and also it is well balanced.
“Since I was young I use to pick up the raspberries in the garden of my house in the north of Italy, this is one of the reasons why I love them. I am a big fan of high quality premium spirits and fresh and natural flavors.” Says Daniele.
Passion Fruit Puree
Shake well all the ingredients in a shaker and double strain it in a cocktail glass. If you don’t have a shaker, you can mix them in a jug stir it well and serve it with ice.
It’s been busy few years for Finca Cortesin and one of the biggest changes we’ve made has seen us convert our greens to a new, more environmentally-friendly type of Bermuda grass. Taking the decision to become the first venue in Spain to undergo such a process was not one that was taken lightly but the rewards have been clear for all to see.
With Covid-19 having brought play to a temporary halt, we took the opportunity to catch up with the man who led the project, head greenkeeper and course manager Ignacio Soto, to get his thoughts on the work that has taken place and how the changes in working practices are helping to benefit the environment.
Can you give us an outline on the changes that you’ve made over the last three years? Ignacio Soto: We have introduced many new practices to make the golf course more environmentally sustainable and to improve the player experience. Growing new grasses on the greens has resulted in a reduction in the amount of pesticides that we use, a reduction in water usage and has allowed us to use 100 per cent organic fertiliser.
Have there been any obstacles that you’ve encountered with the transformation process? IS: The only obstacle that we’ve faced has been time… unfortunately you cannot do that transformation in 24 hours. It takes time to convert greens and other areas with grasses that are more environmentally friendly. A few years later, we’re now experiencing better quality and increased resource efficiency. This has allowed us to invest time and effort into improving other areas of the course.
How exactly did agronomy services change at the resort e.g. use of fertiliser, watering, type of grass used? IS: All parts of the resort’s agronomy practice are now linked to each other. The right grass species need less water which, in turn, requires less pesticide and less pesticide produces better grass coverage which needs less fertiliser … and so on.
What feedback have you received on the new playing surfaces? IS: The response that we’ve received has been very positive, and we receive numerous compliments regarding the playing surfaces daily.
What were the main motives for making the changes? IS: It was important to make this change as the climate in the south of Spain is ideal for this type of grass and we realised that it was going to benefit the environment and improve the quality of the playing surfaces. At Finca Cortesin, we are determined to be at the forefront of sustainable golf resorts and are the first golf course in the area with this type of grass, and we are sure other golf courses will eventually follow.
In light of the current situation caused by Covid-19, how will the course be affected? Following Government-issued advice from the Ministry of Health regarding Covid-19 and for the health and safety of our members, guests and staff, our golf course is currently closed. However, the maintenance team continues to work hard to ensure the course is the best it’s ever been when golfers return. We are able to use the time to carryout essential work on the greens, while also giving attention to landscaping – including the planting of more native flowers, enhancing native areas and further improving the lake on hole 4. The golf course is looking beautiful and we can’t wait to welcome back golfers as soon as possible.
Watch the process of our greens renovation project in 2017
We do hope you and your loved ones are well, healthy and staying safe. We are thinking of you, looking forward to having the pleasure of welcoming you again soon at our estate!
We have had a lot of enquiries, questions and comments from your side in these unpredictable times and we want to let you know that your safety and well-being is the top priority for us right now. Our team & associates are determined to deliver and maintain the highest standards of cleanliness and hygiene and we offer additional preventative measures, especially with regard to our extensive cleaning & hygiene protocols. We are following Government’s measures and indications in order to prepare our resort for a new reality.
Our main goals have always been sophistication, exclusivity and privacy, hence the architecture, design and interiors of Finca Cortesin give every area a big, bright and spacious feel. We are indeed prepared for the future.
You are invited to visit our journal every now and then to discover what our dedicated team has been working on over the past months. We can’t wait to welcome you back in our haven of peace. Dream now! Travel soon!
Meanwhile, let’s indulge in heartwarming and stress-reducing virtual experiences. Follow our social media channels for our recently installed online yoga classes, Lutz Bösing & Daniele Maroni’s wonderful recipes and much more.
Best wishes & stay healthy.
Javier Rivadulla, Director of Sales & Marketing and Rene Zimmer, General Manager