I was walking up the country lane towards my in-laws’ house when I saw the man. He was standing stock still at the edge of the road, staring at the fields sloping sharply before him. I worried he might jump?until I noticed the club in his hands and the golf ball resting on the tee at his feet. A better look at the fields revealed the grass had been mown into nine perfect greens. I could barely believe my eyes: A nine-hole golf course? Off a country lane into agricultural land?
‘The farmer down the lane is trying to diversify,’ my mother-in-law explained when I asked her. ‘He got rid of the greenhouses and is now trying to set up a club and practice range.’
A practice range for aspiring Ben Nevis climbers, I should think, since the hill the course stretches on is better suited to hardy mountain goats than club-carrying humans. Beyond that, though, it struck me as a rather eccentric diversification idea. I mean, who would want to have a bunch of City slickers droning on about the stockmarket’s bellyaches while they practise their swing? (I should know?I married one).
But then interest in the game is rising and homes in golf resorts across the world command a premium. So I wondered: does the farmer know something I don’t? How much resale value could you gain when you add a nine-hole course on your own land?
Well below par, it turns out.
‘It will add nearly zero value unless it is really near a big urban conurbation,’ says a spokesman for the Golf Research Group, a business information consultancy. ‘We are already oversupplied with golf courses and driving ranges so, unless it’s in the middle of London, it won’t really make a difference to the value of agricultural land.’
Liam Bailey of Knight Frank agrees. ‘The problem with that is, rather like grass tennis courts, they are expensive to install and maintain, and it’s not straightforward whether you are going to get your money back,’ he says. ‘You may get more PR for your property when you sell it, and it may attract a small number of people, but I wouldn’t do it to add value. If you are thinking of doing it for yourself, do it, but it’s not a classic value improver.’
I don’t know about you but for that kind of uncertain return, I’d rather stick to growing greenhouse tomatoes. They may not make me a bean, but at least I won’t have to feign interest in the collapsing value of Indian bonds. Beyond dinnertime conversation with my husband, that is.