Why golf remains at the heart of hospitality

Despite Trump and environmental concerns, golf courses remain a prime attraction in top-end resorts, writes Catherine Moye

Since Donald Trump’s shock election win, the 17 golf courses the president owns, the number of times he’s played since taking office and even how his game compares with Barack Obama’s have been hot topics in Washington circles. Ironically, this comes at a time when golf has been in decline in the States. According to the US National Golf Foundation, a high of 30.6 million golfers in the country in 2003 was down to 23.8 million by 2016. The number of golfers there aged 18-34 has declined by 30 per cent over the past 20 years.

Despite this decline in numbers in the US (and parts of Europe), demand for residences at prestigious golf resorts is thriving. Many owners don’t know a bogey from a birdie – what draws them are luxury spa and hotel facilities in a verdant setting. The presence of the greens means the vista will not be ruined by a developer building more units, says Rob Green, managing director of high-end agent Sphere Estates.

Golf has become the heart of many developments to which other facilities are connected. Take the Fairmont Residences Royal Palm Marrakech, a 222-hectare gated community with a five-star Fairmont hotel, six restaurants, bars, gyms, and swimming pools. The ochre-coloured freehold villas with private gardens, fully serviced by the hotel, face on to the Cabell B Robinson-designed course.

Such ambitious resorts seemingly look to the original show pony, Sotogrande. With its five golf courses and innumerable other sporting and lifestyle amenities, this sprawling 2,000-hectare Andalucian resort is as much vibrant city-state as upscale second-home destination. Ditto Portugal’s Quinta do Lago.

‘I could very happily live in one of those, even though I’m the world’s worst golfer,’ says Hugo Thistlethwayte, head of international residential at Savills. ‘The number of people playing golf has declined, but that’s not true at golfing resorts. People play because they’ve time on their hands, either because they’re retired or on holiday.’

Among the impressive recent offerings is the 215-hectare Finca Cortesin estate, a few miles up the Andalucian coast from Sotogrande. It’s already an award-winning hotel with championship golf course, and a development of 16 contemporary villas has just been added. All the villas have spectacular views of the golf course and 24-hour concierge service. There is the option of letting a property via the hotel.

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Similarly, Andre Jordan Group, developer of Quinta do Lago in the Algarve, has extended the ‘golf as a global village’ concept at Belas Clube de Campo, near Lisbon. A new release of apartments and upscale townhouses is available.

In some developing markets, a branded golf resort reassures investors about the quality of construction and amenities.

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