Aloha Golf Club in Marbella, Spain, home to the last course designed by architect Javier Arana, has hired Lobb + Partners for a greens project.
Construction will start in April and is scheduled to finish in July, with the course reopening in stages during August and September. All eighteen greens will be rebuilt in a single phase with TeeOne bentgrass, which has been grown in an offsite nursery.
Arana designed only ten courses during his 30-year career as a golf architect. He was hired to build the Aloha course in 1972, with construction starting 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 course’s greens have been a challenge for some years; half of them slope at more than five per cent, which makes playability difficult when they are cut at modern heights. Luis Cornejo of Surtec Golf Agronomy, 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 millimetres and had a Stimpmeter reading of 6.5. According to Alfonso Erhardt, author of ‘The Golf Courses of Javier Arana’, the architect drew detailed plans of the greens, but there is 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. “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 greens will also be constructed as part of the project and the surrounding area will be altered slightly to create a better arrival environment. Contractor CJW Golf will carry out the work. “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 club chairman Rod Spinks.
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 50th 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.”