RCG Las Brisas is one of the most prestigious golf clubs in Spain and aims to be the private club of choice for those who appreciate an exceptional golf experience. The focus is on excellent service, well-maintained facilities, excellent restaurants and a range of social events and recreational activities worthy of the Club and its members. Alejandro Cuartero Lopetegui is its president and Golf Circus interviewed him to find out more about what it is like to be a member of RCG Las Brisas.
Where are you from originally and how did you become a member of Las Brisas?
I am originally from Madrid and I started playing golf during summers spent in Marbella in the mid-80s. When I came down in early August, I used to look for the competitions being held at the clubs around the area and signed up to play in them. Las Brisas was always my favourite. Over time I improved my game and succeeded in becoming a member here in 2000, when shares were at their best moment. A couple of years later my wife joined and she is the one who really introduced me into the world of golf.
It is a source of pride being a member of such a prestigious club, but being president is a big responsibility. What made you want to be president?
I had been on management boards of the Club in the years we were refurbishing the course, but I could only stay in Marbella for short periods over the holidays. Once my working life gave way to a calmer phase and I found a house in Marbella to spend longer periods of time here, I thought it was the right moment to pay Las Brisas back with my work and dedication, and hopefully make a good job of it. I felt I owed the Club a debt of gratitude for all the good times I’ve spent here mixing in the company of members from all over the world. As you rightly say, it’s a source of pride and at the same time a great responsibility; Las Brisas has a well-deserved reputation as an excellent golf club, and we must ensure we stay up there as a benchmark for other clubs. We have got to keep making sure that our members enjoy each and every time they play and receive compliments from the guests they invite here from time to time.
There is a lot of change going on in the world at the moment because of what’s been happening; how does that affect the management of a private club?
What has been happening during the current pandemic has made a lot of people think about their personal priorities and search for a better work-life balance. Outdoor sport in the setting of RCG Las Brisas, which is at once a botanical garden with trees from all over the world plus a fantastic design by Robert Trent Jones updated by Kyle Philips, is attractive to increasing numbers of younger members from many countries. In 2020 Las Brisas broke its record for new members, despite other golf courses having a pretty tough time.
What innovations, changes and investments are planned in both the club and on the course on your watch?
We ought to be working on two levels. On the one hand, we still need to refurbish the driving range and the short game practice area. Those improvements couldn’t be carried out when the rest of the course was being renovated, and in a few months we hope to present an attractive project design to the members for their approval.
On the other hand, a club’s quality is defined by its attention to detail, which we need to constantly be on top of. From keeping the tees, fairways, greens and roughs in perfect condition and running a catering service that meets our members’ needs, through to organising competitions and social events which are such an important part of the life of a club. To achieve this, we’ve just put together a survey where members can give us their opinion about what the Club offers and any improvements or new initiatives they’d like to see. It will be a particularly important tool to help us improve on all levels.
International championships have been held on the RCG Las Brisas course, such as the 1972 World Cup. In fact, we heard that the club was in the running to host the Solheim Cup which will be held in Spain in 2023. Is that right?
That’s right. We were in talks with the Solheim organisers and we had received all kinds of thumbs-ups from the European Tour technical experts, who felt our course was perfectly suited to holding the event. However, the process couldn’t be finished and, in the end, the Solheim organisers opted for Finca Cortesín, as we all know.
In the end, the Solheim will take place at Finca Cortesín, but is the possibility of hosting a renowned championship in the short or medium term on the club’s roadmap?
It is something I would not rule out, but it would need to be put to the members to decide. The members are proudly protective of their course and their Club. We need to find formulas that blend safeguarding the Club’s facilities with making it available to a large influx of spectators. I feel Marbella is working very hard to be at the forefront of world golf once again, and, without doubt, Las Brisas is an icon.
RCG Las Brisas is currently a members’ club, but is it admitting new members? Does the club have tee-times for players who aren’t members?
Our Club is made up of just over 1,100 members of some 30 nationalities. We are still very appealing and proof of this is the renewal rate we have been seeing in recent years. Last year 69 new members joined and this year we are on the way to repeating those numbers. The Club is not aiming to grow the membership; we want existing members to still be able to enjoy the course and its facilities to the full. There is a certain seasonality in the use of the course that allows us to hold some competitions in the summer months which are open to federated non-members of the Club, but members always have priority.
If you had to explain the concept of being a member of RCG Las Brisas, how would you describe it?
I think what best defines the membership of RCG Las Brisas is that we are people who value the perfect combination and harmony. Las Brisas is a challenging course to play and, when you finish your round, you are already thinking about going out again and doing better. And all this in an ideal natural setting, with trees from every continent, an exclusive and friendly social atmosphere and an outdoor terrace that cannot be beaten for its views and charm.
We know that the club’s membership profile is very varied in terms of nationalities; what is the rough percentage breakdown of each of them?
We currently have members from 29 nationalities. Recently many new members have come from the Nordic countries, which brings the Swedish, Danish, Finnish and Norwegian contingent up to 30% of the total. Traditionally British members have been the largest group but now they make up 20% and there are also 10% Irish. The other nationalities are represented to a lesser extent, the Spanish being 11% of the total. This diversity, far from being a difficulty, is a great asset to Las Brisas since contact between members is a richly rewarding experience. Distances have shortened a lot and any member can take advantage of a spell of bad weather in their home country to escape and come and enjoy the wonderful climate at our Club.
What does such a prestigious club need to do to keep evolving and adapting to new trends, and so attract future members?
What really draws in new members is the positive word of mouth of our existing members. If you invite a friend to play, it is highly likely that you are sowing a seed in them that, as soon as they are in a position to do so, encourages them to apply to join the Club. We have a cluster of distinguished members who are European professionals who have had success on the circuit, and some continue to do so; proof that this is a course for all levels of play. This also drives us to constantly better every detail and keep this the most enjoyable and challenging course at an amateur level in Spain, as such a noteworthy club member as Gonzaga Escauriaza, our president of the national golf federation, has acknowledged to me.