Love it or loathe it, the game of golf plays a major role in the international property market — with its British devotees among the keenest buyers in search of a fair-weather home to indulge their passion.
And it isn't just golfers who love a golf resort — more than 50 per cent of owners on many resorts claim not to play. What appeals to them is the landscaped estates with views over well-manicured greens that will not be built on, and the security.
In addition, golf resorts often come with attractive extras. Spas, tennis centres, state-of-the-art gyms and family-friendly pools provide plenty of activities, which in turn create strong rental potential, an increasingly important consideration today.
Andrea Sartori of KPMG's golf advisory practice says the most successful golf developments are in areas with strong domestic membership and plenty of tourist appeal. That includes southern Iberia, which is swathed in world-class courses, and Italy, where the Molinari brothers, ranked in the top 25, are raising the game's profile. But courses are now even being found in far-flung, exotic destinations.
Established golfing estates: Southern Spain and Algarve
Southern Portugal and Spain are paradise for golfers. Portugal's Algarve has 39 courses along its 150-mile coastline, with another 100 across the Spanish border in Andalucia. Sotogrande, home to arguably Spain's most famous course, Valderama, celebrates its 50th birthday this year, marking its transformation from agricultural land to elite sporting resort, with polo fields and marinas.
Prices are well down on their 2007 peaks. An older 2,500sq ft house on a large plot seems striking value at £397,000.
"There are only bargain hunters in Sotogrande now, yet there are few repossessions and prices cannot fall much further," says Savills associate James Stewart. "Particularly good value can be found for big, detached houses between £710,500 to £835,900, with prices up to a third lower than in 2008."
Forty-five minutes west of Faro airport in the Algarve, Palmares is an ambitious contemporary project with an existing golf course near Lagos. Developer Onyria operates hotels and golf resorts in Lisbon and plans a 90-room, five-star hotel on a 200-hectare site above the beach.
Property with striking contemporary design will include apartments, beach villas and large plots priced from £417,950. The 27-hole golf course was redesigned by Robert Trent Jones and was recently rated among Europe's top 30 courses by Golf World magazine.
Contact: Savills (020 7016 3740) and Onyria Palmares (+351 282 790 500).
New golfing estates in Italy
Italy is the new kid on the block for golfers, with embryonic plans for residential resorts in Sicily, Puglia and Sardinia.
At Castelfalfi, a Tuscan estate 40 minutes from Pisa, two courses are already up and running with an active local membership. The 20-year-old course has been totally redesigned around a clubhouse that overlooks the imposing castello at the heart of the 1,100-hectare estate.
Developer TUI is building a leisure resort around the existing 27-hole course with plans for a large pool complex, spa, three hotels and shops selling local products.
The 190 properties range from one-bedroom apartments in the restored borgo to large farmhouses dotted around the grounds. Prices start from £192,250, with new-build golf villas from £1 million and 18 farmhouses for restoration into 3,715sq ft to 15,500sq ft homes, from £2.5million. Service charges start from £100 a month.
Contact: Knight Frank (020 7629 8171); or castelfalfi.co.uk/home/Castelfalfi.
Exotic golfing estates in Mauritius
Golf courses have replaced sugar cane fields on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. While a relative newcomer to golf, it now boasts six championship 18-hole courses and several nine-hole courses, making the 12-hour flight popular with keen golfers.
Villas Valriche, 40 minutes from the airport, is a good example. The former sugar estate, in the quieter south, includes two established courses with sea views on its 525 acres. There are plans for 288 plantation-style two- to four-bedroom villas (120 are under construction or completed) priced from £413,780.
Owners become members of the golf and beach club and receive up to 20 per cent off restaurants at the nearby five-star hotel. Service charges are £564 a month and a rental pool is operated through the hotel.
Contact: Villas Valriche through Cluttons Resorts (020 7584 3050).