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Bunkering down at home


With the Open at Turnberry and Catriona Mathew's stunning win at Royal Lytham, in the past few weeks the spotlight has been on British golf courses. As the traditional golfing holiday-home hotspots of Spain, Portugal and Florida are still looking decidedly shaky, some buyers who hanker after a fairway-side bolt-hole are taking their chances on the great British weather and looking to bunker down closer to home.

Two resort developments in Wales, one in Scotland and one in Cambridgeshire, show that staying putt in our green and pleasant land may pay dividends.

Pentre Nicklaus Village

With the Ryder Cup coming to Celtic Manor near Newport in 2010, golf in Wales is on the up. The latest addition to the clubs strung along the principality's south coast is the Jack Nicklaus-designed Machynys course near Llanelli.

British airline pilot, Peter Tiner, saw the 7,100-yard course being built along the Carmarthenshire coastline from 30,000 feet up. As an airline pilot flying 747s from North America into Heathrow, he watched the club, and then its housing development, sprouting below him. He liked it so much that he bought a house there.

"It's such a friendly neighborhood," says Tiner, who has a handicap of 11. "I even caddied on a Ladies European Tour event played here last year, which was brilliant."

Fifty-six year old Tiner and his wife, Kate, plan to retire to the three-bedroom townhouse they bought three years ago for £180,000.More than 100 three-, four- and five-bedroom houses have so far been built, priced from £210,000 to £610,000.

With strong links to Llanelli rugby club, owners have free golf membership and gain access to the Ryder Cup Wales Centre of Excellence. The clubhouse has a great brasserie, as well as a 35-station gym and extensive spa facilities, including a jacuzzi, a sauna and an aromatherapy room. Tel: 01554 746736

The Vale Resort

The SWALEC Wales Challenge, part of the European Challenge Tour, was held just along the coast at the Vale Resort near Cardiff this July.With two courses, the 7,433-yardWales National and The Lake, tennis courts, a four star hotel and Wales's largest health spa, this is a golfing destination with a growing reputation.

At the heart of the resort is the magnificent Grade I-listed 17th-century Hensol Castle. In the grounds, 59 spacious two and three-bed apartments, priced from £290,000 to £400,000, are being built in various converted castle outbuildings, of which 11 have already been sold.

This is all part of a £35 million development which will, over the next two years, see the castle itself turned into an exclusive five star, 50-room hotel. Set in 650 acres of parkland, each new apartment will have views of the golf course, the castle or the nearby lakes.

The Vale has also strong local sporting links. Cardiff City football club and the current rugby EDF Energy Cup holders, the Cardiff Blues, both have their training bases on site.

Like the properties at Machynys, these apartments would suit buyers looking for a second, golfing home, but also local people who simply want to live outside the city in a pleasant golf and country club environment.

Machrihanish Dunes

This is the first brand-new links on the west coast of Scotland for 100 years. The 7,300 David McLay Kidd set-up was officially launched on July 31st, and is now open for play.

Right next to the original 1876 Tom Morris-designed Machrihanish Golf Club links, the two courses together make a mouth-watering prospect for true fans of old-fashioned links golf.

American developer David Southworth has invested £20 million in the course, the refurbishment of the nearby Ugadale Hotel and eight cottages, now available to buy on a fractional basis. Unlike the Welsh properties, this development is aimed squarely at second-home buyers.

"These are clearly holiday homes," says Southworth. "Buying a one-thirteenth share is efficient and affordable, and the rental potential is great." He guarantees a 7% return if a buyer leaves his share in the rental pool full time.

The property in question is actually one timber-built, stone-clad building split into eight two-bedroom apartments. Shares cost from £39,000 to £60,000. For that, a buyer gets the same four individual weeks every year and free club membership.

Due to an idiosyncrasy in Scottish law, each fraction is freehold, making ownership more secure than timeshare. Unlike other similar schemes currently being floated, this one has been built, and is already substantially finished inside and out. Tel: 01586 81 00 00

Tydd St Giles

As owner of the Royal Westmoreland in Barbados, John Morphet of Pure Leisure Group knows a thing or two about golf course developments. His latest project is at Tydd St Giles, near Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, where he's building a gated community of 35 homes overlooking the 205-acre golf course.

Set in the Fenland, the par-70, 6,300- yard course is a relatively modest village setup, but Morphet is promising to invest £2 million in new facilities.

The timber lodges being built are a mix of 900sq ft townhouses and 1,500sq ft detached properties, priced from £175,000 to £225,000.

Based on the ‘upside down' design style at Royal Westmoreland, the living rooms and kitchens are on the top floor, with views over the course. The bedrooms are underneath on the ground floor. The five lodges built so far look good value.

"The weakness of the pound has made European golfing property extremely expensive," says Morphet. But there is a catch. As this summer has demonstrated, it does occasionally rain in the UK. Buying a golf home in the British Isles promises to deliver low travel costs, competitive prices and highclass facilities. The only handicap is the weather.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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