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To golf in your retirement, look further

While golf communities have been popular with retirees, some lesser-known locations are on the up and up

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The popularity of golf-driven real estate communities started in the US and then spread internationally in the 1980s.

New York

GOLF-DRIVEN real estate communities have consistently been top living choices for retirees, according to Scott Kauffman, an analyst specialising in global golf developments. "Whether they play golf or not, people who are about to retire or already retired, love the idea of moving to a golf community because of the ample green spaces, which are like having your own private park," he said.

Retirees, Mr Kauffman added, also enjoy the security and cachet of living in a well-maintained community with amenities such as a clubhouse, tennis courts, restaurants and a pool.

Statistics support his statement: Ideal-Living magazine, a real estate publication aimed at retirees, conducted a survey recently of more than 10,000 retirees and found that around 50 per cent said they were seeking to move to a golf community or would like to live in a home with golfing nearby.

The popularity of golf-driven real estate communities started in the United States and then spread internationally in the 1980s, said Josh Sens, a writer for Golf magazine. Here are a number of destinations - some well established, others emerging - that are attracting retirees today.

Cape Winelands, S. Africa

The Cape Winelands, in South Africa's Western Cape, situated 20 to 40 minutes from Cape Town, are replete with luxury golf communities. Most have been around for at least five years, said Maria De Villiers, the region's manager for South African real estate company Chas Everitt International. She said they're appealing to buyers from Europe, who usually spend December through February in these vacation homes, when it's summer in the country.

The affordability of living in a secure luxury development with premium golf courses and amenities is a plus: Ms De Villiers said that twobedroom apartments in upscale golf communities start at US$200,000, while a five-bedroom home with attached bathrooms, expansive gardens and a pool go for US$750,000. Val de Vie is one of the most prestigious Cape Winelands golf estates and has a Jack Nicklaus-designed course, mountain biking and running trails, a polo club, an equestrian center, a wine cellar and three farm-totable restaurants.

Scottsdale, Arizona

With upwards of 20 golf communities spanning several thousand hectares each and many additional public and private courses not affiliated with residences, golf is Scottsdale's main attraction, according to Charlie O'Malley, principal realtor of The O'Malley Group, a Scottsdale real estate company specialising in golf properties.

''Golf is the primary reason why people buy vacation and retirement homes in Scottsdale and has been for several decades now,'' he said. (Several professional golfers, including Tom Lehman, own homes in the area.)

Benefits include the lower property taxes; a favourable climate of low humidity and sunny days; flight accessibility from major and secondary cities in the US; and the ease of getting around with minimal traffic.

But most of all, there's the luxuryfor- less value proposition. Mr O'Malley said it's possible to buy a 279-sq-m, three-bedroom, three-bath house with a pool in a high-end golf development that's situated on the course for less than US$1 million.

Desert Highlands is an example of a prestigious residential community in Scottsdale and has a farm-to-table restaurant, a large fitness centre with a pool, a racket club with 13 tennis courts, a dog park, an 18-hole putting course and an 18-hole course designed by Nicklaus.

The 3,237-ha Desert Mountain, with its six Nicklaus courses, is another top golf community and offers hiking and biking paths, tennis, horseback riding, a 3,902-sq-m fitness centre and spa, and more than a half dozen restaurants.

Algarve, Portugal

According to Philip White, the president and chief executive of Sotheby's International Realty and an avid golfer, the Algarve region in southern Portugal offers buyers an affordable cost of living, a temperate climate most of the year, and strong infrastructure. ''It has consistently been a go-to destination to buy a golf home,'' he said. Most of Sotheby's International Realty clients who buy in Portugal are from France, Brazil, England and Russia, although demand from the US is growing.

Patrick Bonnet, marketing director for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Portugal Property, said that Algarve has nearly 40 courses, mostly in golf communities. ''The high density of courses makes it a massively popular golf destination, along with the value for money,'' he said.

Quinta do Lago is regarded as one of the region's most high-end communities. Situated in a protected coastal lagoon in Ria Formosa nature reserve, home to an abundance of wildlife, flora and fauna and walking trails, it has three golf courses, a golf academy and driving range, more than a half dozen restaurants, a beach, a fitness centre and a spa.

Properties come in a range of sizes and prices including two-bedroom apartments for 400,000 euros (S$631,181), and five-bedroom villas that cost upwards of 10 million euros.

Costa del Sol, Spain

Spanning the coastline of southern Spain between Malaga and Sotogrande, Costa del Sol - Spanish for ''coast of the sun'' - is one of Europe's most well-established golf destinations. The region has about 50 golf courses, said Javier Rivadulla, marketing and sales director for Finca Cortesin, a resort near the mountain village of Casares that includes a hotel and residences. ''If you drive along the coastline, there is literally one golf course after another, and most have a real estate component,'' Mr Rivadulla said. But home prices in Costa del Sol are high, and buyers, who are mostly from Europe, include royalty and celebrities.

At Finca Cortesin, for example, the 57 villas set around its 18-hole golf course that have either four or five bedrooms and big pools have a starting price of US$4 million. For golfers, Costa del Sol's big advantage is the weather. ''Winters are sunny and mild so you can pretty much play golf year-round,'' Mr Sens, of Golf magazine, said.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

With its strategic location between Asia and Europe and in the heart of the Middle East, Dubai has become a coveted spot for golf homes in the last five years, said Mr Kauffman, the golf analyst. ''Dubai is the financial and cultural capital of the region and a Las Vegas equivalent in terms of restaurants and luxury shopping,'' he said. ''More recently, it has become a golfers' haven and has some of the largest master-planned luxury golf communities in the world with courses built by top architects.''

The roughly 1,133-ha Jumeirah Golf Estates is an example and includes 16 different living districts and two courses designed by Australian golfer Greg Norman. Parks, walking trails and green spaces abound throughout the development, and each district has its own style and amenities.

Flame Tree Ridge, for one, is meant to evoke the feeling of being in the Tuscan countryside and has fourand five-bedroom villas with stone facades and terra-cotta roofs. The properties have views of the golf courses, large landscaped gardens and pools.

But Dubai is expensive. Mr Kauffman said that pricing is akin to New York real estate.

Vietnam

While Thailand has been the leader in Asia for vacation and retirement golf homes for the last decade, Mr Norman, the course architect and golfer, said that Vietnam is quickly catching up. Both Mr Norman and Mr Kauffman said that upwards of 40 golf courses are open all over Vietnam. Some are part of golf communities with residences while others are attached to hotels or clubs and close to neighbourhoods where prospective buyers can find homes. Most of these courses were built between 2010 and 2020, and many more are set to debut in the coming years. NYTIMES