Golf is officially a thing. At one time a game for old-timers (“A good walk ruined” according to some) golf is now an elite sport; a pastime for the glitterati. It’s no wonder then that golf courses and the requisite golf resort villas have proliferated around the world. Rarely does a new development in Thailand, for example, begin planning without an 18-hole course in mind, and pro player branded courses with residences are major attractions, sometimes even where the market seems saturated.
Over the course of the last year or so, Dubai has become a serious golf resort developer, with upwards of 300 million square feet — 7,500 acres — planned for sprawling courses and estates. Emaar, Damac (whose ambitious Akoya is partnered with Trump International) and Jumeirah are just a few of the developers getting into the game. But Dubai isn’t new to the industry. Victoria Garrett, associate partner at Knight Frank in Dubai, notes that one of the city’s prestige addresses now is Emirates Hills, set around the Montgomerie Golf Course, but admits to an “explosion” since that course was finished in 2002.
Nonetheless there is an argument that Dubai is on the verge of becoming oversupplied. Garrett is cautious, but can see a market for the properties down the road. “There is a danger of oversupply with the number of golf resort properties coming online. However with Dubai seeing a resurgence of a lot of developments that we put on hold in the downturn and Expo 2020 on the horizon Dubai is firmly back in the spotlight again and attracting more expats to relocate to its shores,” she states. Given the city’s tax-free status, sun almost all year long and rising rental costs, those living long-term in Dubai are purchasing homes.
Before the GFC in 2008 the majority of buyers were speculators looking at the short term and Dubai has begun to see more end-users enter the market. Now it’s “Longer” term expats who are looking to invest in property to live in that gives them an asset as well of a certain lifestyle with the set up that you get from living in a golf resort with the community that centres around the clubhouse. It also appeals to people looking for holiday homes in the sun who are also keen golfers,” says Garrett.
With so many projects in the pipeline, and with so many stalled in the past, Dubai will have its fair share of courses and residences that sit head and shoulders above the rest. So which ones are likely to show the most market appeal and resilience? Emaar’s reputation, track record in the downturn and product quality (Dubai Marina, Armani Hotel Milan and the Burj Khalifa) makes it a frontrunner for investor attention. However, given that Dubai’s market could be softening, “It will be developers that are realistically pricing their offerings and who are considered to be safe to invest in that will be most resilient in the market especially given the number of different developments to chose from,” theorises Garrett.
Old World, Older World
There are slews of golf offerings around the world right now, among them those in Vietnam, whose golf industry really took off when the Montgomerie Links opened in 2010. The course’s developer, Indochina Capital, was also behind the country’s first truly international spa resort, The Nam Hai in Hoi An.
Golfing’s tourism element is key for Vietnam, which has become a crucial industry. “Countries which have little in the way of a golf tradition have also started to invest in courses as a way of supporting their tourism strategy. Vietnam, for example, has constructed a number of luxury courses, including the Ho Chi Minh Golf Trail,” stated the HSBC Golf’s 2020 Vision report. Central Vietnam has become a tourism hotspot over the past few years and just a few of the golf developments currently underway or completed in the area are Laguna at Lang Co, which includes Banyan Tree residences, The Dalat at 1200 in Da Lat and Norman Estates, at Da Nang.
And residential properties are available in Scotland, the modern game’s birthplace, though for some investors there’s more to recommend Scotland than just golf. “It’s got the whisky, the arts and oil services. The country is comparatively wealthy and outside of London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen are probably the most affluent cities in Britain,” points out Lorn Macneal of Lorn Macneal Architects. “And there’s golf, and tourists love coming to Scotland for that.” Macneal’s award-winning conversion of 14 apartments at St Andrews Court Gullane is one of a handful like it. Gullane is just 40 minutes from Edinburgh and within two kilometres of Muirfield and eight other courses. Priced from £595,000 (HK$7.2 million), the Playfair Properties project could be a wise investment.
“The most expensive property in Scotland is in St Andrews, properties overlooking the golf course. We’ve had [prices] up to £1,400 per square foot in that location, which is much higher than any price ever achieved in Edinburgh,” explains Jamie Macnab, director of residential sales at Savills in Edinburgh. Savills is currently representing what may be the Holy Grail of golf resorts: Hamilton Grand, 26 apartments in the red brick building behind St Andrews’ 18th green. Developed by Kohler Co., the residences begin at £1.3 million (HK$17 million) with fine dining, a spa, and of course golfing on or near the property.
Macnab notes the prices are reflective of St Andrews’ appeal in North America, but reasons, “The big thing for that market will be when you get Asian buyers. Hongkongers, Singaporeans and Chinese are coming to play but they’re not buying yet. If they start to buy that will move the market up another notch.”