Golf in island paradises

The worldwide growth of golf has driven developers to search for unspoiled island paradises with plenty of sunshine and cheap land. One of those places that has suddenly popped up on the radar screen for golf resort developers is the Cape Verde Islands.

The name may be unfamiliar to Americans, but heavy TV advertising aimed at Europeans is promoting the 10 islands that make up the Cape Verdes, located about 300 miles off the coast of Africa and a three-hour flight from Portugal, as a destination.

A former Portuguese colony, the nation is considered part of Africa but now is an independent republic.

Rob Maxfield, director of property and development for PGA Golf Management, a consulting firm in the UK, sees Cape Verde as a definite hot spot.

"It's only just recently that Europeans have begun going there," Maxfield said. "Dozens of companies have plans [for development], including European and Middle Eastern firms."

His company will supervise construction and manage two Ernie Els courses in a Cape Verde project on the west coast of Sal Island in an area called Calheta Bay. The ?2 billion resort will sell vacation homes.

The developer is Cape Verde Development, an Irish investment firm. Two more Els courses will be built on a neighboring island, Sao Vincente, as part of the Baia Das Gatas Beach Spa and Golf Resort, also funded by Cork-based Cape Verde Development.

The FM Group of Scotland is also funding a lush development called Salamansa Sands including a Jack Nicklaus signature course. And Nick Faldo is designing a course for the island of Santiago as part of a 5-star resort called Estrela Santiago. ARCK Estrela Ltd., a Jersey company, is the developer.

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