Sonja Gschwendtner, Club Manager at Zala Springs Golf Resort, Hungary, talks about how the resort has fared over the last 18 months and how it is playing a leading role in developing junior golf in the region
After a difficult 2020 for golf resorts globally, how quickly has Zala Springs been able to bounce back since Covid-19 lockdown restrictions have eased across Europe?
We’ve been really busy this summer and we’re extremely pleased about that. Once the lockdown ended and borders re-opened we saw a significant increase in the number of international guests booking to stay with us. Since then, we also had the opportunity to host the Hungarian Open Championship. which was a successful event and brought more international players to Zala Springs.
Even during the lockdown periods we never really stopped working and thinking of ways to continue to push the business forward. Our team works daily with IMG and together we continued to spread the news about Zala Springs and think about new strategies. We also had the pleasure to host a media trip in October, with most of the journalists coming from Germany, which is a huge market for us.
Zala Springs recently opened a new Spa & Wellness Centre within the resort. How has that been received by golfers?
Our owners have been planning to add a new leisure facility to the resort for several years and we were all happy to finally be able to open our spa after such a challenging year. Even though golf continues to be one of the main focuses for our business, thanks to the wellness centre we can offer everything inside the same property: world-class golf, gourmet cuisine, fantastic accommodation, real estate investment opportunities, and now a luxury spa.
Golfers love the new spa facilities, and it is definitely a plus for us as they use it regularly either before or after their rounds. Our new gin & tonic bar, which is located within the spa, is also proving to be very popular amongst guests, members and residents.
The resort hosted a junior golf camp this summer. What is included in the programme and from which areas do most of the children come from?
The Junior Camp has been a great addition to our Golf Academy summer schedule and we see kids coming mainly from the local area and Budapest. At present, Hungary has only around 2,000 registered players, so we really want to contribute to developing the game here. We offer different options to parents and one of them is that kids can join the Junior Camp and spend the day learning about golf, while adults can stay with us and enjoy the different parts of the resort. The Zala Springs Junior Camp is in English, offering kids a great platform not only to learn golf, but also to develop their language skills. As part of the programme we also teach them about the basics of golf operations and greenkeeping so they can understand more about the golf club general business. At the end of the course they also receive a special buggy driving license!
One of the biggest news around the Junior Camp this year was that thanks to your partnership with IMG, kids had the option to also register for a junior programme at the IMG Academy in Florida. Do you feel that brought an extra motivation for all kids visiting Zala Springs this summer?
The special access to the IMG Academy in Florida is definitely a massive opportunity for kids who want to improve their skills and invest in their future in golf, especially when you see players like Nelly Korda, who is an IMG Academy alumni, winning the gold medal at the Olympic Games a few weeks ago and becoming the no.1 ranked women’s golfer. We had a lot of interest about this opportunity, although many parents are still slightly worried with the current global situation. But we’re confident that in future and once things improve, we’ll see more kids from Zala Springs and Hungary attending these special golf camps in Bradenton. We’ll continue to do all we can to develop Hungarian juniors and help them achieve great successes in their future golfing careers.