At Caldicott Hall in Norfolk, we're developing a site for 48 Svenskabin Swedish timber homes from KDM. Each chalet will be painted in different bright colours, and we're expecting the development to be popular and profitable.
According to the National Golf Foundation (NGF), 60-70 per cent of new golf developments in the US are funded by real estate developments – but this is a trend that has been slow to catch on in the UK.
There are various reasons for this, of course, not least the geographical limitations of many clubs. A lot of rural clubs are on greenbelt land, and so planning permission for residential developments is difficult if not impossible to obtain. Conversely, suburban clubs tend to have limited acreage.
It's difficult to make a living from golf alone. There was a time in the 90s when the land belonging to golf clubs in receivership was bigger than the area of Greater Manchester. For that reason, it's important to stand out from the crowd, and we mean to do that by selling a lifestyle.
Caldicott Hall has always been family run, and as a family we've had leisure property in America for perhaps 20 years.
Essentially, we've imported the idea into the UK. We're hoping to attract retirees, perhaps people who want to sell their principal property to retire abroad, but still have a base in the UK. It could also appeal to young professionals who want a holiday getaway a little different from the usual beach house or seaside caravan.
The hope is that the residential development will be profitable in itself, establishing a core on-site population, and will also have a knock-on effect on our peripheral facilities – restaurants, clubhouses and so on.
I hope that other clubs in this country will take on the idea of real estate development as an integral part of their business, but there are one or two important points to consider.
This sort of project won't be right for everyone. Caldicott Hall is a proprietary course, with about 800 members and with plenty of acreage. Courses on greenbelt land are likely to face problems with planning permission, and suburban clubs may not have enough space to make this kind of project possible, as well as having more pay-and-play or 'car park' golfers who may not be interested in golfing as a lifestyle.
Also, I think concept is important. Our development is intended to have a certain Scandinavian charm. Clubs need to think about rustic or luxury themes – I don't think that brick-built accommodation would have the same sort of appeal.
Finally, from an architectural point of view, I think it's vital to think about the possibility of this kind of development from the offset. Architects and planners need to include real estate developments in the very earliest stages of their proposals. It's important to get across to gatekeepers that real estate development, as well as offering opportunities to the club itself, could have a reviving effect on the local community, and knock-on profits for local businesses.