Aloha Golf Club in Marbella, Spain, the last course designed by the legendary architect Javier Arana, has hired Lobb + Partners for a major greens rebuilding project. Construction work will start in April and is scheduled to finish in July, with a staged reopening of the course expected during August and September. All eighteen greens will be rebuilt in a single phase of work with TeeOne bentgrass laid – the turf has already been grown in an offsite nursery.
Arana produced only ten courses during his thirty year career as a golf architect. He was hired to build the Aloha course in 1972, at the age of 67, and construction started that year. He last visited the course in May 1974, at which point seeding of the greens had not yet started, because of a shortage of water to grow them in. Arana died in January 1975 and never saw the course completed; it opened that October.
The Aloha club is very proud of its heritage and its status as the last project of Spain’s greatest designer. But the course’s greens have been a challenge for some years: half of them slope at more than five per cent, an untenable level of pitch at modern heights of cut. Agronomist Luis Cornejo of Surtec, who will serve as project manager and agronomist for the rebuild, says that when the course opened, the greens were typically cut at 5.5 mm and stimped at six and a half feet. According to Alfonso Erhardt, author of ‘The Golf Courses of Javier Arana’, the architect drew detailed plans of the greens. There is, however, some debate as to how precisely the final surfaces reflected his intent as he died before opening and several of them have been reworked in the intervening years.
“When we were first invited to review plans for this ambitious eighteen hole green rebuild last spring we were very impressed with the club’s planning and vision for the project,” said Tim Lobb, principal of Lobb + Partners. “The course is set in a rolling and striking Andalusian landscape and the Arana strategic diversity on the greens was evident from the onset with a variety of steps, tilts and internal contours providing challenge and interest to the golfing experience. But at modern day green speeds, the slopes are just too steep, so our aim is to soften them while retaining their strategic intent. I particularly like the way the greens are segmented into different zones with noses, tiers and low/high spots creating dividers, which we will emphasise in the revised surfaces and pinnable locations.
New and enlarged practice putting greens will also be constructed as part of the project and the area surrounding this slightly rejigged to create a better starting/arrival environment. British-based firm and EIGCA Bronze Partner, CJW Golf, will carry out the build, and Luis Cornejo of Surtec will provide agronomic advice and project management. “The club has prepared carefully for this major project over the past few years and we have a world class team in place to execute the works as well as our highly motivated and passionate team at Aloha Golf Club,” said Rod Spinks, chairman of the course.
Club president Rafael Fontán Zubizarreta said: “This will be the largest course project undertaken by the club in our history, and is an important part of the preparations for our fiftieth anniversary, which we will celebrate in 2025. We are thrilled to be working with such a strong team, and we are especially pleased that Tim Lobb has shown such a commitment to retaining the strategies set out by Javier Arana in his original design.”