We are pleased to announce two sales in recent days, one in the Reems Creek community in Weaverville, NC, north of Asheville, and the other in Bella Terra outside Naples, FL (not a golf community).  If you are searching for a golf home, please contact us...
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        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.

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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.

        Some of the richest ideas for my blog posts come from real estate and retirement discussion groups that I observe (and occasionally participate in). Like any public forum, the comments at these sites run the gamut from profound to stupid. Somewhere in the middle are the simply confused, sometimes admittedly, such as this recent post at TopRetirements.com.
        "We [my wife and I] are considering 3 places and at this point still confused/LOL. NE TN, Myrtle Beach, SC, Port Orange, FL. I am leaning toward MB, SC. My wife likes FL (because of familiarity – we lived there a long time). I am ready for something new."
        There is in this short statement a cautionary tale for all couples searching for a place in the South to call their home for retirement. The first step for any such search is a frank discussion with your partner about what type of area to consider. The result of such a discussion should not be, as in this person's case, the mountains of northeast Tennessee, the tourist

Considering Myrtle Beach and the Tennessee mountains as potential locations for a retirement home is like deciding whether to be a Red Sox or Yankees fan.

mecca of Myrtle Beach and the population dense area just south of Daytona Beach. Myrtle Beach and the area north of Knoxville, TN, are both fine considerations for a retirement home, but considering them as potential destinations is like deciding whether to be a Red Sox or Yankee fan. Topography (mountains, lake, coast, flatlands, whatever) and climate (two seasons or four seasons) should be the top considerations for any couple, after which more granular discussions about distances to cities and airports, shopping malls, entertainment, good restaurants and the like should come into play.
        The last consideration should be the specific communities to target. Some of the couples I work with get into trouble when they search the Internet for the perfect golf home before they consider some of the aforementioned issues of location. Every community I have visited, more than 150 at this point, offers homes that would suit virtually all of us. Selecting one is the easiest part of a golf home search once the tough work of deciding mountains or coast, lake or Piedmont, Carolinas, Georgia or Florida, is done.
        In our discussion group fellow's case, his and his wife's search may well take forever. He wants Myrtle Beach and she wants Port Orange. It might be fun to start a pool to see which one wins out, but I am not sure many of us will live long enough to collect. When he says he is "ready for something new," he could very well mean an endless search for his retirement home. I suggest a Winnebago.

Friday, 01 August 2014 12:51

Golf Beside the Still Waters

        Recently, my wife and I spent a wonderful three days on a Lake Champlain island in Vermont. Our room on North Hero Island –- named in honor of the heroic exploits of Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys during the Revolutionary War -- was sited across the street from one of the lake's hundreds of coves. We spent a few hours in the rocking chairs on the second-floor porch of our room and enjoyed the view of the lake, our reveries punctuated only by the occasional truck rumbling along Vermont Route 2 just below us. Our accommodations at the North Hero House were comfortable, and we did not have anything less than a terrific meal for the three days. (Burlington's Hen of the Wood is rated one of the top restaurants in New England, deservedly so in our estimation.) I didn't bring my golf clubs on this trip and, frankly, I didn't miss them.
        These days, about half the folks who ask me for assistance in finding a golf community indicate a preference for a lake location. Whether it is the fear of hurricanes or the fear of flood insurance payments near the ocean, some folks prefer their waters still. It is also a lot less expensive for a home on a lake than it is for one with a mere peek at the ocean.
        If you are fine with a golf home on fresh water, here are three lakes in the Carolinas, plus a short list of others in the South, that feature at least one golf community we can recommend. For more information, contact me.

Lake Keowee, South Carolina

        Some people think this manmade lake in the northwest region of South Carolina is shaped like a Christmas tree. Whether it is or isn't, flooding this area of the state was a gift to golf community developers, especially those looking to impress future residents with fairways along the irregularly shaped shoreline, long views to the mountains, and strategically placed home sites. Most of the golf communities on Lake Keowee are of the "upscale" variety, including those under the banner of The Cliffs Communities -– The Cliffs at Keowee Vineyard, Keowee Falls, and Keowee Springs -– and The Reserve at Lake Keowee, which is often confused as a Cliffs community but which is independently owned and did not suffer The Cliffs' financial shortcomings during the recession. With Keowee-area golf courses by the likes of Fazio and Nicklaus, expect most homes priced from $600,000 inside these guarded gates, but also expect about every amenity you can imagine, including the equestrian kind. For a more reasonable investment on the water -– much more reasonable, actually –- the long-established community known as Keowee Key offers less fancy but nonetheless quite playable golf, designed originally by George Cobb and recently updated by Richard Mandell, and incredibly cheap prices for water views from many of its homes. (A nuclear power plant about four miles away keeps prices much less radiant than those farther up the lake.) Here's just one example: A 3 BR, 2 BA, 2,100 square foot single-family home on a cul de sac with lots of glass to take full advantage of the lake views, listed at just $232,000. Okay, so the stairs to the attic are located in the corner of the master bedroom. Other, more customary layouts are available at correspondingly low prices. One other benefit of Keowee Key: It is closer than the other lakeside golf communities to the towns of Seneca and Clemson (home of the university).
KeoweeVineyard17There may be no better par 3 in the state of South Carolina than the 17th at The Cliffs at Keowee Vineyard, a Tom Fazio design.

Monday, 28 July 2014 12:22

How to Pay for Your Golf Home

by John Ruocco

     It is interesting that over the past few years, I have had several of my clients either buy second homes down South or simply pick up and move there. So, not surprisingly, one of the questions that has come up is how to finance the move: cash or mortgage? Do you sell your home up here and use the proceeds to buy a place down South or invest the proceeds and take out a mortgage? The answer depends on your own personal circumstances and your comfort level rather than number crunching, but here are a few things to consider.

The Bank Advantage

     First, let us consider the advantage of using a bank for this type of transaction. Sometimes when we apply for a bank loan or mortgage, we feel the bank is our adversary. Why are they asking so many questions? Why are they making me pay all these fees? Can't they understand that I have always paid my bills and I would pay this one too? Granted, it can be frustrating, but there is another way to look at it. The bank is really your partner.
     An example of this partnership from my own personal experience is when my daughter was recently trying to purchase a condominium. When I heard her offer was accepted, the first thing I told her was to get the financial documents from the condo association. The realtor involved assured her that these documents were forthcoming but,

By looking after their interests, the bank is actually looking after yours.

in the meantime, she should apply for the loan and get approved. After going through the arduous process of getting final approval, the bank finally got the condo docs three days before closing. The financials indicated that there was a high delinquency rate on the condo association fees. The bank immediately rejected the deal. If my daughter had purchased this place for cash, she may never have known that. In the end, she walked away from this property and bought another one in another town with a new, more knowledgeable realtor.

Thursday, 24 July 2014 03:12

A Sweet Spot Price for Golf Homes

        In just the last week, I have received inquiries from four customers, each of whom is looking for a resale golf home or a condo in a golf community. And all specified a price range of $250,000 to $300,000. Either this is a major coincidence, or someone is goofing on me. I'm going to assume the former, but the coincidence got me thinking about what real estate in that price range is currently available in golf communities I have visited and can recommend.
        It turns out quite a lot. Mindful that some people prefer the low-maintenance lifestyle condo ownership provides, and others prefer the more spacious single-family-home approach, here are summaries of two golf homes for sale in some of our favorite golf communities -– one single-family home and one condominium in each.  Plenty of others are available at both lower and higher prices in each golf community.

BayCreekNicklausoversandBay Creek's Jack Nicklaus has a links like feel to it.

Bay Creek Resort, Cape Charles, VA

        This was the first community to be able to boast separate Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer designed 18 hole layouts. They are both impressive and bump up against the Chesapeake Bay, although we prefer the more links-like Nicklaus layout. Bear Creek is located about 10 miles north of one of the engineering marvels of the world, the 20-mile span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge & Tunnel. The community is also about a six-hour drive from Manhattan and a lot closer from Philly and Washington, D.C. Condos and single-family homes are squarely in the price range we are exploring here.  For example, a 3 BR, 2 BA, 1,800 square foot condo in The Fairways section -– so named because of its view of the Palmer course –- is being offered furnished and can slip right into the Bay Creek rental program to generate some income when you are not using it. The offering price is $274,900.  Nearby, in The Hollies section, a 1,750 square foot single-family home, with 3 BRs and 2 BAs, is listed for $259,900.  It is on a small lot, but does have a front yard and sunroom and back patio for views of the woods and Nicklaus course.  Bay Creek recently opened a beach club and fitness center to go with the great golf.

WGreenShamokin6The three nines on the Rees Jones Stoney Creek course have Native American tribe names. This is #6 on the Shamokin course.

Wintergreen Resort, Nellysford, VA

        If we were skiers, as well as golfers, we'd think seriously about having two homes – one on the coast and one in the mountains. And the choice of golf communities in the mountains would certainly include consideration of Wintergreen, where you can play golf at the top of the mountain –- the Ellis Maples Devil's Knob course -- and at the bottom -– the 27-hole Rees Jones Stoney Creek layout. Both are outstanding. We understand the skiing is pretty nice as well. But maybe the most outstanding feature at Wintergreen are the prices for the wide variety of real estate, with condos that start as low as the $60s. For our purposes, we'll take the 2 BR, 2 BA, 1,170 square foot unit on Blue Ridge Drive with long and beautiful mountain views and a short walk to the first tee of Devil's Knob, tennis and the spa. For those seeking a bit more space and an indigenous style of home, a nine-year old Lindal Cedar single-family house features 3 BR and 3 BA, exposed wood beams, pine ceilings, hardwood floors, fireplace, A-frame windows, cathedral ceilings and an open floor plan. Oh, yes, and it comes fully furnished, all for $289,500.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014 09:24

A most unusual golf community home

        Across the 15th tee from the condo I own at Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC, is a unique home that has been on and off the market since 2007, when it was first listed for $1.2 million. Its design is so unusual that it will only appeal to a small niche of folks, namely those who love Japanese art and design. But for the right couple, it could be a steal at its current listed price of $649,900.
        It is a deceptively large home, with three bedrooms and 2 ½ bathrooms, but interior space of over 3,700 square feet. The house is set on a double-sized lot and features the ubiquitous live oaks of the Carolina Low Country, dripping with Spanish moss and, with a bit of pruning, views of the adjacent lake, marsh and Jack Nicklaus designed golf course. For a home that was once listed in the $1 million category, taxes are ridiculously low at less than $2,500 annually.
       Even before you enter the house, you have a sense of the personality of the design, as koi ponds flank both sides of the walkway that leads to the front door. Inside, the style

The home's style is decidedly Asian, but its components are high quality American and European made.

is decidedly Asian, but the appliances and structural components are of high quality and expensive American and European made. With high ceilings throughout, the top-grade Pella windows provide for plenty of natural light. The modern kitchen features stainless steel appliances that include a Sub-Zero refrigerator and Gaggenau range and double ovens. The work island and other countertops are granite.  (See photos below.)
        Elegant taste and outstanding design extend to the living and sleeping areas. The master bedroom features two large walk-in closets and, upstairs, a bonus room opens to a walkout terrace. Other extra touches include French limestone, a patio, a large laundry room that can accommodate an office setup as well, geothermal heating and cooling, and an oyster tabby exterior that gives the home an unusual but indigenous appeal.
        The semi-private Pawleys Plantation is owned by National Golf Management, which runs 22 other golf clubs in the Myrtle Beach area; reciprocal privileges are available to club members and, currently, NGM has a push on to recruit new members. The special promotion initiation fee is just $5,000, and the club has sent some of its members $500 certificates to give to any friends who might join. (As a member myself, I have a couple of them if anyone out there is interested.) Dues are just $250 per month but at peak times you will have to share the course with resort guests and others.
        If you are interested in more information about this unique house or membership at Pawleys Plantation, please contact me.



28WidgeonMasterBRPhotos courtesy of Jamie Beard, the Litchfield Company.

Wednesday, 09 July 2014 06:13

How to play a grand array of golf courses

        I'm editing the initial draft of the main feature for the July edition of Home On The Course, our free monthly newsletter. The piece that I am calling "How to Play Smorgasbord Golf," details five strategies for those aiming to play a lot of golf in retirement without breaking the bank. For serious golfers considering a move South for year-round golf, the options are almost dizzying. Our five strategies help put a little balance into the search for the perfect golf home and best rotation of golf courses you can play consistently.
        Sign up for our free Home On The Course newsletter now by clicking here and we will make sure you receive the July edition, which will be published in the next few days, and all future issues. And if you are in the early stages of your search for a vacation or retirement golf home and would like our suggestions about where to look, we invite you to fill out our Golf Home Questionnaire. It takes less than five minutes, we never share your personal information without your permission, and we will get back to you within a few days with a suggestion of golf communities that match your requirements...including those with multiple golf courses inside the gates or nearby. You can access the Golf Home Questionnaire by clicking here.
MusgroveMillpar4fromteeAs the golf industry continues to retrench in the wake of the recession, savvy entrepreneurs have built portfolios of excellent private clubs they can offer to members as a package. No one has stitched together excellent private courses than has John McConnell in the Carolinas. The tough Musgrove Mill in rural Clinton, South Carolina (above) is a member of the McConnell group of courses.

        My first visit in 2008 to Bright's Creek in Mill Spring, NC, was a mixed bag of impressions. It was not easy, even with a GPS car system, to find the road that led into the community. I stopped at a gas station to ask for directions, and the proprietor told me he had never heard of Bright's Creek. It turns out the gas station was a mere three miles from the Bright's Creek front gate. Location, location, location was not working in the young community's favor; a billboard or even a discreet sign would have helped. Marketing was not a strong suit at Bright's Creek in its first few years.
HorseGolfatBrightsThe new owners of Bright's Creek are full-on in their support of both high-level golf and equestrian activities. Photo courtesy of Linda Valerio Stenzel
        When I finally did arrive, an enthusiastic sales person greeted me and, after a pleasant drive through the community, he handed me a key for a room at the community's "lodge," one of the most comfortable and spacious rooms I've encountered in over 10 years of golf community visits. The bathroom was huge, the shower area itself was almost obscenely big, and the room looked out on the golf course's impressive practice area. It was tough to drag myself out of those rooms early the next morning for a round on the Tom Fazio layout, but my attitude changed after a hole or two. The impeccably conditioned course, which sits beneath a ring of mountains, has all the hallmarks of a top Fazio track, which is to say the big cloverleaf fairway bunkers, the buried cart paths and an overall delight for the eye. It also provides challenge enough to have played host to Web.com professionals a few years ago.     

   I am working on an article for CarolinaLiving.com about the golf ratings panels in North and South Carolina. Just a casual review of the panels' two rankings lists for 2014 shows one particular oddity; South Carolina, with a coastline 114 miles shorter than North Carolina's, nevertheless boasts 11 coastal region golf courses in its top 15, whereas North Carolina shows only two (both in Wilmington).

MayRiverpar3The South Carolina Golf Rating Panel gave May River Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus design, its #2 ranking in the state.

        The evidence seems convincing that serious golfers looking for the best golf courses on the east coast have a better choice south of the border between the Carolinas than above it. The South Carolina panel tapped the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, previous host to both the Ryder Cup and PGA Championship, as the best course in the state, followed by May River Golf Club in Bluffton (near Hilton Head) at #2 and the famed Harbour Town Links on Hilton Head at #5. The other top 10 coastal choices from the panel include Long Cove (Hilton Head, #7), the Dunes Club in Myrtle Beach (#8) and Secession Golf Club near Beaufort (#9). South Carolina's second 10 include eight other golf courses that are located within just a few miles of the ocean.
        North Carolina's Sandhills and mountain golf courses are every bit as prized as South Carolina's coastal courses, starting with Pinehurst #2, which is ranked #1 by the North Carolina state panel and recently played host to the men's and women's U.S. Opens. The rest of the North Carolina panel's top five is a potpourri of geography, with the second-ranked Grandfather Golf & Country Club located in the mountains, the Country Club of North Carolina back in Pinehurst, the Old North State Club on Bandin Lake in the middle of the state, and Quail Hollow in a suburb of big-city Charlotte.

OldNorthState7The North Carolina Golf Rating Panel deemed Old North State Club, on Bandin Lake and in the golf community of Uwharrie Point, to be the 4th best layout in the state.

        The highest ranked club on the North Carolina coast is Cape Fear Country Club in Wilmington (#14), followed by the nearby and fiercely private Eagle Point Golf Club (#15), the invention of New York financiers looking for a personal playground. You don't see another coastal course on the North Carolina list until the 37th spot, the (Pete) Dye Course at Landfall. The 41st spot belongs to Bald Head Island's links style golf course, and the 42nd and 45th rankings are held respectively by two courses at Sunset Beach's Ocean Ridge Plantation, Leopard's Chase and Tiger's Eye.
        The conclusion we draw from these geographical golf course anomalies is that if you are a serious golfer looking to relocate to serious golfing territory, look to North Carolina if you like mountain and inland golf and to South Carolina if you prefer coastal golf. And look to us if you would like some assistance in homing in on the golf community and golf course that best suit your requirements. Contact us here.

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Home of the Week

Carolina Colours Golf Home for Sale

Carolina Colours
New Bern, NC

  •   Owners recently reduced their list price by $55,000.  4 bedroom, 3 1/2 bedroom eight-year old Southern Living home on nearly 3/4 acre and the 7th fairway of the Bill Love golf course. One of just four homes on the cul de sac, this one features a screened porch with large deck, gas fireplace with carved mantle, 9 foot ceilings, garden tub and separate shower in master bath and many more upscale accessories.  Nearby New Bern is one of the coast's most interesting towns.  Read one of our reviews of Carolina Colours by clickng here.  For more info and an introduction to Carolina Colours, Contact Larry Gavrich, editor of Golf Community Reviews.


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