Rupert Wright investigates property on golf courses in Spain and France
A home on a golf course could be a good buy, whether you love or loathe the game.
Rupert Wright, Sunday Times, July 2003
Hamish Thorpe is a happy man. He has just bought a house on a golf course in Portugal. The 50-year-old insurance broker enthuses about the landscape, the rentability of his house – agents can guarantee him a minimum 20 weeks a year rental income – and the security. “I lock the door when I leave and the developers look after everything,” he says. There’s just one thing that puzzles his friends.
Thorpe bought the three-bedroom villa with pool in Pestana Golf Resort in Carvoeira, on the Algarve, for £337,000, but he does not play golf or even watch it on television. So does he plan to start? “You must be joking,” he says. “I’m with Mark Twain. Golf is a good walk spoilt.” Thorpe is one of a number of investors who have been attracted to the idea of buying abroad on a golf course, even if they don’t play the game. They like the infrastructure and the lushly watered landscape of the fairways, and there is another attraction that is often overlooked.
“In places such as the Costa del Sol, buying on a golf course guarantees your view is not going to be spoilt,” says Mark Stucklin, director of Spanish Property Insight. “Everywhere else there’s a good chance that sooner or later a block of flats will spring up to ruin your view.”
For many people retiring to the sunshine, a golf-course development can provide them with an immediate like-minded community. It helps if you play golf, for there will be competitions and the chance to drink pink gin together in the clubhouse. But even if you think a bunker is just a good place to shelter in the event of a nuclear attack, it’s worth looking at the advantages of golf-course living. The development will be managed, it will be safe and if something breaks in the house, the management company will fix it, for a fee, and they can organise cleaners and builders. They will even rent it out for you when you don’t want to use it.
A toil round the golf courses of Spain and southern France came up with the following three “best buys”, aimed principally at golfers, but also for people such as Thorpe, who think a wedge is just a lump of cheese:
Monte Mayor, Costa del Sol
Much of the development of the Costa del Sol is ghastly. Many of the people you encounter at Marbella airport are unspeakable. There are at least 30 golf courses, with more under construction, but most are crowded and expensive. With coastal development saturated, the smart money is increasingly heading towards the hills. Still within striking distance of the beach at Playabella is the course of Monte Mayor. Designed by Pepe Gancedo, a Spaniard renowned for working in unusual terrain, this is one of the most beautiful courses you will play.
Development of Monte Mayor is just taking off, with houses beginning to pepper the skyline. They offer stunning views of the course and beyond to the sea. Prices start from around £142,000 for a building plot of 2,005sq m. Stick a house on, and the price more than doubles.
La Perla Living, a Dutch company, runs the development and will sell you the land, or build and manage your house for you.
According to Lawrence Maeck, sales director at Monte Mayor, the company is lining the estate with pavements of Portuguese marble, where other developers would probably use concrete. The same attention to detail is applied to the houses, with reclaimed roof tiles and antique doors recovered from ruins. As well as the homes alongside the fairways there will be town houses, starting at £278,000, as well as farmhouses built in the countryside.
“Monte Mayor is the place for people who are mad about golf,” says Maeck. “But we are also taking care of people who don’t want to play golf every day, and of spouses who don’t play at all. We are building an equestrian centre, a fishing lake and lodge, tennis courts and health spa.”
There is another benefit. From the beginning of next year, Monte Mayor will be one of only two private courses on the Costa del Sol. If you want to play the course you have to own a house, or at least have a friend with a property. Lifetime membership costs a one-off £2,070, and an annual subscription of £864. This entitles members to 50 rounds per year for their guests. Maeck thinks this will make the course more exclusive and the property more desirable. It will also mean that he can finish his after-work rounds in plenty of time for dinner.
Bonmont, Costa Dorada
Just over an hour’s drive south of Barcelona, past the Roman city of Tarragona, lies one of the few courses in Spain designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr, one of the world’s most celebrated golf course designers. It may not be one of his most spectacular courses, but it is challenging, with ravines, water hazards and more than 90 bunkers.
The housing at Bonmont is less spectacular than at Monte Mayor, but it is cheaper. Medgroup, which is backed by the financier George Soros, has just taken a majority stake in the project. This should inject some cash and energy to the place, which until now has been developing at a rather sleepy pace. The latest properties to become available here are two- and three-bedroom apartments by the Sports Area from £142,000 – the two-bed properties vary from 88-116sq m, while the three-bed are from 96-136sq m. The Sports Area will feature a running track, tennis courts, pool and it is just a short stroll to the clubhouse and the golf course. Golf club membership is available only to property owners and costs £3,108 for 10 years, plus a monthly fee of £78, or £8,290 for life, also with a monthly fee of £78. Rental tenants can play at certain times of the day for a green fee – which allows non-members to play 18 holes for a set price – that varies between £38 and £48.
Saint Endréol, Provence
If you buy a house at the Saint Endréol estate, just a 30-minute drive from St Tropez, you won’t get a view of the fairway, or get hit by a hooked drive as you lie by the swimming pool. The philosophy is to keep the houses away from the course. “Can you imagine spoiling a view like that?” asks Patrick Bouloy, commercial director at Saint Endréol. His sweeping arm takes in a forest of pine trees, cut by lush fairways and the odd flag in the distance indicating where a green might be. Behind, the mountains, and to the south, the sea. “People come here who love Provence,” he says. It is situated just north of the A8 in the Var. You might bump into David Beckham on the putting green. His new house is a short drive away in the hills.
The course was built in 1981. Ten years later the president of Cagima, a Japanese construction company, came and played a round. He enjoyed it so much that he bought the course. In total, a maximum of 260 houses will be built in clusters of hamlets around a giant pool, surrounded by about 1,000 acres of land. For a semi-detached house with three bedrooms, fitted kitchen, high ceilings and a garden, complete with watering system, you can expect to pay £284,000. Homes vary in size from 103-120sq m.
This course, with a 20% discount on the green fee of £45 for those renting, is probably my favourite. Spectacular as Monte Mayor is, you can’t help feeling that it won’t be as beautiful once they have built all the houses. At Saint Endréol you can hit the ball into the rough without fear of interrupting a barbecue, the greens are good and the views outstanding.