Why the Sol suits golfers to a tee

West of Marbella, some of the best golf courses in Europe are fuelling a mini property boom. David Wishart reports
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The Independent Online

It used to be that sun and sea drove the property market in Spain. These days, it's golf that keeps the cement trucks rolling on the Costa del Sol, and while there has been a slowdown in sales, most believe it is simply a mild correction after three years of growth. One area that is still strong is golf properties, with many buyers chasing anything on a golf course or with a golf view. An increasing number are wealthy golfers who see Marbella as the best place in Europe for winter sun. And non-golfers don't want to pay the premium for a sea frontage but are looking for a view that won't be built over, hence front-line golf properties.

It used to be that sun and sea drove the property market in Spain. These days, it's golf that keeps the cement trucks rolling on the Costa del Sol, and while there has been a slowdown in sales, most believe it is simply a mild correction after three years of growth. One area that is still strong is golf properties, with many buyers chasing anything on a golf course or with a golf view. An increasing number are wealthy golfers who see Marbella as the best place in Europe for winter sun. And non-golfers don't want to pay the premium for a sea frontage but are looking for a view that won't be built over, hence front-line golf properties.

One prime area is the Golf Valley in Nueva Andalucia, location of Aloha, Las Brisas, Los Naranjos and La Quinta golf courses. Prices start at £250,000 for a new two-bedroom apartment with a distant view of a golf course. The closer you get to the fairways, the more you pay, and as new golf courses are opened for play, such as Santa Maria and Los Flamingos, housing developments are not far behind.

Further down the coast, the toll-road has been extended in good time for the Volvo Masters, the European Tour's top golf event, at Valderrama. Many in the shirtsleeve crowd enjoying the warm November sunshine and beautiful setting were bewildered with the ease of their arrival, for it used to be that getting to a major tournament at Valderrama involved using the N-340 from Malaga or Gibraltar, a stretch of road as unloved as the M25.

But the 15 miles of new motorway now mean just a one-hour drive from Malaga airport and 30 minutes from Marbella. Spectators who had intended to visit Valderrama for one day found the new road such an amazing change that they returned several times to enjoy more of the event.What's more, they left with the knowledge that this end of the coast – the Sotogrande area – was now part of the Costa del Sol.

The smart money knew the extended motorway would make access easier and the area more desirable, and apartment and commercial construction has taken a leap. The new road brings a prime group of golf courses into play. They are some of the biggest names in European golf, including Valderrama, Sotogrande and San Roque, plus the lesser-known but very desirable Almenara, Alcaidesa and La Canada. Derek Brown, general manager of Valderrama, says the autopista will turn the area into a "golfing mecca". "It opens the door to people who had never thought of coming here. But it's not going to happen overnight. It will take a season to discover just how good the new road is, and for golfers to realise the old days are gone. Even the N-340 is better because the pressure is off."

Tina Gill, director of Mijas-based TeeG Golf Holidays, says clients are impressed already. "It used to be that golfers staying around Calahonda and Mijas would be reluctant to play the courses in the Sotogrande area because they were afraid they would get stuck in a two-hour traffic jam and miss their tee-times, but not any more." And more golf courses are on the way. Almenara's second 18, La Reserve, opens next August and Gary Player is to do a third. At San Roque, Perry Dye's course opens this year and Alcaidesa is now working on a Dave Thomas design. Finally, Valderrama, which has hosted the Ryder Cup, is planning a second course. Ian Bateman, a partner in Holmes Property Sales (00 34 956 795 340, www.holmesotogrande.com), says new two-bedroom apartments in the Sotogrande marina area start from £190,000, while used, older-style units go for about £100,000.

Sotogrande has seen many apartments built in the marina area in the last three years, as well as more restaurants and bars, but it still retains an exclusivity. It is also handy for Gibraltar, and border crossings are going smoothly, Bateman says. He senses a slowing down of sales, but less so than in the Marbella area. The same is true with golf courses. The autumn saw a drop in green-fee play at some courses in Marbella, but not in Sotogrande. One reason, says Iain Blackwell, publisher of Essential Marbella magazine, is that the new road is encouraging golfers to check out these courses.

Alcaidesa, for example, has new apartments going up within walking distance of the first tee. In the Marbella area, a round at Los Arqueros – owned by Taylor Woodrow (00 34 952 785 888) – allows the player to see an astonishing array of properties. Big hitters – and we're not talking golf – talk to Kristina Szekely (00 34 952 772 000) who has listings for many villas on golf courses. Other top spots are the Marbella Club Golf Resort (00 34 952 866 306), where big plots overlook a cracking Dave Thomas golf course, and San Roque (00 34 956 613 080). Then there's La Zagaleta, Adnan Khashoggi's former estate, where plots start at £1 million and you have to be a homeowner to play the course. Hamptons (00 34 902 399 500) has a six-bedroom villa for sale here.

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