Grand designs - Golf property developments in Scotland
As golf fans, we look forward to our sport’s major occasions, but for those hoping to capitalize on the feelgood factor, publicity and money attached to such landmark tournaments, they also provide a significant marketing opportunity.
On the south side of the Firth of Forth, Archerfield is only a mile from the home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, or Muirfield as it’s better known. But while the latter hosted the first of its 15 Opens in 1892, golf on the former’s two courses, the Fidra and Dirleton Links, is a strictly 21st-century affair.
Since the 640 acres were acquired in 2000, Archerfield Village with 70 or so new houses has been created, the Grade A-listed 15-bedrooom Archerfield House has been transformed into a ritzy private hotel, and five pine lodges have been built to accommodate passing golf societies. With a new bespoke spa and gym opening this month, and 36 relatively new holes, it all makes for a very successful enterprise.
In the next residential phase, Kings Cairn is selling 17 fully serviced plots, ranging in size from 1.1 to 2.6 acres. John Glen, who’s been involved with the project for over a decade, says: ‘They all have either Firth of Forth or golf views, or both, and sit back in beautiful glades of trees. Outline planning permissions are in place, and we’ll help or even manage individual design and construction.’
Also included is membership of Archerfield Golf Club, itself very successful with over 700 members, as well as access to the five-star facilities of Archerfield House. Play at Muirfield is not, but living next door must help. ‘All available rooms have already been booked for next year’s Open,’ reports Glen who views the occasion as a key date in his marketing campaign. Prices on the plots are still being finalized but are likely to start at a punchy £550,000.
It’s not cheap, but the location is stunning, with North Berwick, Gullane, Musselburgh and Edinburgh all within a 30-minute drive.
Further north, up in the Highlands, Alex McEwan is looking ahead to the 2014 Ryder Cup. Taymouth Castle, a splendid 19th-century Gothic revival pile, with a James Braid course and 420 acres, is a little less than an hour from Gleneagles, and once again the developer, in this case Meteor Asset Management, is hoping the global allure of one of golf’s premier events will rub off on property sales.
First it needs to finish converting the castle, in which Queen Victoria stayed in 1842, into a boutique hotel. ‘We’re talking to two international hotel groups and anticipate finishing the 24 suites in the main house within 12 months,’ reveals McEwan.
The magnificent reception rooms and Spikes Bar have already been renovated, and the parkland course is reopening this summer after significant rerouting costing £2 million, care of European Tour player Stephen Gallacher and Weller Design.
‘We’re building nine styles of houses around the estate,’ reports McEwan, ‘in three main groups: Riverside houses on the banks of the Tay, Highland residences with magnificent views of the hills, and Golf homes next to the course.’
The stylish 2,700sq ft three-bedroom showhouse is ready and viewable, and with five ‘soft’ reservations already in the bag, the developer is about to start work on the first phase of 16 Highland properties.
I like the look of them. Rather than a Scottish croft-style pastiche, architects McKenzie Strickland have produced modern designs with plenty of glass around a central stone chimney. The interior specifications are impressive: handmade kitchens, Miele appliances, plenty of granite and travertine in the bathrooms and kitchens, Hansgrohe taps, integrated TV and audio systems, plus excellent security.
All year round, these houses look to be light, warm and easy to run, as well as being pleasantly in tune with their surroundings. The entry price of around £600,000 buys a finished three-bedroom house, with larger units going for north of £1 million.
‘We expect most of them to be second homes, with owners using them for four to six weeks a year,’ suggests McEwan.
The rest of the time, the hotel will manage their rental, ‘so for the first two years, we’re guaranteeing a 6% return on capital, minus annual fees’. The publicity attendant on the 2014 Ryder Cup should help sales, he hopes.
The golf season in these parts goes a little quiet in the winter but outdoorsy types can enjoy unencumbered access to fishing on the Tay, one of the country’s foremost salmon rivers, as well as great hiking and a spot of shooting and deer stalking on nearby estates. The most famous Scottish links of them all also has a major fairway-side development in progress. Peeved at having his membership application rejected, in 1895 Thomas Hamilton built the iconic red sandstone Grand Hotel overlooking the 18th green of the Old Course and the Bay of St Andrews. During World War Two, it served as an RAF training HQ, and between then and 2005 as a university hall of residence.
Now Herb Kohler, who already owns the Old Course Hotel, not to mention Whistling Straits, is turning one of the most iconic buildings in golf into a 26-apartment palace, with interior design by Jack Reese.
There will be 22 lavishly appointed two-bedroom residences, one three-bed and three four-bedroom penthouses, with prices starting at £1.35 million – small change to an Open Champion. The lavish facilities will include a restaurant, bar and library, VIP access to the Old Course Hotel next door, use of its sumptuous Kohler spa, and membership of the Duke’s Course.
As you’d expect, a range of management schemes are available, but if you don’t have a team of financial advisers to read the fine print for you, you probably needn’t apply.
None of these three projects are inexpensive, but it’s a timely reminder that much as some of us like chasing round the world to play golf and are occasionally tempted to buy ‘a place in the sun’, some of the game’s very best courses, and now fairway-side property, can be found much closer to home.