In the game of golf, patience is key. As golfer Gary Player once said, “A good golfer has the determination to win and the patience to wait for the breaks.” Well, the Des Moines Golf and Country Club has been a good player and patient enough to wait for a big break. After a long bidding and preparation process, it’s preparing to host the 2017 Solheim Cup August 14-20.
The Solheim Cup is a biennial competition between the best players of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and the best players of the Ladies European Tour (LET). The competition is hosted alternately by cities in Europe and in the U.S., and this year the event will be played on the courses of the Des Moines Golf and Country Club. They have the distinction of being the first 36-hole facility to host the international event, which means that both the Cup and the Junior Cup will be played on site.
According to Jim Cutter, General Manager and Chief Operating Officer, the bidding process began in the fall of 2011, when the club reached out to the LPGA. Members from the LPGA visited the course in 2012, and then the club submitted a formal proposal in September 2012.
“We worked with the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, as well as the Greater Des Moines Partnership, to put the proposal together,” said Cutter. “We had to submit details about everything from the size of their locker rooms, power availability, phones, acres of the course—everything you can imagine about the course and the area, including the clubhouse, hotel rooms, flights, access to airports, highways, and average temperatures over the last five years,” said Cutter.
They were in competition with eight other clubs across the country, and then it was pared down to three. They learned they would host the event in the summer of 2013, and they’ve been preparing ever since. “It started so long ago, and now we’re only 129 days away [at the time of the interview]. It’s kind of unbelievable,” said Cutter.
ITA Group, headquartered in Des Moines, played a big part in putting the proposal together. Since then, the LPGA has asked to use their proposal as a model going forward.
This isn’t the club’s first rodeo, however. In 1999, the club hosted the Men’s Senior Tour. “The crowd we attracted is still the record for that event,” said Cutter. With the Solheim Cup, they wanted to bring golf back to the forefront, and it was an opportunity to showcase not only the club, but all of Des Moines. “It’s one of the reasons we had buy-in and support from the Partnership and the Bureau,” said Cutter.
The preparations are well underway. The course has undergone renovations in the last four years; they were scheduled regardless of the tournament, but they enhance the course nonetheless. “We’ve renovated bunkers, tees and greens. The course was ready for the tournament as it was, but now it’s even better,” explained Cutter.
They’re now in the process of building out the bleachers and corporate pavilions. The buildout will eventually interfere with normal use of the course, but for now, the course is open to members and other players who want to play.
Hosting the Cup is no small feat, as they expect the event to draw 175,000 to 200,000 visitors to the Des Moines area over the week. Over half of those visitors will come from outside the state of Iowa, and at least 10,000 will come from Europe. The estimated local impact is $75 million, meaning Des Moines businesses will see the benefit of all of these visitors. According to Cutter, that figure includes restaurants, hotels, shopping, concessions, entertainment and everything that comes along with a visit to Des Moines.
The Club is not alone in its preparations. Major corporations around Des Moines will be sponsoring the event, including DuPont, Rolex, and of course, PING. “There are a myriad of other corporations that are helping put on the event,” said Cutter.
Far from the quiet golf competitions we see on TV, with narrators speaking in hushed tones, quietly awaiting the swing, the Solheim Cup is a little different. In fact, Michael Whan, the LPGA commissioner, commented about treating this game more like a football game than a golf game in a recent interview. They expect to see cheering, yelling, face paint and flags waving as fans cheer on their teams.
The reason? Unlike the tournament at Augusta, where they count every stroke, this is match play, where 12 of the best Americans and 12 of the best Europeans play matches,” explained Cutter. The first day, there are four matches in the morning and in the afternoon. Matches can end before the 18th hole. “Many matches don’t get to the 18th hole, so we want to make sure we start them off right at the tee,” said Cutter. “Fans are free to sing, yell, wave and support in any way they see fit.”
“Because we have 36 holes, we’re the first club to host the regular and the junior competition on the same property,” said Cutter. In years past, the Junior Cup was played at a different course. The junior competition will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday of the same week. The Junior Cup features some of the best players in the 13-18 age range from the U.S. and Europe.
If you’re thinking about attending the event, tickets can be purchased at solheimcupusa.com. There’s also the opportunity to volunteer, although that chance doesn’t come for free. However, for the fee and a few hours of their time, volunteers get a ticket to the event for the day, a uniform (which includes a shirt, slacks or shorts, a rain cover of some kind, and a hat) and a meal during their shift. Not to mention, you get behind-the-scenes exposure to the competition. More than 2,000 volunteers are needed to rake bunkers, carry scorecards, help in the media tent and a help with a wide variety of other tasks.
For more information about volunteering, visit dmgcc.org.