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Mumbai builders woo rich with golf courses,
sports facilities based home plans

Mumbai and its surrounding areas are getting some lung space finally with a number of builders showcasing new projects for the rich by throwing in features like golf courses and other sports facilities. The financial capital, unlike Delhi-NCR and cities in south India, has no golf course-linked real estate communities due to lack of space and exorbitant land prices. Currently, the city has only three 18-hole golf facilities the ones at United Services Club and Willington Sports Club in south Mumbai and Bombay Presidency Golf Course in Chembur.

Builders believe restricted membership to these clubs set up around 1930 will encourage super-rich clients to consider their projects on the outskirts of the city as a vacation home option.

Developers, having sensed the increasingly evolved tastes among buyers, are using differentiating strategies to sell projects. "Exposure to international home concepts among many of India's welltravelled property buyers is raising the bar on differentiation in residential projects here as well. Lifestyle aspirations have risen, and there's a lot of demand for theme housing projects," says Santhosh Kumar, CEO - operations, Jones Lang LaSalle India. "Sports, in general, and golf, in particular, are a recurring concept among India's more affluent home buyers," he said. Golf is fast becoming a status symbol and lifestyle statement for India's super-rich. Golf courses that are large, flawlessly landscaped and regularly maintained add to the living comfort and premium value of residential projects.

A golf course helps a developer attract the interest of the wealthy non-resident Indians, high net-worth individuals and the top management of India Inc. "Mumbai has a handful of golf courses but membership is restricted, and, in some cases, the waiting list may stretch to as long as 20 years. Some corporate membership plans are available, but they cost about Rs 30 lakh for eight years. It's a very difficult situation," says Rishi Narain, a former Asian Games gold medalist in golf.

Narain runs a company, RN Golf Management, provides consultancy services to realty developers for building golf courses, apart from being a golf marketing and management firm. According to Narain, the number of consultancy requests and queries from realtors keen on developing golf courses on the outskirts of Mumbai and close to Pune has been on the rise. Indiabulls Real Estate is the latest to join the select group of developers who are planning or have developed golf courses in and around Mumbai. The company is developing a realty project spread over 350 acres with an 18-hole golf course linked with luxury terraced residences and villas at Savrolli along the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

Another Mumbai-based developer, Lodha group, has already developed and delivered a nine-hole golf course at its project LodhaGolflinks near Dombivali. The project also has terraced residences and luxury villas attached to the golf course that will be operational by the end of this year. This project is spread over 50 acres, of which 30 acres have been used for the golf course. Lodha is also developing another nine-hole golf course along the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

"Our golf projects in both Mumbai and Pune are large developments catering to the aspirational as well as premium segment of customers. The large scale gives us the opportunity to create large open spaces, and by developing golf courses, we are able to fulfil the aspirations of people seeking to embrace a game and lifestyle that, so far, was perceived to be elitist and only accessible to the ultra-rich," says AbhishekLodha, MD of Lodha group.

Although these projects are on the outskirts of the city, they are targeted at the super-rich category and the projects are strategically marketed to them as a second or vacation home option. For golf facilities, Mumbai ranks almost at the bottom among major Indian and international cities, with only three major courses.

Apart from the three 18-hole courses, the city has courses at Kharghar in Navi Mumbai, at Royal Palms in Goregaon, and one in Thane. This is in complete contrast to cities like Bangalore, which has six courses, and the National Capital Region, which boasts of 15 courses, besides 3-4 private ones. Other Asian cities like Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur have as many as 40-50 golf courses. According to Narain, India has a total of 200 golf courses, but only a handful of them are of international championship standards.

Source : Economic Times