Property investment: Fairways to Heaven

Posted on: 17 August 2010 by Mark O'haire

Luxury tee-and-green real estate is synonymous with the world’s elite golfing Meccas. But now a new breed of resort courses is challenging the fairway status quo. Laura Henderson reports.

Rank outsider Louis Oosthuizen’s seven-stroke victory at the St Andrews Open is an inspiring testament to the potential of new blood; a ‘next generation’ shake-up that is currently also being played out in the competitive world of golf real estate. The last two decades have seen stellar growth in the take up of the sport, with an estimated 56m players worldwide and predictions of a further tenfold increase in numbers over the next five years. Property developers, not surprisingly, are tapping into this investor pool, intent not only on meeting course design challenges, but also in harnessing new ways to promote luxury greenside living.

“Golfers represent an enticing marketing demographic,” explains sports branding expert Michael White, “with a growing percentage of younger, affluent players hitting the greens and adding a hip, youthful spin to what has traditionally been silver market territory.”

"Golf property also provides a double whammy of financial yields and pleasure,” adds Steven Taylor of Premier Resorts, “although investors these days expect more than just the course, with a new breed of golf-centric second-home locations offering enticing ancillary benefits to would-be owners.”

So where are the new places to stay and play? 

South Africa

Already a hands-on course designer, Jack Nicklaus has wisely encouraged South Africa to flex its golf prowess as a contender to US and European hotspots like Florida, the UK and Portugal. Stretching from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, the Garden Route’s emerald circuit of courses such as Goose Valley and Pinnacle Point is pooling new investors keen to sample an alternative golf experience.

Head to the eastern head of Knysna and Pezula Resort has notched up celebrity buy-in from sporting legends such as Roger Federer and British Open champion Nick Price. Perched on a cliff top with stunning views of the Indian Ocean, the resort’s par 72, Scottish links style course offers breathtaking views over Knynsa Lagoon with dramatic holes built in breach of the cliffs. The community centrepiece is a five-star hotel-with spa, gym, sauna and steam room, designed with an emphasis on environmental sustainability. Property is low-density build, covering just 15 per cent of the estate. ‘Plot and plan’ lots range between 2,500sqm and 10,000sqm and start from just £145,000. 

Investment Tips

  • Don’t buy too near the fairway. You want views, but not if it means being woken up by a dawn chorus of lawnmowers. Take note of the width of the greens and the distance of the houses from the tee boxes. Play the course to see where the balls land and golfers congregate.   
  • Play a resort course several times – it has to be sufficiently challenging to hold your interest in the years to come. Find out if there are plans to change the course layout or expand facilities and check if owners get reciprocal privileges at neighbouring courses.
  • Get to know fellow residents before signing on the dotted line. If you don’t click with your neighbours, you may find your holiday social life distinctly under par. Make sure there are sufficient leisure attractions to keep non-golfing family members occupied.
  • Fee structures vary from resort to resort, so check the small print. Common extras include community and service charges, club membership fees, social fees and joining fees. Some resorts throw in golf membership for a fixed period, others, it’s a pay-as-you-go set-up.
  • Rental income is a great way to offset the costs of a second home, but be realistic about how many months of the year you can feasibly do this for. If you’re planning to rent your home during peak season, you’ll have to consider alternate ‘shoulder periods’ for your own use.
  • Deed restrictions are notoriously strict in golf communities, so make sure you fully understand the rules – these will likely cover everything from your property’s hedge height to barbecue curfew times. The same applies to golf course protocol. Is it open year-round? Do guests have to pay to use? Rules are there to help maintain the value of your property, but you need to be able to live with them..

One-hour’s drive from Cape Town, Arabella Country Estate in Sandtown Bay, has the unique distinction of being located next to protected wetlands as well as being one of the world’s few remaining roaming grounds for wild horses. A classic 18-hole Peter Matkovich Championship golf course complements the windswept scenery. Wending its way through indigenous fynbos, the course is ranked by SA Golfer magazine as South Africa’s number two. Spectacular split-level designer homes feature organic marble, sandstone and slate with expansive roof areas, private pools and gardens. Three-bed fairway villas with private pool, golf and spa membership are selling for £300,000 with Eagle Eye.


If you’re fond of fairway living but fancy a little exotica, then Morocco could prove just the ticket. Now a respectable national pastime, golf has the royal seal of approval thanks to the legacy left by the late King Hassan II-a cluster of five-star courses designed by golfing luminaries such as Cabell Robinson and Robert Trent Jones, including the tough but subtle Amelkis with its long par 3’s and trodden red earth bunkers, Winston Churchill favourite The Marrakech Royal located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains and the striking 77 hectare La Palmeraie course with new lakeside nine holes.

Despite the city’s proximity to one of the largest deserts in the word (Sahara), the water table is high and the geography is surprisingly verdant, something that can take first time visitors by surprise. “Plans are afoot for at least five more courses,” explains Faical Alaoui of the National Tourist Board. “Projections are based not only on growing demand but water consumption and the area’s ability to deal with this comfortably.”

Just 8 kilometres from Marrakech airport, one of the newest resorts proving a hit with UK buyers is Samanah Country Club; the community centrepiece - a stunning 18-hole course designed by Nicklaus Design, which takes up 100 of the 300-hectare total land area, with an additional 7 hectare practice range and 1.5 hectare pitch and putt course, built to the same exacting standards as the main course. Spacious one-bed apartments start from £105,000, three-bed villas with private pool from £308,000, rising to a cool £2m for a stately seven-bed Riad with rooftop terrace. Prices include fixtures and fittings, landscaped gardens and garage/private parking. Owners can custom-design interiors with help from top design consultants, while a concierge team takes care of your every Moorish whim.

“The combination of unlimited access to a well-designed course and a temperate year round climate makes Marrakech an attractive second-home location for golfers,” explains property owner Hugh Hamilton Andrews. “Access to the course is only available to property owners, tenants and hotel guests. That in itself has huge appeal, because you have a ready-made community of golf partners to tap into, many of whom are regulars.” While the course is designed for more experienced golfers, it’s still possible for beginners and intermediates to enjoy the facilities, with the Leadbetter Academy, practice range and 9-hole chip and putt. “Intermediate golfers can also access the main course from the forward tees,” adds Andrews. 


Not so long ago, weedy fairways and weathered greens epitomised country golf Sardinian style. But these days, a concerted national push for four-season tourism on this sun-kissed Italian isle, has moved the game out of the municipal dark ages and into the golf-rich league; fair-weather locations, (many of which are coastal), which stretch the season by several months, offering a choice portfolio of picture-postcard courses with a combined domestic and overseas audience now topping half a million players and rising.

“Sardinia has a promising golf career ahead of it,” says Janet Veillon of House Around Sardinia. A sizeable percentage of development is affiliated to recreational property, with upwards of 10 per cent capital appreciation in golf-centric locations like Pula on the south coast, Il Pevero on the Costa Esmeralda and Arenas, north of Oristano on the west coast. You can also get your clubs swinging at Club Golf Villasimius in the south east and in Marana, Sassari and San Theodoro.

“Property prices are competitive,” confirms Veillon, “with a choice of budget airlines and few barriers to foreign ownership, all of which smoothes the way for inward investment.” Immersed in the green surroundings of Mediterranean Macchia near the lively seaside town of Pula on the south coast, lies Is Molas Golf Resort. Nestling at the foot of a granite hill close to Cagliari airport, 200 luxury villas and a centrepiece 5-star hotel with beach club, restaurants and spa are topped by one of Italy’s best tournament courses. Boasting a high profile competition schedule offering 45 holes in a 400-hectare park, the new 18-hole signature course designed by Gary Player sports panoramic mountain and sea views. House Around Sardinia has a spacious two-bed, two-bath luxury villa with garden bordering the resort’s golf course for £550,000.

By Laura Henderson

Property journalist, columnist and author

Laura is a UK-based property journalist and author specialising in domestic and overseas markets. A regular contributor to the Financial Times, Sunday Express, Daily Telegraph and Homes Overseas magazine, she also edits a monthly property column for the Scotsman newspaper and is the author of several on-line investor guides for among others, Channel 4 Homes.

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