Tue09182018

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Time for Tee?

Golf in Bulgaria. Popularity in the game of golf is skyrocketing with courses starting to pop up all over Bulgaria. So, we decided to take a look at golf withinin the country, and in particular the five signature courses. During communist times golf was frowned on as being ‘bourgeois’ and was definitely low on the list of sports, so courses were left to deteriorate. Despite golf still being regarded as a sport of the elite it has seen fantastic development in Bulgaria in recent years. As incomes rise along with more leisure time, interest in golf is increasing within the local population too. With more courses in development, yet more in planning and more television coverage the future looks very bright.

 

Regarding playable days, Bulgaria can not compete with Spain or Portugal. However, developers here have recognised that by setting a course in an excellent location and combining it with additional quality attractions such as spas, wellness centres, hotels and conference facilities, horse-riding, tennis and so on, the courses can have pretty much year-round appeal. Developers are looking for a certain combination of ‘somethings’ which, apart from the golf , can give each golf course a unique character.

This combination of attractions together with the prospect of low-cost airlines is having a major impact on future golf developments in Bulgaria.

In the main it has been the investors rather than individual golf fans who have been buying the houses and apartments on the developing golf courses. Now, individuals from western and northern Europe are flocking to buy. Mostly coming from Britain, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. These buyers seem to fall into three categories: those buying purely for investment and to rent; some who want to live there; others who just buy for their own holiday use.

Amongst British buyers, these are people who are looking to use the property for a few weeks themselves and then rent it out during the rest of the year. Golf is offering these buyers the opportunity to buy top real estate which is also not linked specifically to ski or beach. Buying on those courses which combine with either ski or beach means they can offer more to potential tourists and thus extend the rental season.

Many of these seek out golf courses as they provide landscaped open space which is protected just by it being a golf course. Even those who do not play golf will often buy on a golf course because these properties generally offer a higher return. Most of this huge interest comes from overseas buyers with the local Bulgarians making up less than ten percent of those buying.

Nearly all those involved in the industry say that Bulgaria’s chances of becoming an international golf destination are excellent, particularly in the light of the government stating its support for tourism of this nature. Certainly the future looks rosy. According to the WTO by the year 2020 nearly every third visitor to Europe will choose a Central or Eastern European destination and golf tourists in particular are always looking for new golf destinations and new courses to play.

 

The other interesting factor is that golf tourists are usually those who are also interested in culture, making them very suitable to the Bulgarian market, with its rich and undiscovered heritage.

On the other hand, most golfers would not come if they could only play on the same course during most of their holiday. Serious golf tourism will arrive once Bulgaria can offer several courses within, say, half an hour of each other. It is evident from the list of courses in planning and under construction that this is the intention of the developers.

 

 

FIVE SIGNATURE COURSES WITH SKI OR BEACH
To be successful a golf course has to offer high quality. Investment in golf courses is really all about top quality - the course, accommodation, services, facilities. An extra benefit is being able to combine this with ski or beach. Then, if you can add to this a world famous designer this can guarantee the product quality and offers a marketing edge to attract golfers, providing ultimately top returns.

We spoke to Martin Hunt of Living Bulgaria who are specialists in the five signature courses which are under development in Bulgaria.

Martin told us ‘We are probably the only company to offer such a selection, and certainly the only founding supporter of the Quest for Real Estate Ethics campaign to boast all of these wonderful golf resorts. The price of all properties on all five courses are exactly the same as buying from the developer and we charge no buyer’s commission on any of these projects’.

Black Sea Rama Golf and Country Club (above)

We asked him what he felt would be the key element for Bulgaria to become a top international golf destination. He said, ‘I believe that the signature courses are important as this has to do with golfer preferences. The name of a world class designer has a big marketing effect and adds value to the properties on the course. One of the most important things for Bulgaria is to ensure a good marketing plan to promote all of these courses and Bulgaria as a top level golfing destination’.