The phenomenon of developers building 18-hole golf courses to accompany residential estates has come to an abrupt end. However, canny developers are finding new ways to sell golf-course living to home buyers.
History will regard the past quarter century as the golden age of Australian golf course construction. Dozens of courses were built as part of residential developments, the majority of them in growth corridors on the perimeter of Australia’s major cities.
Eventually, the boom ended due to the increasingly exorbitant price of land as well as the scarcity of large sites that are required to encompass a golf course. Tighter planning laws by state governments also impacted the viability of these golf communities, adding substantial costs to the initial outlay.
Now, however, developers are finding creative news ways to sell golf-course living to home buyers. With a shortage of modern homes for downsizing retirees, some are partnering with golf clubs to build over-55s seniors living villages on existing courses. For cash-strapped clubs it’s an opportunity to secure their futures.
And while water views are considered the most desirable aspect for property buyers, golf-course views are an attractive alternative. So little wonder that developers are targeting derelict inner-city land upon which they can build apartment towers that offer golf-course views. Call it ‘Living Above The Fairway’.
Ray Ellis, chief executive officer of First National Real Estate, has observed many fads and trends in the housing industry in the past two decades. A constant that has stood the test of time is the value and capital gain associated with residential golf estates. Furthermore, the COVID pandemic has seen many people move away from city centres to regional hotspots. And residential golf estates with modern amenities are high on the priority list of potential home buyers, from young professionals to retirees.
“In the post-COVID environment, all the attractive features of living on the fairway have now been exacerbated to make it 10 times more appealing,” Ellis says. “Because your home is now your office, your holiday destination, your weekend shack and your walk around the garden. As we recover from the post-COVID environment, people will increasingly value a residential setting attached to a golf course.”
A perfect partnership at Merewether
Construction will begin in November on a premium seniors living development at Merewether Golf Club in Newcastle. Property developer Third.i has been granted planning approvals to build 140 high-end apartments on a portion of the golf course to be known as Merewether Residences.
Merewether is the most fashionable suburb in Newcastle due to its seaside location. Being marketed as a ‘retirement resort’, Merewether Residences will have more of a hotel offering with an on-site concierge to help residents with anything from organising a theatre show in Sydney to booking their car in for a service. Facilities include a pool, gymnasium, sauna, steam room, day spa, cinema, show kitchen, wine cellar and outdoor fire pit. The village has been designed so as to allow grandparents to entertain their grandchildren.
Rather than selling off part of its course, Merewether Golf Club is leasing a 1,400-square-metre parcel of land for 99 years to Third.i, which is building the six-storey apartments. During the tender process, Third.i made a compelling proposal by valuing the land at $16.5 million – which is the amount the golf club will receive from Third.i (pronounced Third-Eye).
Merewether plans to spend approximately $9 million on a new clubhouse, at least $1.5 million on course renovations and put the remaining funds into income-generating assets. The apartment construction should take two years to complete and golfers will have an 18-hole course to play for the entirety of the build. However one hole will be shortened and temporary facilities will be used for the pro shop and carpark.
Almost half of the 140 apartments at Merewether Residences remain for sale. Prices for large one-bedroom apartments (77sqm) start from $742,000 while penthouses with Pacific Ocean views are anticipated to fetch $3.5 million.
While golf-club membership was on the decline prior to COVID, the pandemic has seen a revitalisation and Third.i has been encouraged by the development opportunity at Merewether Golf Club.
“We think it’s a perfect partnership. You’ve got members there that love their golf course and would love to be residents of a village on their own course,” says Ashleigh Button, Third.i general manager.
“We’d love to talk to more clubs that are interested in locking their future revenue streams. Because that’s the idea with Merewether. Why the club undertook it was to shore up their future revenue streams so they didn’t have to sell off land. And they could comfortably know that when this board was no longer the board, there is still money coming in for that club to allow it to remain an 18-hole golf course in perpetuity – without just having to rely on golf-club operations.”
In New South Wales, residential dwellings designed for over-55s have been permitted on golf courses even if the zoning was classified as recreational (non-residential). The NSW government has deemed there is a need for more seniors housing.
“We’ve identified that in the market there’s a real shortage of resort-style living,” Button adds. “Traditionally, we see a lot of retirement villages, they’re a bit old, they’re a bit dated. I think the average age of a retirement village in Australia is over 30 years. It’s not reflective of what the market actually wants to see.
“You’ve got Baby Boomers that have experienced 30 years of unprecedented growth in their primary residence. When they do downsize, they don’t want to go to some old, little village. They want to live somewhere that’s a bit more aspirational. And in a perfect kind of world, it’s the real idea of ‘lock-and-
leave’ where you can go travelling around the world.”
The beauty of the arrangement for Merewether Golf Club is that it earns an income from the lease. The club also receives a percentage of the deferred management fee (DMF) every time an apartment is re-sold.
Significantly, property developer Third.i undertakes all the risk instead of Merewether Golf Club, which retains ownership of the course and still has the benefit of being able to use that asset.
Living Above The Fairway
The concept of golf-course living in Australia has evolved during the past 20 years as developers eye potential sites with golf-course views. Positioned at the intersection of three outstanding Sydney golf courses is The Grand Eastlakes, a $1 billion master-planned community developed by Crown Group in close proximity to Sydney Airport and UNSW.
Drawing on its placemaking expertise and resounding success of the award-winning Infinity by Crown Group in Green Square, the developer is transforming the historic Eastlakes Shopping Centre on Evans Avenue in two stages. Located just south of the trendy foodie meccas of Alexandria and Rosebery, with Coogee and Maroubra beaches moments away, Eastlakes’ highly appealing lifestyle is already evidenced by sales of The Grand Residences.
Just five kilometres from the city, the residences sit atop The Grand Shopping Centre, a thriving new lifestyle precinct with 15 retailers anchored by a large-format Aldi Supermarket, Woolworths Metro, Australia Post and a variety of specialty stores and services.
Stage one of The Grand Residences was completed this year and features 133 luxurious apartments with resort-style amenities including rooftop entertaining area, swimming pool, gym and landscaped gardens. Designed by architect fjmt, the project won the 2022 Urban Taskforce Development Excellence Award for Best Mixed-Use Development.
North-facing apartments feature spectacular views over The Australian Golf Club and Sydney’s CBD skyline. South-facing apartments have stunning golf-course vistas across The Lakes and Bonnie Doon. Apartments are currently selling from $795,000 for a one-bedroom with car space to $1,470,000 for a three-bedroom apartment with car space.
Undoubtedly, the attraction of golf-course views has been a huge selling point for The Grand Eastlakes that will transform an antiquated shopping centre into a sophisticated urban hub in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Murray River momentum
The COVID pandemic has seen a migration of city slickers to the regions. And the Murray River has been the region of choice for many people due to its relaxed lifestyle and affordable house prices.
Large residential blocks are now selling at The Golf Club Estate at Rich River, a boutique development at Moama on the NSW side of the Murray River. The established 36-hole golf facility at Rich River Golf Club Resort is an obvious attraction for homebuyers while the Echuca/Moama region offers access to magnificent red-gum forests, paddlesteamer cruises and the temperate wine regions of Perricoota (NSW) and Heathcote (Victoria).
The Golf Club Estate is described as “a peaceful oasis for active retirees with all the usual residential services without the noise and traffic associated with normal residential living”. It’s comprised of 51 allotments within a Community Title Scheme. The estate is a short walk from the Rich River clubhouse where facilities include tennis, bowls and croquet.
The 29 remaining blocks for sale are large, ranging in size from 415 to 620sqm with prices starting from $270,000. Golf-course frontage lots – with views overlooking the ninth, 14th and 15th holes of Rich River’s East course – are each priced at $305,000 and have at least 440sqm.
Elsewhere on the Murray, the Silverwoods residential development has been a resounding success with the final stage of land now completely sold. The 960-lot estate at Yarrawonga features two kilometres of lake frontage spread across 160 hectares. Along with a marina, a $35 million recreational hub and the superb Black Bull Golf Course, Silverwoods has been likened to a regional version of the Gold Coast’s Sanctuary Cove.
Land has appreciated considerably at Silverwoods since 2015 when golf-course frontage was selling from $150,000. Land values have more than doubled in the past two years. The average price for 600sqm blocks with golf-facing views has been $498,000. Internal blocks without golf-course frontage have sold for $370,000.
Recently released to market at Yarrawonga is an over-55s lifestyle village situated within the confines of the Black Bull course. Zest will consist of 155 homesites, some of which have water views. Zest village will be a managed, gated estate and feature a large clubhouse, incorporating an indoor swimming pool, lawn bowls pitch, sauna, gymnasium and theatre. Two-bedroom homes at Zest start from $460,000 (visit zestcommunities.com.au).
Tweaking the Shark’s masterpiece
South-east Queensland has been a prolific beneficiary of the golf-course living phenomenon. The most active player in the market was Medallist Developments, the joint venture between Macquarie Bank and Greg Norman’s Great White Shark Enterprises. Together, they constructed golf communities at The Glades (2000), Pelican Waters (2000) and Brookwater (2002).
Pelican Waters on the Sunshine Coast has been hugely successful after the sale of approximately 2,800 allotments. In 2018, Palm Lake Group purchased Pelican Waters Golf Club and an adjoining 20-hectare undeveloped site for $15 million.
Palm Lakes Resort Pelican Waters will be a premium over-50s village with 320 custom-designed homes. It will feature four distinct precincts: social/dining, sports, health/wellness and arts/leisure. Apart from the golf complex, the sports precinct features an eight-rink undercover lawn bowls green, golf simulator rooms, two-lane tenpin bowling alley, table tennis room, tennis and pickleball courts.
The $70 million project has involved a minor reconfiguration of Norman’s existing golf course. Construction work began in August 2021 and the first homes are expected to be completed in early 2023.
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