We recently stumbled across a fine golf course in a nicely landscaped community.  Many of the large homes are listed at less than $100 a square foot.  The community is an easy commute to Charlotte, NC.  Look for our review and other observations in this space soon...
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        Thumb through any magazine aimed at retirees, including golfers, and you are apt to see a dozen or more ads for golf communities. And for those who have ever asked for information about golf communities from one of the web sites that promotes them, your inbox probably fills up day after day with updates about real estate, the golf course and the latest community event.  Some golf communities have the budgets to bombard their potential customers with messages, but most others –- many of them perfectly fine places to retire -- lie in the weeds (metaphorically speaking).       
Skybrook3fromteeThe tee shot on the par 3 3rd at Skybrook provides a preview of the bunkering and elevation changes across the entire 18 holes.       
        I stumbled across one of these recently in Huntersville, NC, in a location that should be attractive to retirees looking for proximity to a major city without feeling they live in a densely populated area. The community of Skybrook is not huge, at 1,100 acres and 1,300 homes when fully built out; it is just about a half hour from Charlotte, NC, one of the major cities of the exploding southeastern U.S., and about the same distance to Lake Norman, also located north of the city. I stopped at Skybrook on my way to Greenville, SC, because of the community's John LaFoy designed golf course, which I hoped would be as much fun to play as two of the architect's layouts I had played previously -- Glenmore, just west of Charlottesville, VA, and The Neuse, in Clayton, NC. I wasn't disappointed (more below).       
        The most impressive aspects of Skybrook are the price points on the mostly large and well-designed homes, many of those for sale listed at around $100 per square foot, land included, and some below that level. Every once in a while in a golf community you may run into the odd house –- and sometimes they are "odd" in terms of their details –- priced below $100 per square foot, but you don't typically have a decent selection of those inside the boundaries of a well-landscaped, well-organized golf community. At Skybrook, you do.
        "Skybrook is only 14 years old," says local Realtor Kevin Martin, "and it grew fast."

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Monday, 06 October 2014 10:05

The Costs of Waiting to Buy Your Golf Home

        Many couples looking forward to a warm-weather retirement continue to wait for a few more years before considering seriously the purchase of a golf home in the South, and with good reasons. One or both partners, for example, may still be working, with only a couple of weeks for vacation annually. In that case, a golf community home at this time would be an unnecessary and expensive luxury. Another reason to wait is that children are not yet out of college, let alone high school, and until education and related expenses are paid, another home –- mortgage or not –- is out of the question.
        But for tens of thousands of couples, the waiting game may be nothing more than an uneducated guess about the real estate markets and the economy. "The value of my primary home," one argument goes, "is not back to where it was in 2006." They are waiting for prices to rebound fully. Or the follow-on reason, "," Prices in the South aren't rising that fast." This second assessment is comparatively wrong; in dozens of golf communities we follow, almost all are showingAudubonCChomeonteeboxHome on the tee box at Audubon Country Club in Naples, where home prices are increasing in the double digits the last couple of years.incremental to strong price increases, led by some markets, like Naples, FL, that crashed the hardest during the recession. These markets are roaring back, with many homes appreciating in double-digit percentages annually over the last couple of years, multiple times more than price increases in most areas of the North. As we wrote recently, property sales in The Cliffs Communities, one of the hardest hit of all luxury golf communities, increased by an average $200,000 each compared with 2013 figures.
        We are seeing more modest, but still strong, price increases in golf communities that did not suffer as much during the recession, especially those in the Carolinas that are perceived as medium-priced ($300,000 to $500,000). Suffice to say, real estate in these golf communities is appreciating faster than in most northern U.S. areas. Put another way, couples that want to move South and are waiting for the value of their primary home to increase may ultimately cost themselves money. Yes, their current home may increase in value by, say, 3% per year, but the home they might target in the South is likely to appreciate 6% or more. Over time, they will lose buying power and have to settle for a smaller home or one located in a golf community of somewhat lesser quality.
        There are other costs to waiting, and those have to do with the costs of living. In general, and looking at the full range of living costs, a move South can save more than 25% in overall living expenses compared with life in most suburban areas of the North. According to BestPlaces.net, where an easy-to-use calculator compares the living costs in any two different cities, we note that it would be 33% cheaper for my wife and I to live in Pawleys Island, SC, where we have a vacationPawleysPlantation13thgreenandmarshThe cost of living difference in Pawleys Plantation in South Carolina and the editor's hometown in Connecticut is about 33% annually. Shown is the 13th green on the Pawleys Plantation golf course, with the island a half mile beyond.condo, than in our Connecticut town, where we maintain our current home. (The bulk of the savings is from the difference in housing costs, but in all other categories, it is still cheaper to live in Pawleys Island.) If our expenses, say, are $50,000 a year, our savings will be more than $15,000 annually after we move. (We are planning that move a few years from now.) If we spent $100,000 a year on food, entertainment, taxes, real estate related costs and all the other expenses of life, the savings would be a robust $33,000 a year. If our home in Connecticut has a current value of, say, $500,000, it would have to appreciate almost 7% annually to keep up with the cost of living savings of a move to Pawleys Island. Those kinds of savings is like getting a second social security check every month.
        If you are ready and able to relocate to a warmer climate and just need a willing partner to help you figure out which golf communities best match your requirements, please fill out our Golf Home Questionnaire. Once we understand your criteria, we will provide you with a few initial thoughts on which golf communities match up the best. Our services are free, and you are never under any obligation whatsoever. Click here for the Golf Home Questionnaire. We are also happy to provide references from satisfied customers on request.  If you have any other questions, please contact me.

        You can never communicate too much with your key constituents, especially when you are trying to engage them as adjunct salespeople. The current owners of The Cliffs Communities, Arendale Holdings Corp, are sharing a refreshing amount of data with their property owners and club members.
MountainPark1stTeeThe first hole at Gary Player's Mountain Park golf course signals an abundance of sand and whispy grasses throughout the round
        A recent community-wide letter from managing partners Robert Wright and David Sawyer represents positive news for Cliffs property owners and club members who have been waiting for visible signs of stability at the formerly troubled luxury development. Potential buyers waiting for signs of progress since ownership issues at The Cliffs were settled a couple of years ago should also take note. Here are just a few of the highlights of the letter:

   • 62 transactions through August at an average $572,000 each, compared with 75 transactions in the same time period in 2013, at an average of $373,000 per sale. (Note that although the numbers of transactions are off slightly, the significant jump in average price may imply the time is right to consider property at The Cliffs.) Cliffs Communities officials expect the fall season sales figures to be solid as well.
   • The total of initiation fees collected by The Cliffs golf clubs doubled compared with the same period last year, from $1.4 million to $2.8 million. The Cliffs is now charging a $50,000 fee for full golf membership, down from charges as high as $125,000 previously. Club owners expect to generate nearly $18 million in dues revenue in fiscal 2014.
   • Arendale has spent more than $4.5 million on a number of projects, including the clubhouse known as "The Cabin" at the new Mountain Park golf course in Travelers Rest, outside Greenville; nearly $500,000 to renovate the golf course and practice greens in the Keowee Falls community; and $870,000 in building repairs and maintenance across the multiple golf communities.

        The positive sales numbers and uptick in club memberships may signal that The Cliffs real estate prices are be poised for modest to strong improvement. For those who follow the "smart" money and invest accordingly, the financial backing behind Arendale has luxury and success written all over it. Reinet Investments, whose former parent maintains a portfolio of luxury brands that include Cartier, Montblanc, Val Cleef & Arpels, Baume & Mercier, Peter Millar and Alfred Dunhill, has added high-end American golf communities to their holdings, including north Georgia's Currahee Club.
        This may be the appropriate time for those who have been waiting for signs of progress at The Cliffs to take a closer look. I recently played the new Gary Player Mountain Park golf course near Greenville and was impressed with the layout and the services, even though the attractive "cabin" clubhouse is more rustic than the typical lavishness of a Cliffs facility. (Look for photos and a few words in this space in coming days regarding my Mountain Park round of golf.) Contact me for a personal introduction to our Greenville, SC area real estate agent, a former sales executive at The Cliffs, who will be pleased to share her observations on the progress being made at The Cliffs.
MountainParkBigHouseThere are signs of construction after a few years lull at The Cliffs Communities.  This one caused a few recent golfers to stop and stare from the adjoining fairway at the Mountain Park golf course.

        If you are a right-handed golfer, a slice can cost you dearly on the scorecard. Errant shots from members of the famed Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, NY, are costing their club hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, a number that could go way higher if appellate courts continue to agree with a homeowner who lives beside the club's second hole.
        The homeowner is suing the club for golf ball invasion of his property; the club claims fewer than two balls leave the golf course each day, but the homeowner claims considerably more land in his yard or against his house. Recently, four Westchester County appellate court judges agreed with the homeowner.
        After offering to sell his $3.7 million home to the club and after the club planted trees and erected a net, the homeowner says balls are still getting through and he fears for the safety of his family. He is also suing the developer of his small upscale community for not having warned him that he would be at ground zero for golf balls. He, his wife and children have lived in the home since 2007.
        Other golf clubs in Westchester County are nervous that, in the end, the homeowner might win, causing additional club expenses wherever real estate and golf courses encroach on each other.
        I've been following the story at a LinkedIn discussion group, Club Advisory Council Internationale. One participant added this piquant observation: "The golf course was there for a hundred years and now that a greedy developer squeezes in a lot where it probably should not have been, the club is going to have to pay a price. What a country!!! Makes perfect sense to me."
        You can read the full article about the controversy by clicking here.

Friday, 19 September 2014 08:37

The attraction of a bargain golf home

        Readers of our free monthly newsletter, Home On The Course, know a bargain golf home when they see one. Within a few minutes of reading our latest issue, which we distributed yesterday, two of our faithful asked for more details about a $74,900 villa at Mountain Air, the elevated community –- both in altitude and price points – about a half hour northwest of Asheville, NC. Mountain Air is unique in terms of its golf course, which is nearly 4,000 feet up there, but also because an airstrip bisects the top of the mountain – and the Scott Poole designed golf course. (You wait between green and tee box for any planes to land or takeoff before proceeding across the runway.)
        The home is just one bedroom and one bath, 830 square feet in total, and best suited as a vacation home getaway. But for a couple living at sea level in the Carolinas, Georgia or Tennessee and looking for some cool relief in the summer, the small size and small price are a nice fit. As a bonus, you will find your tee shots fly a bit farther in the thinner air.
        I am happy to put you in touch with our agent at Mountain Air for more details on this home and the community's other properties. Also, if you are looking for unique information and observations about golf community real estate in the southeast, please sign up for our free monthly newsletter. (Use the "Subscribe" tab on this page.)  When you do, I will also send you this latest edition, which includes a list of the least expensive homes in some of the South's top golf communities. The price is right, for these bargain homes and for our newsletter.

        In less than two weeks, I join up with the South Carolina Golf Rating Panel for a weekend of golf, first at Gary Player's well-reviewed new layout for The Cliffs Communities at Mountain Park -– it opened last October -- followed by the Riverside Course at Greenville Country Club in the city of the same name. Mountain Park received a stellar review from Brad Klein, Golfweek magazine's golf architecture critic; and during a cart ride around the layout shortly after it opened, I found much to be impressed by. Greenville Country Club comprises two 18-hole layouts about three miles from each other; the Chanticleer Course, surrounded by houses kept at a safe distance, is perennially a top 10 course in South Carolina. You could say the Riverside Course, circa 1923 and originally designed by Donald Ross, is also of recent vintage courtesy of a redo by Brian Silva in 2007. But Silva redesigned the course in the manner of Seth Raynor, a contemporary of Tillinghast and Ross and much lauded by golf architecture geeks. The few Raynor courses I have played are stern tests, most notably Fisher's Island Golf Club in Long Island Sound, just off the Connecticut Coast; it is typically ranked among the Top 50 golf courses in the nation. I am looking forward to a go at Riverside.
CliffsMountainParkFeb2014After a delay of a couple of years, the Gary Player golf course at The Cliffs Mountain Park finally opened late last year. Most reviewers think it was worth the wait.

        My wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a weekend in Charleston a few days ago. We have been to the city dozens of time since buying our vacation condo in Pawleys Island, SC, 15 years ago. The trip, about 70 minutes, never gets old, and this time was no different.
        Charleston is foodie heaven. With just minimal research on the Internet, visitors to The Holy City can assure themselves of a great meal, and sometimes an extraordinary one. We've had dishes at the local restaurants that made our mouths water just from the menu description. This past weekend, we ordered doughnut holes drizzled with a peach and bacon sauce that could not have paired better with the rich, New Orleans style coffee at High Cotton on East Bay Street. The rest of the brunch was almost as good. The night before, at a place called Blossom,

The weekend's restaurant dishes made our mouths water before we ordered them.  They included pork belly in a sorghum and bacon glaze and doughnut holes with a peach bacon drizzle.

also on East Bay, I could have stopped after my appetizer of pork belly in a sorghum and bacon glaze, that's how rich it was, but I had already ordered the duck breast and confit duck leg and muddled my way through (the duck was cooked perfectly, but the fat could have been rendered more). On a previous visit to the city earlier this year, three of us passed around a bowl of chicken skins at Husk, perhaps the hottest restaurant in town for the last two years; yes, it was a cholesterol bomb, and I may wait a year until trying it again, but those skins were unforgettable.
        In short, Charleston's restaurants are a reason for any golfing couple with even a passing interest in dining out to seriously consider a golf home in the area. There are some nice choices in golf communities, starting with the Mt. Pleasant area just four miles over the Ravenel Bridge from the city. Rivertowne Country Club and its surrounding community were once owned by Bobby Ginn's organization which went up in smoke, spectacularly, after overspending on clubhouses and other amenities, causing many ruined investments, including one for Ginn's banker, Credit Suisse, which lost nearly ¾ of a million dollars in backing Ginn's many ventures. That said, Ginn always did everything to splendid excess, and the 18 holes at Rivertowne, designed by Arnold Palmer's firm, are challenging, beautifully conditioned and with some nice views along the Wando River. Homes in the community start in the high $300s.
        Just a few miles up Highway 17 from Rivertowne is Snee Farm, a much more traditional neighborhood and golf club built on the site of a
George Cobb, who designed Snee Farm, is also responsible for the par 3 course at Augusta National.

200 year old plantation. The golf course is the handiwork of the late George Cobb, the well-respected architect who also has the par 3 course at Augusta National, Quail Hollow in Charlotte and Bald Head Island to his credit, plus dozens of others. Snee Farm Golf Club's owner bought Rivertowne a few years ago and has created a reciprocal arrangement; join one and you play both. Even better, Rivertowne and Snee are run by ClubCorp, which manages 200 golf courses nationwide; membership in Snee Farm confers some sweet deals to play many of the other ClubCorp courses. Many of the homes in Snee Farm are bargains, priced as low as the $100s, but waiting for some updating.             

Wednesday, 03 September 2014 09:28

Edible arrangement at top daily fee golf course

        The Mattaponi Springs golf course is located in the small town of Ruther Glen, just 34 miles from Richmond and 25 miles from Fredericksburg, VA. Serious golfers in the Washington, D.C., area are barely more than an hour's drive from one of the best public golf courses in America, rated in the top 50 of accessible layouts according to Golf Digest's 2013 rankings. Bob Lohmann, a former president of the Golf Course Architects Association, produced the design.
        Mattaponi Springs' web site helpfully describes its dress code for visiting golfers and, as written, it shows an excellent sense of taste, literally: "Men: Slacks or golf shorts must be worn, with a collard [sic] shirt."
        Presumably, Hush Puppies (the golf shoes) are optional.

        The golf course industry continues to undergo significant consolidation in the wake of the recession that began in 2007, and although it may take some time to determine which industry titans win the day, the early winners appear to be those individuals who are members of golf clubs on either side of the merger. That is because, in many cases, such mergers expand the number of golf courses offering reciprocal privileges to members of any of them.
        The latest big news merger involved the biggest club owner of them all, ClubCorp., which added to its 160-club portfolio with the acquisition of Sequoia Golf Group and its 50 golf clubs, including more than 30 in the Atlanta area, where Sequoia is based. The deal was worth $265 million.
        For golfers who are members of a ClubCorp owned or managed golf club, the benefits can be impressive, especially for those who enjoy traveling to play different golf courses. Let's say, for example, you live in the Jacksonville, FL, community of Queen's Harbour, whose club is run by ClubCorp, and you are traveling to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a week. ClubCorp runs two fine golf courses on the Outer Banks, Currituck Club in Corolla, and Nags Head Links in Nags Head. Members from Queen's Harbour may play both golf courses for free two times per month, or four times during their weeklong visit to the area. And rental clubs are complimentary as well.
        There are different levels of membership in ClubCorp but the above example is typical. Here are a few other ClubCorp private golf clubs in the Southeast (course designer in parentheses): Highland Falls Country Club, Highland Falls, NC (Joe Lee); Starmount Forest Country Club, Greensboro, NC (van Kleek & Stiles); Greenbrier Country Club, Chesapeake, VA (Rees Jones); Hidden Valley Country Club, Salem, VA (Dick Wilson); Stonehenge Golf Club, Richmond, VA (Ron Garl); River Landing Country Club, Wallace, NC (36 holes by Clyde Johnston); Woodside Plantation Country Club, Aiken, SC (36 holes by Bob Cupp/Rees Jones); Snee Farm Country Club, Mt. Pleasant, SC (George Cobb); Dye Club at Barefoot Resort, Myrtle Beach, SC (Pete Dye); Wachesaw Plantation Country Club, Murells Inlet, SC (Tom Fazio); Currahee Club, Toccoa, GA (George Fazio); Amelia National Golf Club, Fernandina Beach, FL (Tom Fazio); Tiburon Golf Club, Naples, FL (Greg Norman); Venetian Golf & River Club, No. Venice, FL (Chip Powell); Fox Den Country Club, Knoxville, TN (Willard Byrd).
        For more information on these golf clubs and the golf communities that surround them or are nearby, please contact us.

Monday, 18 August 2014 03:54

Golf Course Ratings to Rely On

        If you are traveling to play golf on a strange golf course or, better yet, thinking of relocating to a retirement rich with golf, you probably have been less than satisfied with any of the course rankings you find online. The major magazines only rank a few courses per state and relying on some of the online golf sites (e.g. Golflink) is unsatisfying (e.g. 15 handicap says "Playwell Golf Club is good, I might play it again.") How helpful is that?
        But if you are planning a golf trip to either of the Carolina states, you are in luck. That's because for more than a decade, each state has maintained an organized golf ratings panel comprising more than 100 golfers just like us -- well, just like most of us, which is to say a keen interest in playing golf on different courses and with handicaps anywhere from mid-single digits to the low 20s or so. For those considering a retirement in the Carolinas that is focused on golf, the panels' ratings can help arbitrate the decision on where exactly to move.
        CarolinaLiving.com just published an article I authored about both golf ratings panels. You will find it at http://www.carolinaliving.com/life/golf-courses-carolina.asp  If you are contemplating a move to the Carolinas or any other southern state, I would be pleased to help you with the research.  My services are free and without obligation.  Contact me today.

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