It can be quite difficult to establish the requisites that make a golf club great. As with the various course rankings, subjectivity comes into play and there are opinions for all tastes. What is clear, however, is that there are several key elements that help elevate some clubs above others.

The prestige of the course designer, the beauty and presentation of the layout and its surroundings, the quality of the maintenance, the international tournaments it has hosted, the future stars whose careers have been forged in its bosom, the renowned personalities among its members and the global celebrities who have visited the club over the years… these are some of the ingredients that all come together at, for example, Aloha, the Marbella club that launches our special new series on Spain’s finest courses - or, as they say in Spain, “los grandes de España” (“Spain’s aristocrats”).

Nestling in Marbella’s Golf Valley, in the Nueva Andalucía macro-urbanisation behind the famous Puerto Banús marina, Aloha Golf Club, completed by Javier Arana just before his death, was opened in 1975. A parkland-style layout, par-72 and 6,293 metres long, it is situated on undulating terrain dotted with lakes and meanders through picturesque tree groves that provide the course with its impressive scenic beauty, seasoned with spectacular views of the Sierra de La Concha mountain range and Mediterranean Sea. The legendary Arana signature is not only reflected in the splendid layout, but also in his choice of the trees and plants that would populate the course, with the idea that players would be able to enjoy species in bloom at any time of the year.

The course has been the venue for several top international professional tournaments. The first was the Benson and Hedges Trophy in 1989, a mixed competition co-sanctioned by the men’s and women’s European Tours and eventually producing a popular home Spanish triumph by Xonia Wunsch and Miguel Ángel Jiménez.

Aloha also hosted three editions of the Andalucian Open (a European Tour event), as well as a Spanish Women’s Open (on the Ladies European Tour). In the first Andalucian Open, played in 2007, Lee Westwood won with a 20-under-total of 268. The English star set a course record of 64 along the way to victory, which ended his win-less drought and proved to be a turning point in his career - culminating in his rise to the top of the world rankings when he dethroned none other than Tiger Woods two years after his success at Aloha.

In 2008 Frenchman Thomas Levet was victorious at the Marbella club, with a total of 272 after a play-off against Oliver Fisher. The third edition of the Andalucía Open at Aloha was held in 2012, with another French victory, by Julien Quesne, who carded 271.

The 2016 Spanish Women's Open ended with the first Spanish victory in the history of the tournament, appropriately by a locally-born player who grew up close to Aloha, Azahara Muñoz, the Marbella star winning with a 10-under total of 278, one stroke better than American Beth Allen.

Social Life

Apart from a course of unquestionable quality, Aloha is recognised for its vibrant and cosmopolitan social life. The club is private - it has around 1,200 members, representing multiple nationalities, predominantly British, Scandinavian and Spanish - but it is also open to green fee-paying visitors. Among other facilities, it has a gym, outdoor pool, pro shop, golf school and restaurant. Andrés Jiménez, Juanjo Mangas and Iván Mangas offer individual golf classes, in pairs and in groups. On weekends and during the summer months, the children’s academy plays an important role, allowing youngsters to practise their golfing moves on both the driving range and the short nine-hole course, which is ideal for that purpose.

The members’ popular meeting point is in the clubhouse, where a large terrace overlooks the course, as well as in the club’s elegant and comfortable interior rooms, all of which provide an eminently cosy setting that makes it difficult to leave - on the contrary in fact, encouraging you to extend your stay!

An adjoining building is home to the caddy master and changing rooms. Spanish Tour star Gonzalo Fernández Castaño once described the latter as "some of the best dressing rooms on the European Tour", which says everything about their spaciousness (they have a sauna and relaxation room), design, quality and service.

For those wanting to keep fit, the Aloha fitness club offers numerous activities (pilates, yoga, strength training, bike, corebar, outdoor...) as well as a personal trainer. The manager of the fitness club is John Vigdal, a Norwegian national aerobics champion and the winner of other titles worldwide.

An Exceptional Relationship

For club director Juan Álvarez, an agronomist, in addition to the quality of the course, Aloha is also highlighted by the friendliness of the staff. "What has been achieved at this club," he says, "is that everyone feels like a family thanks to the friendly way members are treated and the excellent service offered." In his view, a key role in this respect has been played by the various boards of directors, “which have integrated the staff extremely well, to the extent that they are closely involved and identify with the club. This generates an exceptional atmosphere and relationship between employees and members, and that ultimately is what makes a club great."

This wonderful ambience and personal care and attention is extended to visitors, “all those people who want to get to know Aloha, and are welcomed here with open arms”, says Alvarez.

Regarding the golf course, he notes, “It should not be overlooked that Arana's design has been fully respected, and this maintains the essence of what was originally completed in fine fashion, adding an extremely important caché and distinction to the course.”.

The Aloha director stresses that “Arana’s great design has always been showcased in the European Tour tournaments played here and also in the Spanish Women's Open two years ago.”

He also highlights the fact that every year Aloha hosts one of the oldest pro-ams in Spain, the Andrés Jiménez Memorial (previously known as the Salvador Balbuena Memorial), which has the support and presence of Miguel Ángel Jiménez, "a great and much-loved ambassador for the club, who loves being at Aloha and is very happy here.”  The pro-am is part of the club's history, says Álvarez, "and it is another of the traditional elements that contribute to the club's prestige, which is present in every corner of Aloha”. Memories of Andrés Jiménez are maintained through his son (of the same name), who has been the club professional for many years; while José Luis Mangas also has a prominent place in the club’s history.

Living History at Aloha

If there is one person who could be said to be part of Aloha's living history, it is undoubtedly José Luis Mangas. The professional arrived at the club in the middle of summer 1975, barely two months after its inauguration.

He had been hired to "select and train the staff," he says, and since then he has continued to teach and give classes at Aloha. During those 40-plus years, thousands of golfers have started playing golf or improved their skills under his baton - including such renowned figures as actor Sean Connery and Formula 1 racing champion James Hunt.


“Social work is a hallmark of this club”

The Aloha president is a lawyer from Bilbao, Rafael Fontán, ever-affable and always with a smile on his face. He is, clearly, highly regarded in the club, by both employees and members, who once again demonstrated their confidence in his presidency in 2014 when he was re-elected to a second term.

When asked what, in his opinion, it is that makes the club great, he says, "Aloha is a historic club with many reasons for it to be considered one of the finest in Spain." For example, he explains, "We are a club that has always been committed to promoting golf from childhood. At first, in the early years, this entailed families coming from northern Spain and Madrid and creating very good junior teams."

As for the layout designed by Arana, he observes, "It's a very friendly course, extremely pleasant for amateurs to play, but it can also be set up much tougher, like when we held European Tour events and the top professionals achieved quite reasonable results."

Regarding Aloha's social life, the president says, "The club has a great atmosphere, people use the restaurant a lot - it's always full - and they play a lot of bridge, with frequent championships. Every week we have a Gentlemen's Day and also Ladies' Day, which are a resounding success, completely full, and then they lunch together... It's a club with a wonderful ambience, a very fun club."

Another key aspect of Aloha's club life is its commitment to philanthropic causes. In recognition of its efforts in this respect, a few years ago Marbella Town Hall presented an award to Aloha as the most supportive club, together with Royal Guadalmina Golf Club. "We do a lot of charitable events," says Fontán, "The club cares deeply about people in need. We now host the Concordia and Horizonte Proyecto Hombre championships, and soon the event for children suffering from butterfly skin disease will be held.

"A group of members have created their own foundation, Aloha Care, to help Caritas Diocesana, and its operation is very impressive, with many members contributing funds every month. We also collaborate with nuns from Málaga who help people in need. I feel very proud as president to have these kinds of members with such a public-spirited attitude. Social work is a hallmark of this club."

Over the course of its four decades of existence, internationally renowned celebrities have visited Aloha, and the club has also had such famous members as actor Sean Connery and Formula 1 world champion James Hunt...

Yes, that's true. Don Juan de Borbón (grandfather of the current Spanish monarch) has been here, as well as Prince Edward of England, Prince Klaus of Holland, the Prince of Malaysia... And as for golf professionals, major stars including Seve Ballesteros. The club welcomes people from all over the world with open arms, and we like to hold international events to add a sense of prestige to the club. We are proud to have hosted major European Tour tournaments, from the Andalucian Open to the Spanish Women's Open.

Both on the course and in the clubhouse, major investments have been undertaken in recent years. Are you planning any further renovations of Aloha's facilities in the short term?

The refurbishments we carried out in the clubhouse ended more or less in the cafeteria area, and all the upper part of the club and part of the cafeteria will be revamped this year. We plan to start work in a month and it will be finished for next year. We will then have Aloha ready for the next 40 years - in a formidable position.