“These golf tournaments seek to attract a new kind of tourist,” Jose Tobar, general manager of Varadero Golf Club, told Oncuba during the celebration of the seventh Cuba Golf Grand Tournament held in Varadero, Matanzas, some 80 miles east of Havana.
This year the tournament was attended by 72 golfers from eight countries, which is a new record of participation.
“Although the tournament was held after Easter, many people came, proving that golf does attract tourists. Both Cubans and foreigners have a growing interest in this sport,” said Tobar.
The event was attended mainly by golfers from Canada and Cuba, but there were also players from Uruguay, Colombia, Belgium, Chile, Puerto Rico and three Americans who live in Cuba.
This time the winner was Cuban Sergio Curbelo, while Alexei Castellanos, another Cuban player, was the revelation of the tournament. Although Castellanos had the lowest handicap of all the players, he was able to achieve the best gross score (total score without adjustments) in the competition.
“I hadn’t practiced for over a year, but things went well,” Castellanos told the press at the Varadero Golf Club, the only 18-hole course in the country.
This young man, who has been playing golf since he was twelve, thinks it would be important to found a Cuban federation to represent the country in international competitions.
Among the women the winner was Cuban Annia Blanco. Canadian Ken Clark won in Category Two.
Tobar said that many of these golfers have participated in the tournament more than once. “The event is part of their vacation scheme. Some of them come back later in the year to play here,” he added.
The Varadero Golf Club course includes plenty of obstacles which can be a challenge for competitors of all categories, as demonstrated by the five previous Montecristo Cups, which anteceded the Cuba Golf Grand Tournament.
The facility gained international recognition in 1999, when it hosted the Grand Final of the European Challenge Tour, one of the major tournaments in the world.
Golf is an integral part of high level tourism, and Cuba has therefore been working on a development strategy for this sport for several years. For many tourists, access to a high quality golf course is a determining factor when choosing a holiday destination.
Unlike many other Caribbean countries, Cuba only has one quality golf course at the time. In this connection, the general manager of the Varadero Golf Club noted that an investment program is currently underway to build more of these facilities.
The newly created La Carbonera Construction Company will take on the development of golf courses. La Carbonera is a joint venture between the Palmares Group and UK’s Esencia Hotels & Resorts.
“The Carbonera Golf & Country Club will be the first Golf Resorts in Cuba,” said Andrew Macdonald, CEO of Esencia Hotels & Resorts and Havana Holdings, a few months ago, “and we believe there is potential to develop many 6-star resorts throughout the island.”