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Costa del Sol, Spain: Despite explosive growth, luxury golf real estate abounds

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

The Irishman leaned against the clubhouse, in a steady drizzle, with a faraway look in his eyes. The Irish love to travel to exotic, sunny locales, he said, and nowhere more than Spain.

La Zagaleta
La Zagaleta, designed by Seve Ballesteros, is one of the most exclusive golf clubs in area
La ZagaletaValderrama Golf Club

"You go to almost any golf course on the Costa del Sol," he said. "You walk up to any of the houses or villas near the courses and you're likely to find a Paddy on the back porch."

It isn't just Irishmen who flock to the Costa del Sol region of southern Spain. It's been a favorite of Northern Europeans, especially the British, for decades. The area has become so popular that it's in danger of becoming the setting for a new Disney theme park.

There are nearly 60 golf courses in Andalucia, about 30 of them on the Costa del Sol, prompting some marketers to call the 50-mile stretch of coast from Malaga to Gibraltar the Costa del Golf.

This sunny area - so sunny and dry that water restrictions often apply - underwent a course-building boom in the late 1980s, and more tracks are going up every year to keep up with the demand, including a couple of much-needed "pay for play" facilities and a municipal course near Valderrama.

The boom changed the area from a summer tourist destination to a year-round - and, especially, winter golf - destination. It really began to take off when Valderrama Golf Club hosted the Ryder Cup Matches in 1997. Some say it's the finest winter golf resort in Europe.

Property prices have ballooned accordingly, and there have been complaints of shady real-estate agents seeking to exploit the area's popularity. Still, for those seeking luxury golf-real estate, the Costa del Sol retains plenty of advantages: low interest rates, a burgeoning Spanish mortgage market, and, in some cases, even reduced prices, as sellers fearing the bubble is about to burst scale back their asking price.

For budding buyers, there are numerous legitimate options. Luxury resort La Condesa de Mijas Golf is near six courses and has apartments, penthouses and townhouses designed in a Andalucian style. Sold by Majestic Real Estate, the property also has tropical landscaped gardens.

Located near one of the last remaining private nature reserves in the area, La Zagaleta Country Club, designed by Seve Ballesteros, is one of the most exclusive clubs in the region. There are a number of properties available, with large plots and terrific views. The private course was designed by California architect Bradford Benz and is for the exclusive use of residents and members.

Benahavis Hills Country Club is set in the mountains of Andalucia, close to some of the better-known courses on the Costa del Sol - Montemayor, Los Flamingos, the Marbella Club Golf Resort. The development has 95 villas and 22 townhouses, with great views of the Mediterranean.

A little inland from Puerto Banus and Nueva Andalucia is the Golf Valley, with courses designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Ballesteros. It's home to quite a few luxury property developments, like the Aloha Hill Club, built on a natural hillside facing south and southwest, opening to views of Puerto Banus, the Mediterranean and the African coast. It's close to the Aloha, Las Brisas, La Quinta, Dama de Noche and Los Naranjos courses.

Other well-known courses in the Costa del Sol area are: Almenara, designed by Dave Thomas and known for its expansive practice facilities; the Marbella Club, with another Thomas course and views of Gibraltar and North Africa; Almenara Golf Hotel and Spa; Sotogrande, designed by Jones Sr.; and, of course, Valderrama, a private club acknowledged as one of the best in Europe, where the public is welcome if they book in advance.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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