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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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.

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        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.

        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.

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Home of the Week

Wintergreen Resort

Wintergreen Resort
Nellyford, VA

  •   Two season sports, golf and skiing. Top floor, furnished 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo overlooking Devils Knob Golf Course's 12th hole. Updated full kitchen, wood-burning fireplace in family room. Reasonable condo dues. Private deck, high ceilings in family room. Walk to Spa and Aquatics center, golf, tennis and the Devils Grill, as well as ski lodge. Great investment price. Second golf course 27 holes, designed by Rees Jones.


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