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        Roughly half of those who live inside the gates of golf communities rarely or never play golf. They buy a home in a golf community because of the generally more evolved landscaping associated with the golf course and because they believe their homes have a much better chance to retain their values if a beautiful amenity like a golf course is close by. In general, they are correct.
        But, ironically, some of the biggest battles inside golf communities are between golf club members and non-members in those communities where membership is not mandatory (most communities). Sometimes, such as during and after the 2008 recession, membership rolls in country clubs dip below the sustainable line; cutting back on expenses to keep the golf course in good condition can cause more member losses which, in turn, causes further cutbacks in conditioning. Feelings between golfer members and non-golfers can become uncomfortable when, to avoid the downward spiral, golf community clubs appeal to the homeowner’s association for contributions to capital budgets and for the costs of marketing to prospective new members. Once the member rolls return to proper levels, the club can sustain its necessary expenses from the added dues payments. But, in the meantime, non-club members often look on tiding the club over as throwing good money after bad; in other communities, thanks to professional communications from the club and homeowner boards, residents make the wise connection that the values of their homes are tied directly to the health of the golf club.

Strong Sales at Cypress Landing

        Put Cypress Landing in the latter category. Over the last three years, the Chocowinity, NC, community of just under 600 homes has signed up more than 100 new residents thanks to a dramatic refurbishment of its web site, arrangements with five local real estate agencies to push properties for sale inside the community, an aggressive “ambassador” program that involves many of its residents, and an overwhelming recognition by residents that the value of their homes can rise and fall like the tides in the adjacent Pamlico River. Thanks to recent sales, the current inventory of unsold homes in the community is down to around 6%, a few percentage points lower than in most golf communities and a sign of a healthy real estate market; with fewer homes on the market, those that are listed have slightly higher selling prices than if there were a couple more dozen homes available.
CypressLanding15fromteeThe par 3 15th hole at Cypress Landing backs up to the Pamlico River.
        Cypress Landing’s board of directors maintains a strong marketing committee that has helped its fellow residents make the connection between their property values and a vibrant golf club.
        “After we made the case to support capital improvements at the golf club,” says Marketing Committee co-chair Jeff Gould, “the HOA [homeowners association] voted 95 percent in favor of the proposal.”
        Those good feelings spill over to new prospects when they visit Cypress Landing on its reasonable Discovery Package, just $175 for three days and two nights.
        “We generate a 25 percent sales rate for those who visit Cypress Landing on the Discovery Package,” says David Grahek, the Marketing Committee’s other co-chair. “We let the couple tell us what they want to see, and then our Ambassadors accompany them.”
        The Ambassadors are couples who live at Cypress Landing and are matched with prospects who have specific interests. For example, if a visiting couple is interested in golf, Grahek, who manages the Discovery Program in behalf of the board, will match them with a golfing couple for a round of golf. Boaters are matched for a river and bay tour with couples that keep a boat at the community’s 220-slip marina. Given that Cypress Landing offers dozens of amenities, activities and clubs, no visiting couple has to go without a local couple to guide them.

Creative Tension Makes for Best Decisions

        I’ve served on a few marketing committees and I know that “creative” decisions evolve from often animated, occasionally contentious, discussions. On golf club boards, composed substantially of former business people, most members can act like marketing experts. But the Marketing Committee of the board at Cypress Landing actually includes five members with professional marketing experience, Jeff Gould told me. Recalling the old line about a camel being a horse designed by a committee, I asked him if “designing by committee” was an issue at Cypress Landing.
        “We have diverse backgrounds on the committee," Gould said, "that lead to good decisions.  Let’s just say that in the execution, we are strongly led.”
CypressLandinghomebeyondwaterMany of the homes at Cypress Landing have views of the golf course at only a modest premium over wood view lots.
        Whatever, it seems to be working. When I visited Cypress Landing for the first time in 2015 -– see article here –- I was struck by how well the community was laid out, with homes spaced well apart and the golf course nicely integrated into the landscape. The reasonable prices for most of the homes on the market belied the views of the wide and attractive Pamlico River and Chocowinity Bay and were comparably low for a community not that remote from an active town like Washington and a bustling small city like Greenville. In many cases, homes on the market today, despite the short supply, are priced at barely more than $100 per square foot. Cypress Landing, which has not maintained an on-site sales office since owners purchased the community in 2003 from original developer Weyerhauser, the giant paper company, has made arrangements with five local real estate brokerages to handle sales. Unusually for a golf community, Cypress Landing’s web site (http://cypresslanding.com) lists a few homes for sale by owner, a nice little touch for residents looking to avoid the customary 6% commission rate, and for potential buyers looking for a better priced home, unburdened by thousands of dollars in real estate commissions.

Next Challenge, Lots

        When I asked one of my favorite questions -– “What type of couple is not right for Cypress Landing?” -– Messrs. Grahek and Gould responded almost in unison, “recluses.” I get that a lot, but for a modestly sized community, it would be hard for any couple to hide at Cypress Landing given the several dozen activities and clubs on site, the town of Washington on the other side of the river, just 10 minutes away, and Greenville a half hour down the road, and home to Eastern Carolina University and a large medical complex with which any aging baby boomer aware of his or her mortality will identify.
        Given their success in marketing the community over the last three years, I asked Grahek and Gould what their next target was and they mentioned that 49 lots remain unsold in the community, all in private hands (some, no doubt, by residents who decided to make an ill-fated extra investment before the recession). The average lot price in Cypress Landing is $72,000, with water-view sites a little higher and plain wooded sites priced a little lower; many of the “average” lots have views of the Bill Love designed golf course. Since customary construction costs in the area run to about $135 per square foot, a couple looking to build their dream home to their own specifications could certainly do so at less than $400,000, land included, for a 2,500 square foot house. Given just $1,224 annually in homeowner association dues, a very reasonable $258 per month in golf club member dues per couple and no initiation fee, Cypress Landing is undeniably one of the better buys in comprehensive golf community living.

CypressLanding blue chairs

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        The number of people relocating inside the U.S. fell to its lowest level ever in the last year, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data. The number was 11.2 percent. The South saw 901,000 people leave the region but welcomed 940,000 in the same time period. Florida remains the go-to state for most people moving from colder climates; the Sunshine State also saw a strong uptick in migration from the state of Texas (and Texas saw an almost equally strong inflow from California).  See press release here.
        On the face of it, in-migration is a sign of an area’s economic health and a signal of a vibrant future. But retirees looking for a pleasant place to live out most of their remaining days should not judge an area solely by its popularity. Indeed, net inward migration might imply an area’s attractiveness but local town officials had better be savvy enough to prepare for more traffic, more burdens on infrastructure and, if young families are part of the equation, the need for more schools (and, potentially, higher taxes).

Monday, 21 November 2016 16:09

Intrinsic Home Values Hide Important Numbers

        The respected financial weekly, Barron’s magazine, published an article this past weekend about real estate markets in the U.S. that are undervalued. The implication is that those who live in those markets and are poised to beat a retreat to, say, a golf community in the Southeast might want to cool their jets for a couple of years. Homes in my own Hartford, CT, market, according to Barron’s, have an intrinsic value 10.73% higher than their current median price; in other words, between now and 2019, the average home in the Hartford market should rise by 11% or more. That ranks fourth on the Barron’s list. Two other Connecticut metro markets are second and third rated on the list, with the Allentown, PA, area listed at the top.
        Barron’s could be right on the money, but those who have a plan to relocate but are sitting tight in anticipation their current home will appreciate in value are playing a dangerous game for two main reasons: first, the home they may buy in a few years could very well appreciate at a faster rate and, second, any “loss” they suffer by selling too early will be more than made up by the cost of living expenses they save by moving.
        Let’s say you own a home in the Hartford area whose market value today is $400,000 and you have had your eye on a similarly valued home in a golf community outside Greenville, SC. By Barron’s estimate, your current home is worth $445,000, the price you should fetch if you sell it two years from now (in 2019). But the home in the ever-popular Greenville may appreciate at a rate of at least 5% per year over the next two years, as it has over the last four years. At best, you can hope for a wash; at worst, you will lose some buying power. (Note: Many of the golf communities we follow have seen average home sale price increases of 8% or more over the last three years.)
PebbleCreekdoglegleftA resident of any of most Connecticut towns could purchase a home in Pebble Creek near Greenville, SC, and save thousands of dollars a year in expenses.  There is no initiation fee for the 36-hole Pebble Creek Country Club and monthly dues are around $250 per month.
        Cost of living difference is an even more profound reason to consider acting sooner rather than later. According to the web site BestPlaces.net, which provides a helpful calculator to compare the costs of living in hundreds of cities and towns nationwide, Greenville is only 2% cheaper to live than in the city of Hartford. However, Greenville is a full 47% cheaper than my town of Avon, CT, 35% less than nearby Farmington, CT, and half that of the upscale Ridgefield, CT. Any increase in home values in these and most other Connecticut towns will never make up for the savings in cost of living by moving South.
        If you are considering a move South in the next couple of years, give us a shout –- click here –- and we will run the numbers for you and demonstrate it could be time to get a move on.

        From sea to shining sea, President-elect Donald J. Trump has his name emblazoned on the clubhouses and scorecards of a dozen golf courses in the U.S.  By reputation, they are impeccably conditioned and provide member services that justify six-figure joining fees and thousands of dollars in annual dues. Importantly, because the fairways and greens must be mown and the post-round libations and meals must be served, the clubs provide jobs that are nominally good for the local economy.

         But a quick scan of the counties surrounding Trump National Golf Clubs shows that the candidate batted a mere .166, winning only one county, Iredell in North Carolina, by more than a percentage point; he squeaked by 48% to 47% in Dutchess County, NY, his only other victory in the vicinity of his clubs.

         The Bronx, NY provided one of the biggest margins in Secretary Clinton’s favor in any county in the U.S.  One of the five boroughs of New York City, The Bronx was never going to go Trump’s way.  In fact the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, built on a former landfill site just short of the Whitestone Bridge, might have provided an extra irritant to local voters.  Trump takes credit for building the golf course, yet some New York City officials have been emphatic that the city built it and Trump was brought in solely to operate it.  (Since the project was well over budget, the battle to claim responsibility seems odd.)  Also, recent news articles indicate that work around the golf course, which opened in 2015, has still not been completed.  Green fees on the Jack Nicklaus designed layout are pegged at $144 for city residents on weekdays and $172 on weekends, not exactly working class friendly.  The rest of us pay $194 and $219 on weekdays and weekends, respectively.

         Five years ago, Trump purchased the financially distressed golf club in the community known as The Pointe on Lake Norman, north of Charlotte, NC, and installed his son Eric to manage it.  Homes in The Pointe are valued from around $600,000 and up, which dovetails nicely with the Trump taste level and fee structure.  Reports are that the Greg Norman golf course is in top-notch shape.

         Trump isn’t about to get a vote of confidence either in one location overseas.  When his lack of international experience came into question during the campaign, Trump referred to the Miss Universe pageant he once ran and, later, to his golf clubs in Dubai and Scotland.  He now owns the fine links at the classic Turnberry on the Scottish coast, but it is the modern course he built on the ocean near Aberdeen that has courted controversy.  When the owner of an adjacent farm refused to sell his land to Trump, the President-elect built dunes so high along one of his fairways that they blocked the view of the ocean that generations of the farm’s occupants had enjoyed.  The promised couple of thousand jobs at the resort have never materialized and some of the Scottish parliamentarians perceived as having greased the skids for environmental and other approvals have paid a political price.  Most recently, Trump has sued a local energy company for placing wind turbines in the waters just off the coast, despoiling the view from the clubhouse and golf course.

         The vote results from the counties surrounding Trump clubs in the U.S. follow:

Golf Course/City County DJT HRC 
Doral, Miami, FL  Dade County  34%  63% 
Ferry Point, NY  The Bronx  10%  89% 
L.A., Rancho Palos Verdes, CA  Los Angeles  23%  71% 
Bedminster, NJ  Somerset  42%  54%
Charlotte, NC  Iredell  66% 30%
Colts Neck, NJ  Monmouth  42% 55%
Hudson Valley, Hopewell Junction, NY  Dutchess 48% 47%
Jupiter, FL  Palm Beach 41% 57%
Palm Beach, FL  Palm Beach 41% 57%
Philadelphia, Pine Hill, NJ  Camden 32% 65%
Washington, D.C., Potomac Falls, VA  Loudon 39% 55%
Westchester, NY  Westchester  32% 65%

        The latest edition of Home on the Course, our free monthly newsletter, is set to mail to subscribers tomorrow. In the November issue, we try to make sense of the various private club memberships available to those relocating to a golf community. They range all over the map, literally and figuratively, with initiation fees that stretch from zero to well over $100,000, and with dues from a few hundred dollars to over $1,000 per month. We also continue our debate about "mandatory" country club memberships in golf communities, a debate that involves The Roach Motel. (You will have to subscribe to figure out how that happened.)

        On election night, as it became clear that Donald Trump would be elected President, the government web site dedicated to Canadian immigration crashed from a tidal wave of traffic. Some Americans have vowed to expatriate themselves to a foreign land because of the election. For those golfers who feel strongly enough to do so, we checked on a few current golf-oriented properties for sale in Scotland and Mexico, as well as Canada. Those listings alone are worth the price of a subscription to Home On The Course, which is the best price of all, free for the asking. But you have to ask, so subscribe today (see "subscribe" button at top of this page) and we will send you tomorrow's edition, as well as all future editions. (Our emails reach Canada, Scotland and Mexico, by the way.)

Thursday, 10 November 2016 20:25

Southern Comfort Even for Democrats

        In the run up to the most contentious Presidential election in our lifetimes, I recently interviewed developers and residents in a few golf communities in Southeast. I asked if the fractious nature of the election season had spilled over into their clubhouses and onto their golf courses. I thought that with Yankees and native Southerners at such close quarters, the debates might have stretched the bounds of civility.
        But, no, my contacts said, all was quiet inside the gates of their golf communities.  Undeterred, I took a look at the political preferences in counties that surround some of the most popular golf communities in the region. After all, one must occasionally venture outside the gates of the golf community for groceries, entertainment, doctor’s appointments and the like.
        It is tempting to assume that in the South, candidates running under the banner of the Democrat party probably don’t do very well, and that has been true for decades and remains true for most areas of the region. But some cracks began to appear when, in the 2008 election, President Obama pulled off a stunning victory in North Carolina, where he garnered 49.9% of the state's vote to Senator John McCain’s 49.5%. (Mitt Romney edged the President in the Tarheel State in 2012.) Virginia tilted blue in 2008 and has remained so, barely, in the two elections since. Statewide, though, South Carolina has been consistently red since the early 1960s, and although some polls added a tinge of purple to the predictions for the state in the 2016 election, Donald Trump triumphed decisively over Hillary Clinton in this past week’s voting. With the exception of Virginia, all the Southeastern states went for Trump.
        Obviously, no voting data is collected from inside the gates of golf communities, but there is plenty of accurate data for the surrounding counties. And for those who will care about the politics just outside the gates of where they live, here are selected results from golf communities in the Southeast for the 2016 Presidential election, followed by the names of golf communities in each county.  Note that the results from Stephens County in Georgia, home to the beautiful Curahee Club, indicate that more than 8 in 10 county residents voted Republican, by far the most lopsided results we have seen.

Virginia

Albemarle County (Charlottesville)
Clinton............59%
Trump.............34%
Glenmore Country Club
Keswick Hall
Old Trail

Nelson County (Nellyford)
Trump.............49%
Clinton............45%
Wintergreen Resort

North Carolina

Henderson County (Hendersonville, Flat Rock)
Trump..............62%
Clinton.............34%
Champion Hills
Kenmure

Buncombe County (Asheville)
Clinton..............54%
Trump................40%
Cliffs at Walnut Cove
Country Club of Asheville

Brunswick County (Southport, Sunset Beach, Shallotte)
Trump.................63%
Clinton................34%

South Carolina

Horry County (Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach)
Trump.................67%
Clinton................30%
Grande Dunes
Barefoot Resort
Prestwick

Georgetown County (Georgetown, Pawleys Island)
Trump..................55%
Clinton................42%
DeBordieu Colony
Pawleys Plantation
Reserve at Pawleys
Wachesaw Plantation

Greenville County (Greenville, Travelers Rest)
Trump..................59%
Clinton................35%
Greenville Country Club
Cliffs Valley
Cliffs at Mountain Park
Pebble Creek
Green Valley

Spartanburg County (Greer, Landrum)
Trump..................63%
Clinton................33%
Thornblade
Cliffs at Glassy

Charleston County (Charleston, Mt. Pleasant)
Clinton................51%
Trump.................43%
Kiawah Island Resort
Rivertowne Country Club
Wild Dunes Resort
Charleston National
Bulls Bay

Beaufort County (Bluffton, Hilton Head, Daufuskie)
Trump...................55%
Clinton..................41%
Colleton River
Berkeley Hall
Belfair
Sea Pines Plantation

Georgia

Chatham County (Savannah, Skidaway Island)
Clinton...................56%
Trump....................41%
The Landings on Skidaway Island

Stephens County (Toccoa)
Trump....................79%
Clinton...................19%
Currahee Club

Greene County (Greensboro, Lake Oconee)
Trump....................62%
Clinton...................36%
Reynolds Lake Oconee
Cuscowilla

Florida

Manatee County (Bradenton)
Trump....................57%
Clinton...................40%
Concession
Esplanade
Palm Aire

Sarasota County (Sarasota)
Trump...................54%
Clinton.................43%
Laurel Oak
Longboat Key
Prestancia

Collier County (Naples)
Trump...................62%
Clinton..................36%
Audubon
Mediterra
Heritage Bay
Vineyards

Indian River County (Vero Beach)
Trump....................61%
Clinton...................36%
Grand Harbor
Pointe West
Orchid Island
Bent Pine

Thursday, 03 November 2016 13:15

Anger Management and the 2016 Election

Written by

        I have published this blog for nearly 10 years, and we are going through the third Presidential election during that time. It never occurred to me to comment on an election in this space, other than to present an objective analysis of how folks voted in counties that surround some of the best golf communities in the Southeast. Surprisingly, as you will know if you receive our free monthly newsletter, some counties in deeply red states actually voted for President Obama -– twice. That kind of information might be helpful to more progressive leaning couples worried about being fish out of water in a Southern retirement community. Conservative couples should find it equally interesting.
        I am mindful that my audience probably splits roughly along party lines, and that comments about the Presidential race at a site like this might cause defections. But the 2016 election is different from all others in my lifetime, and since this site attracts about a thousand visitors each week, a decent if not decisive constituency, I am going against instinct and endorsing a candidate here. I am mindful that, by doing so, I could be down to a few hundred visitors to this site by next week.
        This is a hold-your-nose-and-vote election but we have, as many of the pundits say, “a binary choice.” Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be the next President, and a vote for anyone else -– or no vote at all -- is a wasted protest. The personal character traits of the candidates have been well publicized, to the point of nausea, and there is nothing I can add here on that score. The negative perceptions of both of them are deserved, if un-equivalent.
        My own vote comes down to one core issue, and that is anger. Many –- maybe most -- Donald Trump supporters are angry, and where that anger falls on the scale from whining to justifiable is beside the point to me. After 68 years on this earth, observing business and life decisions, it is clear that no good decision is made in anger. A Harvard Business Review study confirmed that “angry people tend to rely on cognitive shortcuts –- easy rules of thumb –- rather than on more systematic reasoning. They’re also quick to blame individuals, rather than aspects of a situation, for problems.”
        Too true. Mr. Trump has taken advantage of and stoked that anger; he is angry too. And whether his anger is faux or for real, we cannot take the chance that anger will guide his decision making from the White House. The world is too complicated and the stakes too high for hair trigger reactions and retributive decisions.
        Mr. Trump admires strong leaders, and it is to Genghis Khan we give the last word on the subject: “An action committed in anger is an action doomed to failure.”
        There is no choice for me but to vote for Hillary Clinton and to urge others to do the same.

        We recently shared some observations about deeply discounted public golf course memberships in the Myrtle Beach area. Along the entire 90-mile stretch of the Grand Strand, there are only four strictly private golf clubs. (Two of them, The Reserve at Litchfield and The Members Club at Grande Dunes, are managed by the same organization and, therefore, accessible to members of each.)

        Here is a brief rundown on private golf club memberships in the Myrtle Beach area.

Private Options

        Wachesaw Plantation is ideally sited a couple of miles west of Highway 17, the coastal route that runs through Brunswick County, NC, down through Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island and, eventually, to Charleston and beyond. The Wachesaw golf course was designed by Tom Fazio in 1985, and its layout hits enough high notes to appeal to double- and single-digit players alike, with some narrow well-bunkered fairways framed by live oaks and tall pines. (According to local golf historians, Mike Strantz, the designer of the heralded Caledonia and True Blue layouts a few miles away, did much of the shaping of the golf course for Fazio.) Greens are generally large and undulating, protected by both bunkers and false fronts. Fazio shows his mischievous side with a split fairway on a par 5 and a par 3 green wedged between a dune and a lake.
        Wachesaw’s non-equity member joining fees and monthly dues programs are pegged to the ages of its members. Dues rise gently in five-year increments from the age of 30 to 46 where they top out at a reasonable $444 per month for a single member and $549 for a couple. Joining fees for a married couple living outside the gates of Wachesaw are just $1,250; property owners are required to purchase an equity membership at $5,000, which gives them voting rights on club issues.
        
Wachesaw Par 3 by pondWachesaw Plantation, designed by Tom Fazio, features one of the best and most intimidating par 3s on the Grand Strand.
        I’ve written often about the McConnell Golf Group’s string of private golf courses throughout the Carolinas, but its membership plan warrants mention here. One of the group’s dozen courses is The Reserve Golf Club in Pawleys Island.  McConnell also manages the Grande Dunes Members Club about 35 minutes north of The Reserve, which gives members of The Reserve a strong second option nearby. (Note: Members’ rounds are limited to a maximum of three per year at any McConnell course not their own, and a total of 12 rounds combined.) Greg Norman designed The Reserve course to accommodate the sandy soil beneath the fairways and the forests of scrub pines beside the fairways, all just a mile from the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the rare area golf courses that forces you to consider putting from as far as 15 yards off many of the greens.
        Best of all, members enjoy full access to all the other McConnell courses, including the famed Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, designed by Donald Ross and the site of the annual PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship; Arnold Palmer’s Musgrove Mill in rural upstate South Carolina, perhaps one of the five toughest golf courses in the state; and the Country Club of Asheville, another Donald Ross classic layout opened in 1894.  The Reserve initiation fee and dues levels are impressively reasonable for all the golf available, as well as for the impeccable service standards John McConnell imposes. Currently, the joining fee at The Reserve is just $5,000, payable over a few years but discounted to $4,000 if you pay up front. Dues are just $345 per month for an individual and $500 for a family.
Reserve Litchfield 18th approachAll elements of Greg Norman's layout for The Reserve Golf Club -- the pine-tree-lined fairways, yawning bunkers, well-placed ponds -- are on display at the finishing hole.
        Only Wedgewood, a well-worn public track just outside of Georgetown, is farther south among Myrtle Beach’s golf courses than is DeBordieu Colony, which stretches behind its front gate on Highway 17 to the Atlantic Ocean. DeBordieu –- locals refer to it as Debby Doo -– is the most upscale golf community on the Grand Strand, its homes ranging from around $500,000 a half-mile from the beach to nearly $4 million on the oceanfront. It is the only gated golf community from Wilmington to Georgetown in which residents have access to a beach without leaving their community. One of only two Pete Dye designed courses of the Myrtle Beach 100, this one shows all the familiar flourishes we recognize about Dye, including pot bunkers, railroad ties and fairway moguls. The first 16 holes are an enjoyable but not brutalizing experience, but the final two holes, typically played into a stiff breeze off the ocean just 100 yards away, might be the most challenging finishers on the Grand Strand. They are long, with water along the right sides of both, and the bunkers at front left of the 18th green at its narrow entrance are magnets for those seeking to avoid the water at greenside right.
DeBrodieu18thapproachA series of pot bunkers just left and at front of the 18th green at DeBordieu are barely noticeable from the fairway. The specter of water against the right side of the green put those bunkers very much in play.
        Befitting a golf course and club of this quality, and with a beach club as part of the membership, initiation fees at DeBordieu are the highest on the Grand Strand at $34,000 for an equity membership and a “capital contribution” of $21,000. (Most of the equity is returned to the members when they resell the membership.)  Dues are $454 per couple, which certainly meets our definition of “reasonable.” Other sports and tennis memberships are available at lower joining fees and with a few rounds of golf per year available. Creative golfers who crave easy access to an Atlantic Ocean beach could combine a lower cost DeBordieu membership (Sports or Tennis) with one of those public option memberships we wrote about in an earlier article and develop a nice hybrid private and public golfing lifestyle.
        For more information on golf real estate and golf memberships in the Myrtle Beach area or anywhere in the Southern U.S., don’t hesitate to contact me, Larry Gavrich, founder and editor of Home On The Course.

        Honest competition is always good for the consumer. And nowhere is the competition among golf courses greater than it is on the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach, an area that runs about 90 miles from mid Brunswick County in North Carolina to Georgetown, SC. Filling that space are more than 100 golf courses, down from a peak of 120 a decade before the economic meltdown of 2008 but still as densely packed with golf clubs as any comparable area in the world.
        Most couples used to the perquisites of private country club membership decide to replicate that experience in their retirement. In the Myrtle Beach area, just four clubs, all in South Carolina, offer a strictly private experience: DeBordieu Colony in Georgetown; The Reserve at Litchfield, Litchfield Beach; Wachesaw Plantation, Murrells Inlet; and Members Club at Grande Dunes, North Myrtle Beach. (Nominally private clubs like The Dunes Club and Surf Club claim to be private but permit some golf package play in association with nearby hotels.)
        The following will help those on the fence about which type of golf club membership works the best based on frequency of play and costs.  We cover the public courses today and the Private Options in the next posting.

Public Options

        Although in recent years the buddy and family golf tourists that Myrtle Beach depends upon have returned to almost pre-recession levels, 100 golf courses are still at least a few too many for the volume of traffic. Since the recession, some companies have purchased clusters of area golf courses and are offering memberships that provide access to all the courses in the group. A Chinese-based company, for example, formed the Founders Group International after purchasing 22 area courses, including the Jack Nicklaus designed Pawleys Plantation, TPC Myrtle Beach, Long Bay and Grande Dunes. Members who join the Founders Group Prime Time Signature program for just $225 gain access to all 22 courses at deeply discounted prices, up to 70% off. Other companies own smaller groupings of courses in the area and offer similar annual memberships.
Caledonia8approachThe par 5 8th at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club is all about the pin position on the two level green. If the pin is at bottom, putts from above could make the water below the green.
        As a member of the semi-private Pawleys Plantation –- my Prime Time membership is free with my Pawleys membership -– it makes little sense for me to sign up for an additional membership. But if I did, my choice could very well be the combined annual membership for Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and True Blue Golf Club (formerly True Blue Plantation). Caledonia, located in Pawleys Island, is arguably the best golf course of the Myrtle Beach 100. Designed by the late Mike Strantz (Tobacco Road, Royal New Kent and 10 others), the Caledonia layout is rare among area golf courses in that houses are virtually nowhere to be seen (a few behind the trees along the first fairway, one or two at the back areas of the course). Strantz, who is known for dramatic visual touches that include acres of waste areas and large and multi-leveled greens, restrained himself a bit at Caledonia, but the green complexes are still rife with eye-popping surprises, such as a rollercoaster green on the par 3 3rd hole, a severe two-level green on the par 5 8th, and the intimidating 60-yard long Redan-style green at the finishing hole, which forces an approach over water or a bailout to the front of the green that could leave a putt as long as 150 feet to a back pin position. To add even more drama, the porch of the clubhouse restaurant and bar virtually hangs over the green, providing the unsuspecting golfer an audience that only adds to the hole’s intimidation factor.
        True Blue is across the street from Caledonia, which makes it possible for more hearty and enthusiastic members to, in the words of the immortal Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs, offer to “let’s play two” easily in one day. Sand dominates True Blue, with wide fairways surrounded and interrupted by hazards. You are likely to never drive a cart through as many waste bunkers as at True Blue, where a ball on the compacted sand can often have the feel of a fairway lie (and, of course, you can ground your club behind the ball). Greens are huge and well protected by sand and, in some dramatic cases, water. At the par 3 3rd, for example, water from tee to the wide but not deep green laps up onto the sand directly in front.
Grande Dunes 14th holeBoth Founders Group International and Myrtle Beach Passport include the Grande Dunes Resort course in their membership programs. Shown is the par 3 14th hole along the Intracoastal Waterway.
        Annual membership for a single player at the two courses is $1,895 and for a couple $2,695. However, members pay a $25 fee to play each time, cart included. As good as the courses are –- both rank comfortably in the Top 5 in the Myrtle Beach area -– such a membership only makes sense for those who can play the courses two or three times per week. Some quick math indicates that playing Caledonia and True Blue twice per week annually would cost around $4,400 for the year, or about $366 per month, still a better deal than at virtually all private clubs. And although the tee sheets at Caledonia and True Blue in peak season are jammed from early morning to mid afternoon, pace of play rivals that of a private course on most days.  For more information, see the Caledonia and True Blue website.
        The Myrtle Beach Passport is among the oldest of the “affinity” memberships in the area. For just a $49 membership annually, Passport holders who show proof of residence in one of 15 counties in North and South Carolina can play more than 70 of the area courses at deep discounts and bring along up to 3 friends who will play for just a little bit more than their hosts. All the best public golf clubs are represented, including Caledonia, True Blue, Pawleys Plantation, TPC Myrtle Beach, Grande Dunes Resort Course, Kings North and all four Barefoot Resort courses. The annual fee is typically paid for in savings after just one or two rounds. For the gourmand golfer who wants to sample virtually everything on the Myrtle Beach golfing buffet table, it is as good a deal as a conceded putt to close out a match.

Next: Private Club Golf Options in Myrtle Beach

Wednesday, 19 October 2016 14:19

Home On The Course Election Special Is Out

        In this most contentious of Presidential elections, one might be inclined to think that the clubhouse bars, dining rooms and golf courses in Southern golf communities are the scenes of pitched battles between donkeys and elephants. The reality, however, is a little different based on discussions we had with developers, real estate agents and residents in some of our favorite golf communities. That is the main feature of our Home On The Course newsletter, just released to nearly 1,000 subscribers. Join them by subscribing here.
        We also take a look at voting results from 2008 and 2012 in selected Florida, Georgia and Carolinas counties. Are they predictors of what will happen in just few weeks? We provide the numbers, you be the judge.
        Once upon a time, mandatory golf memberships were popular for some of the higher end golf communities in the Southeast, especially in the area between Bluffton and Beaufort, SC. But one community’s experience with the obligation of paying dues for a club you don’t use has pitted resident against resident and resulted in a lawsuit. For conservative buyers it could serve as a lesson; but for contrarian investors, perhaps an opportunity. (How does a nice lot for $1 sound?)  
        Sign up today for our free, monthly newsletter, Home On The Course.

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