Interview with Javier Reviriego - CEO of Valderrama
Javier Reviriego has a degree in Business Administration from Florida A& M University, an MBA Hospitality & Club Management from Florida State University and also holds an MBA in Sports Management from the University of Barcelona. After a period of training at Seminole Country Club in Florida and several years as Head Pro at Real Club de Golf Sotogrande, he was appointed managing director of Fuerteventura Golf Resort in 2004. In 2006 he was headhunted to lead the start-up of Finca Cortesin Hotel, Golf & Spa and in July 2011 he joined Real Club Valderrama as CEO. Javier was kind enough to host us at Valderrama, home of the 1997 Ryder Cup, and we discussed many interesting aspects of his activity and career.
What motivated you to focus your professional activity to the golf industry?
Golf has been my hobby and passion from an early age. I had the great fortune to attend a university in the United States on a golf scholarship and after an attempt to devote to professional golf, I had a very clear vision that I wanted to focus my career on the management of golf related companies. I consider myself to be very privileged because I work in something I truly love.
In your opinion, what are the main differences between the golf industry in the US versus Spain or Europe?
I believe there are almost thirty million golfers in the United States so the size of the industry is just tremendous. It is simply not comparable to Spain or even Continental Europe. The basic management principles are very similar in both countries but the size of the US market is so large that there are many tools for potential managers to train and start a career in the industry. I think that in recent years, the golf industry in Europe has become more professional and manager sin general are better prepared. The CMAE (Club Managers Association of Europe) is doing a great job in providing education to young managers that are seeking a career in the golf business.
Personally I try to be very up to date with everything that happens in the business and every year I attend the Golf Conference organized by the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA).
Valderrama is full of golf history. How much influence do you think this has when a potential client decides to visit your golf course?
Creating such a recognized brand as Valderrama is very difficult. It is only achieved with a constant commitment to quality and excellence at all levels. Obviously, hosting major events plays a significant role in the recognition of the brand and it certainly helps to promote and sell the “product”.
Golfers are very attracted to playing a course that they have seen on TV hundreds of times; there is no doubt about this. At the same time, the pressure to exceed the expectations of customers is very high. Everyone expects a golf course in immaculate condition and excellent service by the staff. It is very easy to lose the good image of your club if you do not maintain high standards on a consistent basis. ln fact, I firmly believe that the market will ultimately “strike you” if you do not exceed the expectations of your visitors.
You have recently completed a three year golf course renovation project in which you have invested over €3 Million, What would you highlight from this large project?
There are many features to highlight. We have invested significant time and resources to improve a golf course that was already a global benchmark in quality and maintenance.
I would definitely say that the renovation of the irrigation system has been essential for us; in recent years were having many problems with the irrigation and we had to invest significant resources in staff to address the issues. We are now confident that our irrigation is absolutely controlled and we can present the course in perfect condition throughout the year. Logically, energy saving and optimization of water consumption also add much value to the project.
Within the project, I would also highlight the work we have carried out on the tees. They have all been laser leveled, oriented and sodded with Agrostis turf. I think we’ve taken a big leap in quality with this investment; not only from the aesthetic point of view, also in the “playability” and maintenance quality. We are especially proud of this part of the project because it has been fully implemented by our team, led by Adolfo Ramos, head Superintendent at Real Club Valderrama.
I also believe that we made a very good decision when we decided to completely rebuild and redesign our practice areas. I sincerely think that they were not up to same standards of the golf course and with the new changes we can say we have one of the best practice areas in the world. Kyle Philips has really helped us in the design. He provided a modern and professional vision of how we should direct the changes. With the short game area and the “target greens” our aim has been to recreate the experience the player will have on the course and I think we succeeded.
A perhaps less known aspect of Valderrama is your real concern for the surrounding environment, not in vain, you are one of the few golf courses in Europe that has the Audubon Certification. What are your challenges in environmental management?
Valderrama’s environmental commitment goes way back. In our industry, Valderrama has always been associated with good work in this area. We maintain a strict policy of care and management of our fauna and flora. We are constantly looking for ways to become more efficient in our maintenance without affecting our commitment to the Environment; it is definitely a challenge and it will not get any easier. I have no doubt that the use of chemicals on the golf courses will get more difficult every year.
You lead the club that is considered the best in Europe. Even so, the economic crisis of recent years has led to a change in the number of new customers, specific visitors, customers of the pro-shop, etc.?
I think clubs such as Valderrama are less exposed to the ups and downs of the market and to “price wars”. We are a private members club that allows a limited number of visitors each day. Therefore we are not as dependent on Green Fee sales as other courses in the area.
The last three years have been very good for us, we have found the right balance between member and visitor play and this has allowed us to generate substantial profit that we have reinvested on the course.
There is still a large percentage of clients who put quality and service in front of price when selecting their golf holidays. I sincerely think that this will never change and clubs like Valderrama should focus their business to such clients and offer the best possible experience.
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