Following a few years of setbacks due to the crisis in the real estate sector, golf has become once again a major attraction for tourists and property buyers alike, especially in the regions of Andalucía and Valencia. About 8,400 properties in Spain are bought every year by visitors from other parts of Europe who love to play golf but also enjoy spending time relaxing in the sunshine and on beaches.
More than 1.2 million golfers come to this country each year and it is now the favourite destination in Europe for those who play this sport, according to a report on the impact of golf on the economy which has been produced by the IE Business School, the Spanish Association of Golf Courses (AECG) and the Spanish Golf Federation (RFEG).
This study shows that only five per cent of international tourists who come to Spain stay in a second home here, but among foreign visitors who come to play golf the percentage rises to 23.9 per cent, which gives a good idea of the attraction this sport has for the property sector.
The impact of this search for places in which to play golf, and in places where it can be combined with sunshine and beach tourism, is huge: 42 billion euros have been invested in around 283,000 properties by this tourism segment alone.
Every year in Spain people buy 8,400 properties which are located in or near golf courses, at an average price of 356,000 euros, according to data from Golf Business Partners (GBP) in the report Nuevas Tendencias en el Turismo de Golf. Horizonte 2020, which was produced by the Confederation of Business Owners of Andalucía and the regional government's Ministry of Tourism and Sport.
About 18.5 per cent of the more than 350 golf courses in Spain are part of a residential development, highlighting the close link between golf and the property sector since the beginning of the century.
According to the figures from GBP, apart from the 75 golf courses which form part of a residential development, a further 170 have residential complexes nearby which benefit from their proximity.
Of the 283,195 golf tourists who own a property in Spain, 36 per cent chose Andalucía as their second home, investing over 15 billion euros in total. The Valencia region was the second most popular, as 33 per cent of tourists there come to play golf, and they have spent 13.6 billion euros on properties.
The third favourite destination in mainland Spain for international golfers to buy a second home was Murcia, with 29,051 properties costing 2.9 billion euros.
In the Balearic islands golfers have bought 22,300 properties and spent five billion euros, and in the Canary Islands, lovers of this sport have spent 2.8 billion euros on 12,424 second homes.
It is no coincidence that people who buy a property in Spain as a base for playing golf tend to choose places where there are lovely beaches, nor that most of the golf courses in Andalucía are on or close to the coast, because these visitors are keen to enjoy both, and that creates an interesting connection between traditional tourism, residential tourism and golf.
The type of tourism associated with golf brings visitors to the country all year round; many of them come more than once a year and they all spend more while they are here.
Whereas traditional tourism has its peak in the summer months, golf tourism is most popular in the spring and autumn, especially in March, April, October and November, but it remains steady during the rest of the year.
Those who come here for the golf are twice as likely as other tourists to visit once a month (5.76 per cent, compared with 2.65) and they are also more likely to come twice or four times a year. It would be unusual for golfers to come once a year or less, or for this to be their first visit to Spain.
In addition, tourists who come to Spain for its golf facilities stay longer (11.9 nights compared with 7.4 for conventional tourists), have a higher level of income and spend much more (on average, 324 euros a day) during their stay.