Golf enthusiasts looking for a perfect golfing retirement spot can choose from among hundreds of communities in the United States that offer proximity to great golf courses as well as other amenities. For those who are more adventuresome, there are interesting destinations overseas as well that offer superior golfing opportunities.
Overseas retirement isn’t for everyone. Before making any final decisions, take an extended vacation to your target destination, and pack your golf clubs. Explore the housing market, the cuisine, health care, and lifestyle; talk to other expats, and play lots of golf to see whether the local golf culture is compatible to your style. Golf is popular around the world and the game isn’t played any differently in the Philippines or South Africa, but there may be subtle differences in etiquette and attitudes that you should learn about.
St Andrews, Scotland
If you have a true love for the game and its history, then put St. Andrews at the top of your list, at least for an extended visit. This small Scottish community of about 15,000 people claims to be the “home” of golf; although no one can say for sure where golf was “invented,” it is commonly believed that Scottish shepherds along the North Sea coast were the first to play a rudimentary form of the game, as early as the 15th century. The game’s rules were standardized in the mid-1700s, and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, founded in 1754, continues to exercise legislative authority over the game worldwide. There are several courses in St. Andrews, including the Old Course, the oldest golf course in the world. The Old Course hosts the British Open tournament roughly every five years, although the last Scot to win the Open on his home course was James Braid in 1910.
Apart from its golf history, St. Andrews is a beautiful, medieval town with several landmarks, including a castle facing the sea. The University of St. Andrews is one of the most prestigious in the United Kingdom. The larger town of Dundee is less than 20 miles to the north, and both Edinburgh and Glasgow are an easy drive away. Foreign nationals over the age of sixty who can verify an annual income of £25,000 or more can obtain a retirement visa to the United Kingdom; for those under sixty, there are other visa options. However, you’ll need more than £25,000 to live comfortably; Scotland is one of the most expensive destinations in Europe.
A cheaper European destination for retirees is the Algarve coast of Portugal. This stunning Atlantic coastline, in the far south of the country, offers a temperate climate, warm waters, almond groves, medieval ruins, and an eclectic history peopled by Phoenicians, Celts, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors. There are thirty golf courses scattered along the coastline and in the nearby hills; one notable facility is the Vale do Lobo Golf Resort, home to the Royal Golf Course and the Ocean Golf Course. These views at these courses are stunning.
Green fees on the Algarve can range from €30 to over €100; packages and discounts are available. The Algarve has long been a popular retirement destination, mostly among British and European retirees but increasingly for North Americans. Overall living costs are about half what they are in France or Germany. Foreigners can purchase property in Portugal; purchasing is often a better choice than renting, since seaside rentals are usually short-term and high-priced. Private health care is expensive, but long-term residents are eligible for public health care. Learning the Portuguese language is a must.
On the other side of the world, the island of Bali in Indonesia is an intriguing possibility. Bali has long been a prime tourist destination because of its beaches and its unique (in this part of the world) Hindu culture; the island can often seem overrun by well-heeled foreigners staying at five-star resorts as well as by backpackers on tight budgets, combing the countryside for “unspoiled” rice-growing villages. Bali has only a few golf courses, but they are consistently ranked among the top courses in Asia, and all are in beautiful settings. The Bali Golf and Country Club offers perhaps the island’s best course, with spectacular ocean views; the Bali Handara Kosaido Country Club, on the other hand, is situated in the bowl of an extinct volcano.
There are several agencies that help foreigners obtain retirement visas to Indonesia. Generally, an applicant must be 55 years or older, with an annual income of at least US$18,000; citizens of most Western European, North American, and ASEAN countries, as well as Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, are eligible. Living costs are low; if you purchase your own quarters, $1,000 a month will allow you to live comfortably.
South African courses
There are more than 500 golf courses in South Africa, and because of strong demand the number is growing. Many of these courses are of superior quality, well equipped, and situated among beautiful scenery. And, although South Africa is still something of a “secret” among international golf enthusiasts, the numbers of international golf tourists increase every year. There is much to discover in this large, emerging country.
Over the past decade, South Africa has developed a reputation for violent crime. However, as in many countries, such problems are limited to certain urban areas and can easily be avoided. Every year, thousands of Europeans retire to South Africa, most along the beaches and around Cape Town, a beautiful and cosmopolitan city. (Most of the country’s golf courses are concentrated in the Western Cape region.) The combination of beautiful climate, beaches, game parks, low cost of living — and endless golf opportunities — spells out an ideal retirement destination.
Other Possible Golfing Destinations
Obviously, there are many more possibilities. For Americans who wish to return home a few times a year, Mexico is a logical choice. The Philippines is a popular golfing destination for Japanese and Korean golfers, who pay less to golf in the Philippines, including the cost of their airfare, than they would pay in their home countries. (Green fees in
Japan are astronomical.) And Australia boasts some 1,500 golf courses, some of which are among the world’s finest.
Do your research and plan at least one extended vacation to your intended retirement destination, and you’ll be able to enjoy your retirement for years to come.