If it weren't for the weather, most of us might choose to live out our years in the North or Midwest, according to a recent study released by the Millken Institute.
The research paper, titled "Best Cities for Successful Aging," looked at data across a range of factors, including safety, affordability, happiness, financial security, transportation, living arrangements and other attributes important for older folks -- but climate was not one of them. Based on the data rather than people's personal opinions, Millken, a west coast think tank, ranked large and small metro areas by their suitability for people ages 65 to 79, as well as for those 80 and over. Of the top 10 for "large" areas, only Jackson, MS, and Austin, TX, represent the South; in the "small metro" category, only south of the U.S. midpoint Midland, TX, makes the top 10.
Some of the choices are baffling, even in a context devoid of climate as a factor. For example, Boston, Honolulu and New York City all rank in the top 10 of the large metros, despite their lofty costs of living, especially real estate prices. Back out the need for a car in a public transportation heavy New York or Boston, and the costs to live there are still stratospheric compared with southern cities that pretty much require automobile ownership. Millken also defines the area around Bridgeport, CT (#10 for large metros), as "among the safest places to live." Most residents of Connecticut would not be likely to endorse that perspective.
As you might imagine, folks who have moved to the South or are considering it because they are fed up with cold winters, did not take kindly to the survey results.
"This list is for the birds (badly behaving birds)," wrote one of the visitors to TopRetirements.com, where the editors published some of the Millken results and top ranking metro areas. "If climate is not the criteria, which is the most important factor for seniors, then I can show you a lot more places that are far better than these. How about Iceland? Not listed here."
"If it's covered in snow and ice in the winter," proclaimed a writer from Minneapolis, "I'm not going to live there in the winter, no matter how great...winters can be so brutal, one becomes a shut-in for the other 4-6 months. I think it's life-extending to get out of here."
As mentioned, Jackson, MS, ranked in the top 10 for larger metro areas. The city, which is home to the University of Mississippi, ranked #6 for those 65 to 79, largely because it had the #1 ranking for healthcare, according to Millken, and the #5 ranking in the employment/education category. Austin's status as a high-tech center helped put it in the #1 ranking for financial status and #9 overall for the 65 to 79 age group.
There are almost 20 golf courses within 20 miles of downtown Jackson, including Reunion Golf & Country Club in the community of the same name and located in Madison, MS. Bob Cupp designed the golf course and members enjoy tennis, a fitness center, and swimming pool, as well as golf. Homes in the surrounding golf community range in price from $350,000 to over $1 million, with the sweet spot around $500,000.
By the way, Madison, WI, ranks #1 for large metro areas for folks 65 to 79, and #3 for those 80 and over. As I write this, the high temperature for the day in Madison has reached 27 degrees. It is 65 in Austin.
You can access the Millken report, including its rankings of the top 100 large metros and top 252 small metros, by clicking here.
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A special edition of our free monthly newsletter, Home On The Course (HOTC), is almost ready to email to our list of nearly 1,000 subscribers. In our holiday issue, we present our first annual awards, the Hotsies, for the acronym of the name of our company and newsletter. The awards are both serious and a bit tongue in cheek, including an award for the Most Confusing Strategy by an Uber-Wealthy Golf Community Developer, the Wildest Hole of the Year, the Cheapest Golf Community Real Estate and others. We also share our ratings of all the public South Carolina golf courses we have played over the years. And as the year comes to a close and thoughts turn to...taxes, we distinguish among the four most popular states in the Southeast. Our conclusion is that it almost doesn't matter, relative to taxes, which state you choose; if you are moving from one of the old industrial states in the north, you will save on taxes, and likely in a big way, in any Southeastern state.
Subscribe now to Home On The Course by clicking here, and don't miss out on our big end-of-the-year issue.
A special edition of our free monthly newsletter, Home On The Course (HOTC), is almost ready to email to our list of nearly 1,000 subscribers. In our holiday issue, we present our first annual awards, the Hotsies, for the acronym of the name of our company and newsletter. The awards are both serious and a bit tongue and cheek, including an award for the Most Confusing Strategy by an Uber-Wealthy Golf Community Developer, the Wildest Hole of the Year, the Cheapest Golf Community Real Estate and others. We also share our ratings of all the public South Carolina golf courses we have played over the years. And as the year comes to a close and thoughts turn to...taxes, we distinguish among the four most popular states in the Southeast. Our conclusion is that it almost doesn't matter, relative to taxes, which state you choose; if you are moving from one of the old industrial states in the north, you will save on taxes, and likely in a big way, in any Southeastern state.
Subscribe now to Home On The Course by clicking here, and don't miss out on our big end-of-the-year issue.
There are no adjacent two states in the U.S. with a better combination of barbecue joints and good to excellent golf courses in close proximity than the two Carolinas. With a total of about 550 restaurants serving pig meat pulled and chopped and sauced in a multitude of ways, and more than 1,000 golf courses, North and South Carolina offer a grand buffet of golf and 'cue.
If you love barbecue and you are searching for a golf home in the Carolinas, you can have both, and within an easy ride of your new home. Here's our rundown of some of the best combos of golf community living and barbecue, with a few brief notes on each (some of the recommendations and comments about the barbecue were supplied by our local real estate agents). If you would like more information on either, or an introduction to our local golf community and barbecue specialist, contact me:
With Tom Fazio and Rees Jones golf courses, home styles ranging from Charleston row house to expansive mansion, and proximity to both Charleston and the rapidly growing town of Mt. Pleasant, Daniel Island will appeal to golfer and urban lover alike. For pork lovers, Hometeam Barbecue will appeal for its "rustic, casual feel in a beach setting. Best barbecue in town," according to Daniel Island agent Rick Horger. Beware of The Hometeam Gamechanger, a drink that carries a warning that strongly implies you should have a designated driver with you.
The course that Jack (Nicklaus) built plays through live oaks and between yawning bunkers on the front nine, then explodes out onto the marsh on the finishing nine. The community, whose condo homes begin in the low $100s and single-families in the high $200s, is gated, but the golf course is open to the public. The local public loves Hog Heaven for its low-priced buffet, decent pulled pork, collards, banana cream pudding and, most of all, the best fried chicken you will find anywhere. (I have the beltline to prove it.)
Nicklaus again, this time 27 holes worth, at the beautifully landscaped Governors Club, whose roads dip and rise amid beautiful rock outcroppings a few minutes outside Chapel Hill, home to the University of North Carolina and a sophisticated college town vibe. The vibe at Allen & Son, located in the V of intersecting rural roadways, is unpretentious and focused on the ample portions of flavorful pulled pork. I was so impressed during my first visit that I took a pound to go for the ride back to Connecticut; the helpful staff was happy to load me up with ice.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not visited Cypress Landing but it has a solid pedigree, what with the respected Bill Love and Ault Clark and Associates as the course designers, and reasonably priced real estate located beside the inner banks of the Albemarle Sound. The community has been around for almost 20 years, certainly a sign of stability and, frankly, there aren't many other golf communities in the area to compete. I do know Hog Heaven -- unrelated to the Pawleys Island joint -- after a fortunate stop my buddy and I made there during a recent one-week southern golf trip. We spent a good chunk of the rest of our five hour drive talking about the size of the dinner platter, the quality of the pulled pork –- not too dry, not too wet, with just a hint of vinegar that married perfectly with the porky taste -– and the ridiculous price, just $10. The accompaniments were excellent too.
You might suffer the bends going from the upscale Walnut Cove to the ultra-casual 12 Bones, but you won't suffer from being underfed. 12 Bones vaulted onto the barbecue map after President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama visited the compact Asheville location during his 2008 campaign and, again, in 2010. The Prez loves his 'cue, and the repeat visit implies that the ribs were too finger lickin' good to try trolling for votes in a different restaurant. After my own lunch in the Asheville location with friends from the area, 12 Bones gets my vote.
You can gorge on golf at Landfall, with its 45 holes of Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus golf, and then do the same at Jackson's, an institution in the area for its pulled pork and ribs served at reasonable prices. Wilmington is a magnet for movie productions, and films like "Weekend at Bernie's" and dozens of others have been shot on location there. Apparently many of the movie stars as well as other sports and entertainment celebrities have made it to Jackson's Big Oak, judging from the restaurant's large Wall of Fame.
Wanda Reed, our real estate expert and resident barbecue maven in the Greenville area, says this is the go-to barbecue place for residents of The Cliffs at Mountain Park and Glassy, as well as Cliffs Valley. Huntin' reels in a mixed bag of barbecue lovers, with local and visiting golfers, Furman University students, high school prom couples and local construction workers chowing down together on the Camp's famous ribs and hash.
Greenville Country Club's two excellent 18-hole golf courses, ranked highly by the South Carolina Golf Rating Panel, are separate facilities, but local lovers of the pig are united about Henry's. With a pork plate, mac & cheese and sweet potatoes that are off the charts, and some of the best sweet tea in the state that invented it, Henry's shows that there is no class distinction when it comes to great food, especially at lunchtime when the tables are crowded with suits and dresses filling up on some of the best barbecue in the South.
With the only Tom Fazio designed golf course in the Columbia area, and a mature, financially stable community and club, Woodcreek is among the most popular golf communities for local retirees and professional like lawyers and doctors. The nicely landscaped homes surround the golf course but never encroach, and the clubhouse is warm and comfortable, not stuffy. When the urge for barbecue is upon Woodcreek residents, they head for Lil Pigs and its "All you care to eat buffet." The barbecue master at Lil Pigs could qualify for a degree in chemistry, given that the 'cue is half ham, half shoulder, hickory smoked, then pulled apart, set in sauce overnight and then smoked again to heat it back up. And don't worry about being force fed one of the three sauces Carolinians war over –- Lil Pigs offers all three.
Okay, so the distance from golf community to barbecue joint is outside our stipulated range of 20 minutes; it's not your fault if you live on the other side of the lake from Hudson's. Timberlake is an under-promoted golf community that has the benefit of that sprawling lake and a location barely 35 minutes from the state capital and college town of Columbia (University of South Carolina). Willard Byrd designed the golf course, and seven of the holes play up against the lake. Rated one of the best joints in a state that has plenty of them, Hudson's menu covers a wide range of southern staples, including fried catfish, pork skins, of course barbecue (brisket and pork) and even a "brisket egg roll" (chopped brisket, cabbage and jalapenos).
Barbecue and golf are hot topics in South Carolina, and one of our dedicated readers, Dr. Bruce Wellmon of Gaffney, SC, wasted no time –- actually about 60 seconds after we posted the article above –- in weighing in with his own recommendations. His first two, Bridges Barbecue in Shelby, NC, and Lexington Barbecue in the famous North Carolina barbecue mecca of the same name, are admittedly not near any decent golf courses. However, Bruce recommended the Pik 'n' Pig in Carthage, NC as a must stop. Talk about a combo of golf and 'cue, Carthage is less than a half hour from Pinehurst, which you may have heard of. Better yet, the Pik 'n' Pig has a small airport attached as well as a driving range. Feel free to fly in, warm up, pig out and head for Tobacco Road. Golf and hog heaven in the Sandhills.
For anyone doubting Florida's return to its glory days of net population inflows, a quick glance at some recent migration numbers confirms the resurgence. Whereas the Phoenix metro area led the nation with the largest numbers of new citizens in the 2009-to-2012 time period, and by a large measure, 30% of the top 10 areas in terms of growth were in Florida –- Tampa/St. Pete at #3, Orlando-Kissimmee at #7 and Jacksonville at #8. Particularly impressive is that all three metros are in different geographies of the Sunshine State -– the Gulf Coast, the center of the state and the northeast coast, respectively.
Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/Pompano Beach held down the #14 spot with just a net inflow of 1,411 people but that was from a net outflow of 3,946 in the 2006 to 2009 period. Orlando/Kissimmee came back from a deficit of 647 to an increase of 3,495. Jacksonville gained a total of 3,485 people in the three-year period.
The report was compiled by William Frey, a top demographer at the Brookings Institution, and was based on three years worth of data.
We have established good contacts with local real estate professionals in Florida and would be pleased to make an introduction for anyone contemplating a golf vacation or permanent home on a golf course there. Please contact us and we will get working in your behalf.
We are catching up on our reading and noticed that an April report in USA Today named Myrtle Beach, Kiawah Island, Pinehurst, Sea Island, GA and Naples, FL, the top golf destinations in the world, a clean sweep for the Southeast region. This seems significant given USA Today's wide circulation.
Of these top five golf-rich areas, we believe the best bargains in golf homes are currently in the Myrtle Beach area, where a large inventory of properties for sale adjacent to and near the Grand Strand's 100 golf courses and a sluggish local economy are putting significant downward pressure on prices. Anyone looking for a vacation (second) home with plentifully good golf virtually across the street is especially in luck. Recently, we recommended the units just across the street from True Blue Golf Club in Pawleys Island, about 40 minutes south of Myrtle Beach airport, to a customer who was looking first and foremost for a low-priced option. Two-bedroom, two-bath condos there are priced from around $90,000. Although we would not recommend these or many other condo units in the area as permanent homes, they are more than adequate for those looking for a getaway golf vacation a few times a year, as well as for those who might want to offset expenses with a bit of rental income.
When I conducted a search a few days ago of all Myrtle Beach area
Myrtle Beach is currently getting a bit of a bump from the Golf Channel, whose weekly television series "Big Break" was filmed earlier this year at some of the area's top golf courses, including Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island. Pawleys Plantation is your editor's home-away-from-home course, and I watched the show last week with interest to see how the contestants would fare. The night's competition started from tee to green on the par 3 17th hole, which plays entirely over an expanse of marsh. The competitors had little trouble finding the green since their tee boxes were set at just 110 yards, compared with the 160 yards the men's tees typically demand. And it did not appear the players had to think twice about club selection, since the typical ocean winds were non-existent.
Later, the contestants moved to the 11th hole, a straightaway par 5 where they competed for the straightest drive. Oddly, a few of the shots did not go the required 230 yards for the men (maybe the wind kicked up); the women contestants had no trouble flying past their 200-yard minimum. Finally, the guy whose two drives were farthest from the center line was forced to choose a fellow competitor for a two-hole elimination playoff on holes 12 and 18, two decent par 4s but not exactly Pawleys' most dramatic holes. I was mystified the producers did not use the short par 3 13th and its tiny island green, what club members refer to as "the shortest par 5 in Myrtle Beach." Perhaps they didn't want to position their camera people on boats in the marsh to capture the best shots.
Both contestants made par at the 12th, but when one of them duck hooked his drive left into the marsh, took a drop and then almost yanked it into the lake at greenside, the match was virtually over. (He must have heard about the alligator that frequents the lake because needing to sink his fourth shot from about 25 yards, he did not take off his shoes and socks and play a proper stroke, instead opting to turn his back to the hole and hit the ball between his legs; it went about eight feet.)
Admittedly I am biased, but along with Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, Pawleys Plantation is one of the two or three best golf courses south of Myrtle Beach. Prices for single-family homes have been rising incrementally the last few months, but condos and townhomes inside the gated community are still near their lowest points in 10 years. One townhome in the Weehawka section that sits between the 10th and 11th holes –- an easy walk to the clubhouse and first tee -– is currently listed for just $106,000. A few others are listed in the $120s. For more information, contact me (click here). Better yet, fill out our Golf Home Questionnaire, tell us your requirements for a golf community home, and we will respond with some suggestions about which communities match up the best. No fees, no obligation. Click here for access to the online questionnaire.
We suppose it is fitting that a mountain golf community with skiing at its top and golf at its base should suffer fortune's highs and lows. That is what pretty much what has happened in just a couple of years at the Wintergreen Resort in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia.
After a couple of nearly snowless winters that dried up annual ski revenues for the owners of the community, Wintergreen Partners Inc, the financially strapped homeowners association put Wintergreen up for sale in 2012. No less a white knight than Jim Justice, savior of the famed Greenbrier Resort two hours through the mountains from Wintergreen stepped up and stepped in to save the day. Within a few months of his purchase of Wintergreen, which comprises 45 holes of golf and some of the best skiing east of the Mississippi and south of New England, Justice committed another $12 million and remade the entire snowmaking infrastructure of the ski operations. Club members did their part as well, most of them agreeing to pay a new initiation fee of $5,000 on top of the fee they had paid to join in the first place; new club members were assessed $10,000. The new infusion of cash, plus a couple of snow-filled winters, helped resort operations move from the red to black.
But for some reason that has not been communicated beyond the Justice inner circle, the white knight made the dark announcement earlier this year that he was putting Wintergreen up for sale after barely more than two years of ownership. That caught Wintergreen residents and those considering a home there by surprise, and communication from the West Virginia mega-millionaire has gone silent, creating a vacuum that has been filled with speculation and innuendo. The Justice organization accepted bids for the community and its infrastructure earlier this year, but only two emerged, one from a group led by a Wintergreen property owner. Reportedly, the bids were rejected without any attempt at negotiation by the Justice side. One local official told us that at least one of the bids was for slightly more than the $16 million Justice reportedly paid for the community's amenities and unsold properties. Since the West Virginian has well more than $16 million in the property already, and since the resort has been turning a profit since he bought it, he does not seem in a hurry to move it.
Nature abhors a vacuum, especially in the real estate market, and the lack of communication about Justice's plans or any tipoff to his strategy has caused angst among already anxious property owners and a precipitous drop in real estate values, good news only for those who might be in the market for a second or permanent home in a community with a unique duo of amenities. (Note: Your editor and his family have rented private homes at Wintergreen in the past, played the golf courses and used the other facilities and have always enjoyed our visits. Some of my observations are available by clicking here.) Although it is foolhardy to predict that a property owner can recoup all expenses from rental income, current listings at Wintergreen could bring that possibility close. More importantly, given that some properties are selling at 50% below their pre-recession prices, a buyer who holds on to a property at Wintergreen could very well see it appreciate in just a few years – especially when the ownership issue is resolved. After all, Wintergreen has location going for it; it is less than three hours from Washington, D.C., and less than two hours from Richmond, close enough to make it a potential four-season getaway for a large population of people.
Steve has been the consistent top producer out of the Wintergreen Resort real estate office over the last five years. A former Business Development Manager in the petroleum equipment industry, Steve and his wife Marjolaine bought a second home in Wintergreen in the late 1990s, when they were living in Richmond. A few years later they moved to the community full time and began to indulge in their passions for golf, skiing and hiking the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains that surround Wintergreen. Today, they live in a home that faces the Devil’s Knob golf course. A member of the golf committee, Steve owns a club championship trophy from a few years ago. When he’s not selling real estate or playing golf, Steve volunteers with Special Olympics and coaches youth basketball in Nelson County. A native Connecticut “Nutmegger” and graduate of the state’s university, Steve is as passionate about customer service as he is about the Connecticut Huskies basketball teams. Which is saying a lot.
Are you following the controversy surrounding a dodgy bit of journalism by the respected golf journalist Dan Jenkins? The new Golf Digest includes an admittedly made-up interview Jenkins held with a faux Tiger Woods. Pitched as a parody, it comes off as so mean-spirited and vindictive that a conspiracy theorist might assume Tiger's handlers and Jenkins could be in cahoots to create a more sympathetic persona for the fallen star. But magazine editors are supposed to be the governors on journalistic excesses like this, and the fact Golf Digest's editorial gatekeepers thought this was worthy of publication shows that bad judgment can be epidemic. Indeed, the magazine displays its full complicity by attaching photos of a stand-in Tiger taking a selfie and stroking what looks like the damaged fender of a Cadillac SUV.
At a website called The Players Tribune, backed by recently retired Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees, Tiger fired back, not with one of those vicious drives whose effort could send any of us to the hospital but instead just sends Tiger to the sidelines, but rather with a few short irons. Claiming the invented Tiger Woods that Jenkins interviewed was