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AS THE RECESSION BITES, PETER SWAIN FINDS COMPETITIVELY PRICED GOLF PROPERTY THAT EVEN JOHNNY ENGLISH CAN AFFORD

POLAND: KRAKOV

As Poland emerged from communism, a local entrepreneur calculated that an emerging middle class would soon join the rest of the civilised world in playing golf. With no zloty expense spared, he commissioned Californian designer, Ronald Fream, to build a course near Krakow. The Valley Golf and Country Club opened in 2003, and having played it last autumn I can honestly say it's rather good.

The American style 7,128-yard set-up has terrific variety, with 70 bunkers, elevation changes, tight fairways and large greens, all in excellent condition. I couldn't help imagining storm-troopers bursting out of the surrounding woods at any moment, but then I've seen The Great Escape 23 times.

Onsite there is a small three-star hotel, horse riding centre, ski slope and indoor and outdoor shooting range. When I was there, the Polish SAS were taking out unspecified targets with grim faced determination. Perhaps combining golf with shooting is the way to sneak the Auld Game into the Olympics?

Nearby Krakow is one of the few cities thereabouts to avoid a WWII battering. With a delightful Medieval centre, good food, cheap beer and friendly locals, it's a mini Prague.

Aimed at returning Poles as much as international buyers, Portuguese developer Maexpa has built 166 chalet style apartments next to the course. With £123,000 securing a one-bedroom apartment, and £200,000, two bedrooms, your battered pound goes further here than in Euro-land. As is the Polish custom you buy a ‘shell' so allow £25,000 to fit it out in style. This is still an emerging market so expect rough edges, not to mention cold winters, but this is one of the best eastern European schemes currently on the market.

www.maexpa-international.co.uk

SPAIN: COSTA BLANCA

After a year of pain, developers in Spain are starting to front up on price discounts. 30% off last year's prices is the minimum you should be looking for, with 40%plus achievable. The courses, sun and cheap travel are as attractive as ever, so 2009 could be the year to pick up a Spanish bargain.

The Taylor Woodrow built Valle de Alenda complex of 35, with two- and three bedroom houses on the Alenda golf course, 15 minutes from Alicante on the Costa Blanca, is happy to admit dropping prices by 28%. So a two-bedroom property that was nearly £300,000 is now only £230,000.

The townhouses either face the golf course or have views of the nearby mountains, the Sierra de las Águilas. Fully furnished kitchens, a hydro-massage bath and air-conditioning are all standard. The development has private gardens and communal pool.

The resort course opened in 1999, is well suited to all levels of play and has a pleasant clubhouse. With half a dozen other courses nearby, the first year's membership is included. Both the beach and the airport are within 15minutes, so long weekends away would be a breeze. (For more visit www.chestertoninternational. com)

Hopefully most of the Spanish property scams have now been flushed out, but buying from a British developer like Taylor Woodrow provides a degree of security.

If the Costa del Sol is more your bag, the same UK builder has Las Encinas de los Arqueros on the Ballesteros designed Los Arqueros Golf & Country Club near Marbella. The 30 two- and three-bedroom apartments have golf and sea views, and start at £182,791. www.taylorwoodrow.es

TURKEY: BELEK

Turkey is trying to join the EU but for British buyers there is a price advantage of the country not yet being in the Eurozone. Many golfers see the country as the new Spain, with the 30-mile seaside stretch centred on the airport at Antalya, the new Costa del Sol.

Belek is at the heart of the action. The David Feherty designed National Golf Course is probably the best of the established clubs around Antalya, but within a year or so, there will be 13 in the area including the newish Faldo and Montgomerie set-ups.

Attracted by 300 days of sun and an average winter temperature in the mid 20's centigrade, over 20,000 Brits have already bought in Turkey. Antalya is only a four-hour cut price flight from London, and beaches like the one at Kadriye are ideal for golf widows.

There is a bonus for skiers. To the west of Antalya is the newly opened Tahtali ski resort. With just six lifts and a 2,365-metre summit, it's a modest facility so far, but it does mean you can swim in the sea, play golf and ski, all in the same day.

Nirvana International is selling Royal Golf Villas with good-sized two-bedroom apartments costing £138,000, and four bedroom ones starting at £227,000. Also a short drive from several courses, but without an actual membership, Place Overseas are marketing Belek Golf Villas .Their two-bedroom apartments are priced from just £89,000.

www.nirvanainternational.com

THAILAND: PHUKET

Political coups seem to strike at fairly regular intervals but so far have not affected either the building of new golf courses or holiday homes. When buying property in Thailand, you still get a good-sized bang for your Bhats.

173 miles south of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand, the Beach Village represents a manageable, entry-level Thai investment. The seaside holiday resort has an established rentals programme, is only three miles from the Sam Roi Yod National Park, and is a good first buy for a wary investor with less than £50,000 to spend.

Small, 538-square foot one-bedroom pool apartments start at only £24,990, with larger two-bed townhouses available for just £49,980. Facilities on site include a restaurant, bar, gym, shop and tennis.

The Beach Village isn't on a golf course but there are ten clubs within half an hour's drive or so.The Royal Hua Hin is Thailand's oldest links, and the Nicklaus-designed Springfield Royal Country Club and the nearby Black Mountain Club are classic eastern set-ups featuring water and spectacular scenery. Green fees average about £50 a round but with the saving you've made on the property price, you're still quids in!

www.thebeachvillage.net

SOUTH AFRICA: PEZULA

If living like a millionaire for less than £100,000 appeals, then the award-winning Pezula resort in South Africa may have the answer. The hotel and development offer a course and standard of luxurious hospitality that are truly world-class.

Pezula Resort Hotel & Spa Villas has recently launched a fractional ownership scheme offering 28 shares for £97,907 each. Purchasing a share entitles you to use one of two ultra-luxury four en-suite bedroom villas for three weeks a year.

Good for wine buffs, the set-up is near Knysna, on South Africa's famous Garden Route. Surrounded by rugged cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean, ancient forests and sheltered beaches, the Ronald Fream designed 6,949-yard course is the business. If you like walking, however, you're out of luck – it's buggies only.

Historic Knysna itself is a favourite South African watering hole,with good restaurants, shops and terrific water sports the locals take very seriously. The Knysna Elephant Park does what it says on the can.

With the 2010 Football World Cup coming up, one way or another, the country will be in the news over the next 18 months.

www.chesterton-international.com

ENGLAND: DONNINGTON

Finally, why get on a plane when there is a small but very stylish scheme planned just an hour's drive from London?

Dating back to the 18th century, Donnington Grove near Newbury has a rakish feel to it. Converted into a stylish boutique hotel some years ago, Beau Brummel once strutted his stuff through the ornate Strawberry Hill Gothic mansion.

In the early 1990's, Japanese owners commissioned Dave Thomas to design a new course in the gently wooded parkland. At the time, with pristine new buggy track, the 7,108 layout was the bee's knees. It has a classic parkland feel and has hosted several serious tournaments, including the Challenge Tour English Open in 2004.

New management is now in the process of updating facilities and building up what is already a terrific club. Some existing buildings in the heart of the 550-acre estate are being converted into seven rather ritzy apartments grouped around a courtyard. Owners in the Fish Farm development will be given two free golf club memberships as well as fishing rights on the Lambourn river which runs through the estate.

The layout is still to be finalised so the man in charge, Christopher Strong, is happy to work with interested parties on precise details. The 99-year leasehold properties range in price from £250,000 up to £450,000. Being so close to London, the holiday homes will have outstanding rental potential, or you could simply downsize and live there.

www.donnington-grove.com

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine






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