There are at least twenty top class golf courses laid out like pearls on a necklace along an eighty-mile stretch of the Costa del Sol between Malaga and San Roque. Created in 1975 at the start of the Spanish golf course development boom, Club de Golf Aloha has remained one of Spain’s top tracks for more than forty years and it’s set in the heart of the country’s golfing Mecca.
The well known course architect Javier Arana is credited with the design but Enrique Canales must also take some of the plaudits for a great layout as he actually completed the course due to the untimely death of Arana before Aloha Golf Club opened – the 18 holes had their greens seeded and bunkers had been set out but they were without drainage and sand so Canales finished off the work.
Immaculately maintained, the course has a par of 72 and an overall length of 6,900 yards so don’t believe other course reviews that say Aloha is not a long course – it certainly is off the back markers! Length is not the only factor hindering a good score here – the holes are laid out on hilly, sometimes tight terrain – with several blind approaches to greens. The many multi-tiered putting surfaces will also test your putting to the limit.
The front and back nine both start with a long par five followed by two testing par fours to set the tone for each half of the round. Not one of the four par threes on the course are under 195 yards so a dozen shots on the scorecard at these holes will be very good scoring indeed.
The par four 7th is one of the more interesting - and controversial - holes at Aloha, requiring a blind approach shot to the tiniest green on the course, which sits in a small hollow on the other side of a rise in the fairway. The only long par four on the course arrives at the 18th and this brute of a hole provides a tough finish, as water cuts into the left side of a narrow fairway that leads to an elevated, multi-tiered home green.
The European Tour’s short-lived Andalaucia Open was held between 2007 and 2012 and three of the six events were hosted at Aloha Golf Club. Lee Westwood won the first tournament in 2007 with a twenty under par aggregate of 268 then Thomas Levet claimed the title the following year, posting a total of 272 before beating Oliver Fisher in a play-off. The championship moved to Malaga and Seville for three years before returning to Aloha for a final fling in 2012, when Julien Quesne pipped Matteo Manassero by two strokes to lift the trophy with a seventeen under par score of 271.
The following edited extract is from “The golf courses of Javier Arana” by Alfonso Erhardt Ybarra and is reproduced here with kind permission from the author:
The Club de Golf Aloha in Marbella was built on land owned by the Banco de Bilbao by one of the bank’s executives - who then became the first chairman – José Maria Ibarrondo. In January 1972, Ibarrondo contacted Javier to let him know that the bank had begun to build blocks of flats in the area and wanted to use fifty hectares of rolling terrain to build a pretty, intriguing and challenging course. Javier accepted the engagement gladly and construction started in late 1972 through the engineering firm Ibergolf, headed by Carlos Corsini.
The fifty hectares available for the layout made for a tight fit, but Javier found the way to exploit the strengths of the plot to create an appealing golf course, while accommodating all manner of compromises to work around the property developments that would later be built adjacent to the holes. The absence of water and the location of the course prompted him to resort to an unaccustomed solution: water hazards. He told Carlos Corsini: ‘I have put in a few lakes (they are in vogue) because I don’t trust that little stream.’
To adapt the layout to the difficult terrain – which is very hilly – Javier varied some of the patterns commonly seen in his designs. He used the flatter, more open spaces to create the four par fives, while the four par threes – three of which are over 200 metres long – were used as connective tissue across the steeper areas. Yet there was still not enough space to fit in par fours of the length Javier preferred, so he focused on a type of hole outside his usual repertoire – the short par four of about 300 metres. There are four such holes at Aloha, all of which display Arana’s ability to make players’ lives difficult over a short distance through astute placement of hazards off the tee and careful placement and contouring of the greens.
Aloha boasts a splendid set of greens which Arana designed using detailed drawings prior to construction. The complexity of the greens helps make up for the relatively short yardage of the layout. As in almost all Javier’s designs, there is a mix of tiers (5th, 10th, 13th, 16th, 18th), severe tilt (8th, 11th, 14th) and elaborate internal contours (1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, 9th, 15th). The large size of the greens – several of them are over thirty metres long – emphasises accuracy in approach shots, because at Aloha holing out in two putts is always tricky.
An insightful player realizes from the outset that the course is not really as short as its physical yardage suggests, because the narrow fairways flanked by eucalyptus groves demand that tee shots be well placed if trouble is to be avoided. Leaving one’s driver in the golf bag is generally a prudent choice. At Aloha, careless players are probably penalised more severely than at any other Arana course. None of his other layouts provides such an advantage from properly placing the drive on the way to posting a good score.
When Javier fell seriously ill in late 1974, Enrique Canales took charge of overseeing the completion of the course before its inauguration. Javier Arana’s last course finally opened on 25 October 1975.
If you would like to find out more or purchase “The golf courses of Javier Arana” then click the link.
It was great to be able to return to an old favourite a couple of weeks ago, even if the foggy conditions on the first tee had me thinking I wouldn’t see much for the rest of the round. Thankfully, the murky conditions lifted after a couple of holes and it was sunshine all the way until returning to the 18th, where the fog was still lurking, bizarrely.
The Spanish Ladies Open was played here less than three months ago, the second time in four years that this event has been held at Aloha, so the course’s ability to host such a prestigious event on the Ladies European Tour indicates the high standard to be expected when you tee it up on this course.
Once again, I really liked the quirky three hole stretch between the 7th and 9th on the front nine, where architect Javier Arana somehow managed to shoehorn a couple of short par fours and a par three hole into a very small parcel of land – and the little half way stop behind the 9th green is a great spot to pause before crossing the road for the inward half.
There seems to be a little more room on the longer back nine, which starts with a terrific downhill par five with a split fairway helping to cope with the severe right to left slope in the fairway. I got to play the water-laden downhill 12th which was being renovated when I last visited and this proved to be one of the stronger par fours on the card, despite a rather benign stroke index of 11.
The transition hole that follows is an absolute beast of a par three, played directly uphill to a two-tiered green, and I can only imagine the level of difficulty golfers must face if the wind is blowing in their face on the tee – it was bad enough just having the low-lying sun positioned directly behind the putting surface.
The other par three on the way home arrives at the 17th – an Arana trademark on the scorecard – but this short hole is a lot more conventional, with large greenside bunkers awaiting imprecise tee shots.
After crossing another road, it’s onto the final hole, played downhill from an elevated position to a fairway with a big bunker on the right and a dangerous pond on the left. Avoid these hazards and all that’s left is an uphill approach to the home green which is benched into the hillside beneath the clubhouse.
Boasting a fabulous, recently renovated and redecorated clubhouse and a course that’s carpeted in wall to wall Bermuda with wonderful Arostis greens, Aloha is a really classy place to play and one not to be missed if you find yourself anywhere in the vicinity of Marbella’s Golf Valley.
Aloha was the first place I visited on a quick 6-course tour last week and it set a very high benchmark for the others to follow. Located in Golf Valley, Nueva Andalucía, Aloha is one of the most prestigious private member clubs on the Costa del Sol, with both an outstanding 9-hole par three track and a terrific 18-hole championship layout to match its excellent clubhouse facilities.
This was Javier Arana’s last design, though the course opened shortly after the architect died at the start of 1975. It has hosted the Andalucia Open on the European Tour in recent years and local favourite Azahara Muñoz became the first Spanish winner of the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España Femenino just a few months ago when the LET event was hosted by the club.
I loved this course right from the opening tee shot at the downhill, par five 1st hole which swings purposefully left to a well-bunkered green. I thought the downhill par three 4th rather plain off the tee until I got closer to see the brilliant crescent-shaped internal contours of the green. Similarly, the par five 5th appeared pretty ordinary until arriving at a wonderful three-tiered putting surface gouged into the hillside.
The run from the 7th to the 9th extends to just over 800 metres across really hilly terrain but, somehow, three sumptuous holes – two short par fours with a par three sandwiched in between – are laid out here in a fabulous piece of intimate course routing that would surely never be contemplated by modern day course architects. This trio of holes was by far my favourite stretch in over 100 holes that I came across on my short trip to the Costa del Sol.
On the back nine, I didn’t like the penal greenside bunker that extends to the front right of the putting surface, preventing a running approach to a severely sloping green at the 10th, and the downhill 12th (which was out of play because of ongoing drainage renovations) has little by way of a bail out area on the right for those trying to avoid the pond on the left side of the green.
The uphill par three 13th (rated stroke index 1) is an absolute brute when facing into a headwind to reach its 2-tiered green and the same type of multi-level putting surface comes into play at both the left doglegged 16th and closing 18th, where both greens are also appreciably tilted from back to front.
Aloha certainly surprised me, despite knowing in advance of its prominent position in the Spanish national rankings. I know reviews should concentrate exclusively on the golf course but it would be remiss of me not to mention the clubhouse (which defies gravity to cling onto a hillside overlooking the course) and the fantastic relationship this building has with the opening and closing holes here.
As a complete package, Aloha takes some beating.
My thoughts of the two 5-ball reviews below are that they are a little too glowing – both mention the course having no weak holes, well I think there are a couple which I will mention later. There are some great places around the course and that is obvious on the opening two holes; a par-5 from an elevated tee and then a very short par-4 with another elevated tee but with danger on both sides and a really good hole. Another short par-4 at the 3rd is not so good; there is no-where near enough danger to make it a good short par-4 – this is followed by the weakest par-3 on the course, sorry but just nothing to it….. The 5th is a good looking par-5 that turns to the right and has water all the way down the left side and then the 6th is a strong par-4 and has an opposite dog-leg to the previous hole.
The 7th hole another par-4 under 350 yards and ideally the maximum your tee shot must travel is 250 yards as there is a severe drop to the green here. The par-3 8th has no bunkers but a tricky green that is very fast from left-side – from the tee there are great views towards ‘La Concha’ – ‘Marbella’s Mountain’. The front nine ends with yet another short par-4, which is an ok hole but when you consider that four par-4’s on this half are under 350 yards even from the back tees, it gives too many short irons to the greens.
The back nine is a different story, all good holes and some stand-out holes – the opener is a par-5 with a double fairway, lakes, fountains and some super bunkering protecting the front of the green. Next hole to mention is the 400 yard 12th and it has a great name, ‘Be Careful’ – water left, bunkers on either side of the fairway and a wild olive tree in the middle of the fairway – a very strategic hole, with a particularly pretty green-site.
The 15th hole is one of my favourites; a 400 yard dog-leg to the right, with a right to left sloping fairway that feeds to a bunker – the approach to the green needs a decent carry as there is a small dip just short – this is one of the best designed holes on the course. The 18th hole is very good too – a strong par-4 with water at landing length on the left-side and an uphill approach to a two tiered green – and watch out for the bunker hiding at the back of the green.
The off-course facilities; clubhouse, restaurant, terrace and pro-shop are all very good… My tip for the club would be to try and concentrate on the attention to detail on the course, especially the front nine; if the condition and definition can be perfect, then the concerns mentioned earlier may just be overlooked – worth a visit nevertheless.
My first word would be "Surprise", as this was the 3rd stage of the trip with my Argentine customers. Why is that the word? Because I didn't expect much on the course and my customers reviews said it was just good, but I can say they were very unfair! Before playing the course I went on a site visit and three UK golfers said to me "It is the best in the Marbella area". I can say I was not sure to believe them, but once played I can say they were 100% right!
Upon arrival, the club is as friendly and helpful as you can expect, not only people at the proshop but the guys at the mastercaddie house were very kind in organizing the big group very easy. I was in the last group to tee off and could take some nice images on 1st tee, which as first shot is pretty nice!!! I really liked the course, and so did all my customers, from first hole to the last. Not a single bad hole, greens rolling excellent, some very nice elevation changes and a great golf course, with a lot of holes which will be worth returning and playing it again.
If I have to choose, par 5 6th, par 4 11th, par 4 14th are some of the best, but finishing 18th par 4 is a masterpiece. A pond of the left gives you the option of a layup tee shot but you will then face a +200yds approach shot, but you can dive to the narrowest part of the fairway and have a shorter 2nd shot (which I did!!). I played not good at all, and all the same loved the course. It is a must if you are in the area, close to Puerto Banus and with a very nice terrace to have a paella after golf. If you plan a Costa del Sol trip, include Aloha for sure, you will not be disappointed at all.
If ever there was a hidden Gem on the Costa Del Golf then Aloha is it! Not quite as famous as Valderrama, Finca Cortesin or Sotogrande for example and not quite as obvious as La Cala or Mijas for holiday golf. Aloha is a prestigious and elegant golf club with a course of which the members are rightly proud, the course stands very close comparison with the aforementioned more famous courses. Aloha should make it onto any Connoisseurs golfing itinerary.
This is a demanding member’s golf club that welcomes discerning visitors with open arms to play the beautiful championship course that is expertly routed over dramatic and gently undulating ground. It’s a fine place to play golf. The facilities are faultless and offer you the all round package. A brand new clubhouse opened last year and it has palpable soul and genuinely first class amenities, offering spotless modern facilities and genuine Spanish culinary flare. Stay for dinner after your round, you will enjoy unrivalled hospitality as you sit overlooking the fabulous par 4 18th finishing hole.
The Tour players who have competed in recent European tour events here all love it, and with good reason. It is the perfect blend of classy and warm hospitality that manages to have panache without being pretentious. The walls are adorned with mementos from a rich history of famous patrons, professional golfing greats and tournaments past. When you arrive here you know you are in for a very special treat.
The course has a mature and classic feel to it; each hole has its own setting and is framed by imposing trees. The green complexes are elegant and grand with surfaces that you can see are maintained to a very high standard and can be treacherously rapid in places, though always fair. The course is maintained fastidiously throughout. It is a pleasure to play on. I have not played from better tees in quite some time. They are billiard table flat. The fairways are like carpets and well defined, the bunkers neat, expansive and will happily consume the loose or poorly flighted shot. They bring added definition to the fairways and greens, influencing your strategy and pleasing your eye. The course flows magnificently and each hole brings a new challenge contrasting well with the rest. It is a well balanced journey that leaves you feeling like all parts of your game have been nicely tested and, perhaps, rewarded or punished fairly. It is a subtle challenge and not a ferocious ball eater. It rewards patience and discourages the gung ho.
The Par 5’s are on a grand scale and stately. They invite you to take on the hazards, if you dare and go for a birdie with two well struck shots. They are handsome and enjoyable. The pars 4’s are strategic and full of variety calling for a careful club selection from the tee and a crisply struck shot making from the fairway to get close to the pin. The Par 3’s are a joy to play. They are all long and attractive. 3’s here are well earned.
Picking favourite holes is subjective I know but the standout holes for me are the 1st, the 2nd, the 5th, the 6th, the 8th, the 10th, the 11th, the 12th, the 13th, the 16th, the 17th and the 18th. It is a course where each hole adds to the whole journey however. There are no weak holes, although there are plenty of chances to make a good score if you make the right strategy and pull it off.
I have been lucky to play quite a few of the courses down here now and this club is right up there with the best of them and I would not hesitate to recommend it. I would come back in a heartbeat.
Don’t be surprised then if, if Spain is re ranked in the coming months by the powers that be, to see Aloha, climb up the list and take its rightful place at the top table alongside the titans in the Spanish golfing Mecca that is the Costa del Sol. I think it’s under rated. JCB LAY