In the Israeli coastal city of Caesarea, demand for homes with views of Caesarea Golf Club, the country’s only golf course, has skyrocketed. Require playing on the course itself, not so much.

“I don’t remember a client coming to ask for a house on the golf course because he plays golf,” said Meir Menahem, estate agent at Neot Shiran, which specializes in luxury properties. “For most of them, it’s because it’s open views, it’s green, and because it puts them in the best spot.”

Housing prices in Israel rose more than 10.6% in 2021, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, but in Caesarea, a city of 5,500 people roughly halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa, agents say an influx of buyers eager to swap their cramped city apartments for homes with pools and gardens has driven local prices up more than 30%.

For decades the town – which sits on Herodian ruins and boasts a coastline, manicured green spaces and a national park – has been seen as a hub of vacation homes for the wealthy. Israelis.

About 35 miles from Tel Aviv, it was considered by many commuters too remote for a dormitory community. Its real estate, largely in the form of aging villas with swimming pools, often sat empty for months before Covid-19 upended the property market.

Now homes overlooking the Caesarea golf course are among the most popular in the country, even for buyers who rarely choose a club.

“I play golf, but only when I’m on vacation,” said Tomer Yariv, who bought a house overlooking the golf course and the sea for 11.5 million Israeli shekels (about 3.5 million dollars) in November with his wife, Yamit. The couple, who both grew up in Haifa and spent two decades in the United States, returned to Israel in 2017 with their three children, now ages 14, 10 and 5.

“All of Caesarea is beautiful, but around the golf course it’s a bit more impressive,” he said. “After 20 years in America, Caesarea was the place that suited us best. It reminded me of America – the size of the rooms, the swimming pool in the garden. It’s clean and organized. »

This may be because Caesarea is run by a private company rather than a municipality. Much of the land that is now Caesarea was purchased by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild in the late 1800s, and today the Caesarea Development Corporation, a subsidiary of the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation, manages the city on behalf of the family. (Citizens of Caesarea vote every four years for members of an elected committee that represents their interests.)

The golf course was built in 1961 and was not always considered real estate. Caesarea is divided into 13 neighborhoods, or groups, three of which – Groups 13, 11 and 9 – offer a handful of houses with stunning views over the greens. Sales in golf districts were slow, said Miki Kleiger, the company’s chairman, until 2009 – the year the Rothschild family invested 60 million shekels (about $18 million) in renovating the golf club, by calling on the American architect Pete Dye. to redesign the course.

“After that, it really became a big attraction, and cluster 13 became the most sought after,” Kleiger said. “There is no doubt that the front line of golf has had a lot of help as the grass has been laid and there is now an additional 1,000 dunams [247 acres] of green landscape.

Prices in Caesarea for a golf-front property currently start at around NIS 10 million ($3 million) per quarter acre of land. In 2021, there were just over 100 homes sold in the city, not including new construction, and a quarter of those sales exceeded NIS 15 million ($4.5 million), while the rest were between 5 and 10 million shekels, according to the company.

Architect Rina Doctor has designed more than 120 houses in Caesarea, including hers, a modern six-bedroom golf-facing home with an infinity pool she designed 12 years ago.

“We don’t play golf, but we like living here, because it’s like living in nature,” she says. “You have birds. You have jackals at night. It’s very unique to live on the golf course. Mrs. Doctor is now trying to sell her house. She plans to stay in Caesarea, but her new home will be in a different neighborhood.

“Unfortunately we can no longer afford land on the golf course as all the prices have gone up,” she said. She hopes to get 16 million shekels ($4.97 million) for the property.

As prices have risen, so has the number of ethnic Israelis living in Caesarea: While Caesarea was once popular with foreign-born Jews buying vacation homes, Mr. Yariv’s family does part of the dozens of newcomers to the city who are changing the demographics.

“A lot of local Israelis are now coming to Caesarea, unlike in the past when there were a lot of Jewish foreigners, and it’s been an incredible change,” said Michael Karsenti, the company’s chief executive. “A lot of them are upper middle class or upper class, they’ve been successful in technology or real estate, and it’s very interesting to see.”

Despite the sharp rise in prices, Rena Roberman, a real estate agent who lives in Caesarea and works only within the city limits, said she thinks buyers are still getting good deals.

“Caesarea, for a very long time, was actually incredibly undervalued,” she said, comparing it to other affluent riverside communities in Israel like Herzliya and Beit Yanai.

Her husband, Eran Roberman, is an entrepreneur who also works only in Caesarea, and he estimates that in the last five years almost 40% of the houses in the city have been demolished or renovated.

“When I came to Caesarea 21 years ago it was an amazing place, but it was a place of vacation homes that were uninhabited,” he said. “Now you have young people who realize that they had a small apartment in Tel Aviv and they could sell that apartment and for what they got they could have a whole house in Caesarea with a swimming pool .”

But while the story of the city’s millennials fleeing to greener pastures has unfolded across the world throughout the pandemic, Caesarea’s story is a little different, Ms Roberman said. This is because Caesarea Golf Course is more than a manicured stretch of grass in the middle of a city.

In Israel, a country whose population is growing at four times the average rate of other developed nations, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Caesarea is a green oasis that doesn’t require moving to a kibbutz or co-op farm. . For owners looking for a more pastoral option while allowing them to get to Tel Aviv, the golf course can become a backdrop for a number of lifestyles.

“I call homes that overlook the golf course limited-edition works of art,” Ms. Roberman said. “If you buy a house two blocks away, it could be anywhere. But for a house to buy on the front row of the golf course in Israel, you can really only get one in 65. That’s very special.