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Canada’s Golf Homes Are Luring More Buyers

Canada is a destination for both vacationers and second-home buyers who are attracted to its diversity of pursuits. Outdoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding, hiking and mountain biking top the list, but the culture and culinary scene in cities such as Montreal and Vancouver also figure in. Most recently, the country has become popular and well regarded for its golf as well as golf homes.

“Canada has some of the best golf courses in the world, along with incredible residential communities associated with the game,” said Scott Kauffman, an analyst specializing in global golf developments. “This has always been the case, but home buyers from all over the world” are increasingly catching on, he said.

The pandemic has helped bolster the interest in buying a golf property in Canada, Mr. Kauffman said, because it offers the great expanse of the outdoors. “You have low-density living and lots of open space, which have become big priorities for people over the last few years,” he said. “The beautiful scenery of lakes and mountains is also a winning quality.”

Home sales in developments where golf is a primary attraction have increased — in some cases significantly — since the onset of the pandemic in Canada’s two most notable golf home markets: the Okanagan Valley in the southwest, and Muskoka in the southeast. The Okanagan Valley had close to $300 million in residential sales last year, a jump from $233 million in 2020, according to the real estate company Engel & Volkers.

Josh Sens, a writer for Golf Magazine, said that both locations offered a strong marriage of golf and golf real estate. “Not all golf destinations have that,” he said. “The bonus is the pretty landscape you’re surrounded by and how immersed you are in nature.”

Here is a look at the real estate markets in the two regions.

A wine tasting at Laughing Stock Vineyards in Penticton, British Columbia.Credit…Jen Osborne for The New York Times

Okanagan Valley

Located in southern British Columbia, about a four-hour drive east of Vancouver, the Okanagan Valley is a vast region that covers more than 120 miles. Kelowna is the biggest town while Penticton and Vernon serve as smaller hubs, but the draw is the countryside that is full of lakes, mountains, vineyards and golf courses.

Alyssa Miller, a real estate agent with Engel & Volkers Okanagan and a golf real estate specialist, said that Okanagan had more than 30 courses, a mix of public and private. “There’s golf everywhere you turn, and you can generally play from March to early November,” she said.

Having the advantage of space, the courses are spread out and stand out for their picturesque settings. Tower Ranch Golf Club, which is public, is surrounded by vineyards and mountains, and Gallagher’s Canyon, with a private course, offers similar vistas.

Ms. Miller said that Okanagan had several large developments where golf was the main feature. The 1,400-acre Predator Ridge, in Vernon, British Columbia, is an example with its two 18-hole courses designed by renowned golf architects — the Predator Course by Les Furber and the Ridge Course by Doug Carrick.

Homes in Predator Ridge include condominiums, townhouses and single-family properties; prices range from $300,000 to $5.5 million, according to Richard Zokol, a golf and real estate specialist with the development and a former professional golfer. Currently, there are 850 homes there, he said, but there is space for 1,400 more. Predator Ridge debuted 28 townhouses last summer, Mr. Zokol said, and they were sold out in three days. “We’re building residences as fast we can, but it’s hard to keep up with the demand,” he said. “We saw around $23.5 million in sales overall in 2018 and increased to $33 million in 2021 despite having limited inventory.”

Set between Okanagan and Kalamalka Lakes, Predator Ridge — similar to many developments in the Okanagan Valley — offers residents many appealing amenities such as tennis, hiking, biking and pickleball. In winter, pursuits include snowshoeing and ice skating.

Outside of planned developments, Okanagan’s serene hills and lakes are dotted with single-family homes. Ms. Miller said sprawling private estates set on several acres of land cost more than $1 million.

The region offers an abundance of non-golf recreation. Wineries are a big draw: Okanagan is renowned for its sweet and crisp ice wines and produces sauvignon blancs, Chardonnays, merlots and pinot noirs. Locals enjoy hiking, biking, skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing. Summer revolves around Okanagan Lake as well as several smaller lakes with activities such as boating and swimming.

Okanagan Valley has sunny weather year-round and offers a high quality of life where the pace is relaxing, there is no shortage of fresh air. Given its distance from Vancouver, accessibility is a drawback — Kelowna has an international airport, but nonstop flights to and from major cities globally are few and far between.

However, Ms. Miller said that some buyers saw the setting as a benefit. “You come here for the hospitality and outdoorsy lifestyle, not to be in a big city,” she said.

The clubhouse at Muskoka Bay Resort in Ontario.Credit…Muskoka Bay Resort

Muskoka

Situated in the province of Ontario about a two-hour drive north of Toronto, Muskoka is called Ontario’s cottage country and is known as being the Hamptons of Canada. The area is notable for its three lakes, Muskoka, Rosseau and Joseph, and was the getaway spot of choice for high society at the turn of the 20th century; the elite who vacationed here include the Carnegies and Mellons.

Today, it is a destination that attracts home buyers and renters (past and present examples include Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, and the saxophonist Kenny G) who value privacy, water-centric activities such as boating and, lately, golf.

Muskoka has more than a dozen golf courses, both public and private, according to Shawn Woof, a senior vice president of sales with Sotheby’s International Realty Canada and a Muskoka resident. No matter the course, expect a side of wildlife with your game. “You’ll see fox, deer, wild turkeys and maybe even the odd black bear as you’re playing,” he said. “It’s part of the fun.”

Public courses include the Rock Golf Club, on the shores of Lake Rosseau and known for its numerous trees and rolling hills, and Taboo Muskoka Golf Course, full of white pine trees and pink granite rock outcroppings.

Private courses are usually part of residential communities or have homes near them, Mr. Woof said.

Muskoka Bay Resort, as an example, has a Doug Carrick-designed course, and anyone who buys a home in the community automatically becomes a member.

Residences, which have a contemporary aesthetic with a rustic twist, include condominiums, homes and villas; prices start at around $310,000. Owners can enjoy amenities such as tennis, an infinity pool, a spa, hiking and mountain biking trails, skiing, and snowshoeing.

Oviinbyrd Golf Club, on the southern tip of Lake Joseph, is another private course and considered to be ultraexclusive. As a result, the homes for sale near the club are expensive, Mr. Woof said, with prices beginning at $2 million.

But many golf home buyers purchase single-family properties that are not part of planned developments, according to Mr. Woof (these properties are called cottages, giving Muskoka its cottage-country nickname). “Ideally, you want a property on the lake to get the best of lake life,” he said. Prices for a fixer-upper lakefront home start at $750,000 but drop to $550,000 for a home away from the water.

Residential real estate is selling at a brisk pace in Muskoka in the wake of the pandemic. According to the Lakelands Association of Realtors, which covers Muskoka as well as surrounding areas, waterfront properties spent an average of 20 days on the market in the fourth quarter of 2021, compared with 24 days in the fourth quarter of 2020. Also, the median sale price for waterfront properties in the region rose 12.2 percent on a year-over-year basis to around $659,000 in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Homeowners who are golfers can partake in plenty of other pursuits when they are not on the course. Like the Okanagan Valley, ice skating, ice fishing and snowmobiling are staple winter pastimes; cross-country skiing is also popular. Summer means spending time around the lakes and boating, swimming, kayaking and fishing.

Muskoka’s proximity to Toronto Pearson International Airport, (about a two-hour drive) which offers flights to and from large cities globally such as London, New York and Munich, means that the destination attracts a diversity of international buyers.

“We see people from France, England, Switzerland, Los Angeles, Chicago and more,” Mr. Woof said.

Muskoka’s easygoing lifestyle is comparable to Okanagan Valley’s.

“You cap off a day of golf with a drink while watching the sunset, maybe around your firepit, and then have a great dinner,” Mr. Woof said. “We savor living a good life.”

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