Golfing Special: The game in Spain

Homes on Spanish golf courses, once the preserve of pensioners, are attracting younger Brits. Zoe Dare Hall reports

Barbara Wood doesn't bat an eyelid when she sees bulldozers clearing the way for yet another golf course on the Costa del Sol. But something has caught her attention in Andalucia, where she runs home-search agency The Property Finders.

Barbara Wood doesn't bat an eyelid when she sees bulldozers clearing the way for yet another golf course on the Costa del Sol. But something has caught her attention in Andalucia, where she runs home-search agency The Property Finders.

"I don't know whether the people are following the golf courses or the golf courses are following the people, but there's now a stampede inland," she says. There's an increasing demand to live in real Spain, so people are heading as far as Antequera, 25km from the coast and to towns like Coin and Alhaurin El Grande - but they still want to be beside a golf course so they have something to do. Golf is changing people's perceptions of what to do in inland Spain.

"This is the biggest market in the world and there's absolutely no sign of it ending," Barbara marvels.

Not only is golf mania creeping inland, it's also seeping down the generations. No longer are properties by the fairways reserved for the retired, says Paul Blagden, corporate director of Ocean Estates International on the Costa del Sol.

"A combination of cheap flights and a far better infrastructure means the average age of people buying golf properties here has dropped dramatically to about 40," he says. "A lot of them move out here full-time as it's much easier now to live in Spain and carry on your profession."

The Costa del Sol has been polishing its "Spain's Golf Coast" crown for 20 years, with some of Europe's finest championship courses including Valderrama, Sotogrande and San Roque.

"Building quality has improved drastically," says Blagden. "Casares Golf and Country Club is a typical new-style development with low-rise apartments on a new course from €300,000 (£200,000)." Ocean Estates are also selling apartments right on the fairway at Mijas Golf from €239,000 (£160,000).

There are 60 courses within two hours' drive of Malaga airport and another dozen are being built this year - which is music to the ears of Hamptons International's golf-loving MD, Jonathon Woodfield. He has just tried out Sotogrande's new La Reserva course, which opened this month. "It's huge and absolutely wonderful. It'll be in Europe's top 10 in five years' time," he enthuses.

Such quality doesn't come cheap on the Costa del Sol. A round at Valderrama costs £165 - even on lesser courses, £100 is normal - and frontline villas start at €1.5m (£1m).

"Golf is the one thing in southern Spain that is super-expensive but the demand is enormous," says Woodfield. "Most people who buy golf properties here belong to a golf club, where you pay about £35,000 to become a member and shareholder. The alternative is a golf course, which is open to the public to just pay and play."

The Costa del Sol's two main golf areas are Golf Valley in Marbella and Sotogrande, "whose courses are head and shoulders above anything further down the coast, designed by big names such as Trent Jones and Dave Thomas," says Woodfield.

Mallorca is another favourite destination among moneyed followers of the fairway. Many of the Bendinat Group's apartments at Sa Vinya, overlooking the prestigious Royal Bendinat course, have been snapped up for half a million euros. Now work is in progress on penthouses - with views across the Bay of Palma for €1.3m (£865,000).

The Costa Blanca masquerades as Spain's other Costa del Golf, with 15 championship courses including Villamartin, Campoamor and Las Ramblas. It certainly offers better value for money than its southern counterpart. You can still find apartments near the fairway for £100,000, such as at La Finca at Algorfa.

"La Finca is a new development around a championship course with stunning views," says Lisa Wilkins from Golf Villa Sales, "and Villamartin has new properties starting at £90,000, 10 minutes' walk from the course. It's very popular with English buyers who want a 'home from home' feel."

An emerging hotspot for property and golf is just south around Murcia, an underexploited region known as the Costa Calida. Five minutes from the beach is the Mar Menor Golf Resort, with three-bed villas from £196,000 around an American-designed nine-hole golf course, available through AGS Properties.

In the same area, Polaris World is building the vast La Torre Golf Resort in Torre Pachecho, 40 minutes from Alicante airport, with 2,634 frontline properties starting at €132,000 (£88,000). Another new contender for the lucrative property podium is Catalunya, popular with the kind of golf enthusiast who is looking for tranquillity away from the English crowds.

"Catalan golf courses are making a name for themselves," says Willem Baerhof from property agency Catalan Country Life. "Bonmont, 20km south of Tarragona, is one of the best courses in Catalunya. It's five minutes from the beach, so it's great for families. It also has a more mixed community than you would find on the Costa del Sol as a lot of Spanish people live there." Apartments cost from €230,000 (£155,000).

Further up the A7 motorway, within easy reach of Barcelona and Girona airports, is Girona Golf, where big Spanish developer Labaro has set to work around an 18-hole course. Semi-detached villas start at €450,000 (£300,000).

"Girona Golf is very hilly with lots of trees. It feels as if it's been carved out of the countryside," says Baerhof. "It's a good place for older couples who want a tranquil spot with good views.

"Catalan golf properties offer much better value than the Costa del Sol," he adds, "and the weather is more seasonal. Blue skies and 15 degrees in February are perfect conditions for a round of golf. By June on the Costa del Sol it's too hot to play."

The Property Finders: 01908 218753, www.thepropertyfinders.com;

The Bendinat Group: 020-7736 1700 (Mallorca) 00 34 971 703 690, www.bendinat.com;

Hamptons International: 020-7589 8844, www.hamptons-int.com;

Ocean Estates International: 00 34 952 811 750, www.oceanestates.com;

AGS Properties: www.agsproperties.com;

Golf Villa Sales: 00 34 966 764 114, www.golfvillasales.com;

Catalan Country Life: 00 34 93 467 15 23 www.catalancountrylife.com

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