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Thursday, 29 October 2015 14:13

Bargain homes and other golf community news

        News from some of the golf communities we follow has crossed our desks in recent days. Here are the highlights:

Tidy bargains; one on lake, one a cabin in the mountains

        We can’t pass up a bargain, and you know you can’t either. Two special bargain homes came to our attention in the last week. The first is a 3 bedroom, 3 bath 18-year-old home in Savannah Lakes Village, a winner community when it comes to inexpensive real estate on a dollar per square foot basis and with some of the most reasonably priced amenities we have encountered. The home looks out to the 8th green of the Tara Course, one of two well-maintained and interesting 18-hole layouts at Savannah Lakes. At 2,038 square feet, the house is priced just a skooch under $100 per square foot even if you don’t factor in the value of the ½ acre lot on which it rests. Combine the low cost of the home with Savannah Lakes’ incredibly reasonable dues for golf and its other amenities, and this home would be perfect as a primary or vacation home in a lake community.
SLV 209homeforsale
Photo courtesy of Michael Sherard, Savannah River Realty

        A second home that struck us as an extreme bargain, and had us dreaming of sipping cocktails while looking out upon beautiful mountains, is a small cabin in Sylva, NC, which we know for the upscale golf community of Balsam Mountain Preserve. The cabin is outside that community but there is ample golf in the area, and the views from fairways, greens and clubhouses can't be beat. One good choice would be a membership at Balsam Mountain’s breathtaking Arnold Palmer design stretched across the top of Balsam Mountain. A good semi-private alternative is Sequoyah National Golf Club, just 23 minutes up into the Smoky Mountains where a $300 annual pass entitles the holder to golf at $39 per round, cart included. (Regular green fees are $59.) At 2 bedrooms and 2 baths and only 1,104 square feet, things could get awfully cozy in this cabin but the huge windows and cathedral ceilings give the place a much larger feel. And at an offering price of just $188,500, the home will take only a tidy little bite out of a budget.
SylvaCabin
Photo courtesy of Cecelia Coker, Balsam Team

Breaking new ground at St. James Plantation

        A groundbreaking for the long-awaited Wellness Center at Southport, NC’s St. James Plantation is slated for next week. Completion of the facility is expected before the end of 2016. The Wellness Center is the last amenity promised to the residents by the St. James’ developers. The St. James golf courses, which comprise 81 holes, also broke new ground of a sort recently when they announced play on their sometimes well-used layouts would be on a walk-up basis; no longer is there a need to call for a tee time ahead of play. The golf courses are popular with members who, so far this year, have accounted for 84% of the rounds played; the other rounds included guests of members, a couple of First Tee Foundation events, other charity events and college golf tournaments. Golf dues at St. James, which is managed by Troon Golf, remain comparably low, under $500 per month per couple, less for a single, and including access to many of Troon’s other clubs around the country for a small monthly charge.

A new section for Woodcreek Farms

        Columbia, SC, is recovering from the recent relentless rains and flooding. The Tom Fazio designed course at Woodcreek Farms took a pretty good hit but members and work crews have restored everything pretty much to normal. (Sister course Wildewood suffered less damage; Woodcreek and Wildewood are available for play by members of each for one monthly dues payment.) A little bit of sunshine poked through when New Style Communities, an offshoot of national builder Epcon, announced recently that ClubRidge at Woodcreek, a neighborhood of single-family, low maintenance homes, is under construction. The homes will all be one-story, which should appeal to baby boomers in the area looking to downsize, as well as northerners considering a balmier climate for their retirements. Best of all, outside maintenance is included in monthly homeowner dues.
        Columbia is one of those sleeper locations for baby boomers retiring in the Southeast. The town is located at the nexus of a couple of Interstates, making travel in all directions quick and relatively easy. (Our neighbor in Pawleys Island makes it back and forth from Columbia every weekend in about two hours each way.) Columbia, the state capital, is also home to the giant University of South Carolina and all that a major institution of higher learning can add to the vitality of a region. Our agent in Columbia, Mike Wyka, lives in Woodcreek Farms but is also quite knowledgeable about all the golf communities in the area, which include a diverse sampling.

Lakewood Ranch, a golf community city unto itself, adds another 235-acre development

        Lakewood Ranch in Bradenton, FL, is about as big as a golf community gets. It started out as a 48 square mile timber ranch owned by the family that founded Schlitz beer in Milwaukee. Over time it has grown into a residential and mixed-use community big enough to have its own zip code. Now a new 235-acre section of reasonably priced villas, townhomes and single-family homes has been announced, with prices starting in the $180s. Called Harmony at Lakewood Ranch, developer Mattamy Homes will construct houses up to 2,700 square feet near a large community pool, fitness center and children’s playground and clubhouse. Although the community of Lakewood Ranch is self-sustaining, with every conceivable service and plenty of shopping, the towns of Sarasota and Bradenton are a short drive away, and the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico less than a half hour.

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        Keeping up with the Joneses is not easy, especially in golf communities where the median price of a home is $1 million or higher. But with a sharp eye and good timing, seekers of a golf community home in deluxe communities can score a bargain, relatively speaking. Here are a few we have found recently.

Mediterra, Naples, FL...$499,900...3 BR, 3 BA, 2,589 sq. ft.

This “coach” home features a great room and den with cherry wood flooring. Loaded with crown molding throughout and granite galore in the upgraded kitchen. Attached 2-car garage with storage space above. 10-foot sliding doors lead to expansive lanai with views of the preserve behind. A few steps to community pool and outdoor grills. Park-like setting. Two Tom Fazio layouts are icing on a beautiful cake. Only 10 homes in Mediterra listed below $1million, 57 properties over $1 million. Access to all Mediterra listings at Golf Homes for Sale.

The Concession, Bradenton, FL...$995,000...3 BR, 3 BA, 3,394 sq. ft.

OK, so the asking price is just a smidge under our $1 million median, but it is the cheapest home currently for sale in the community named for Jack Nicklaus’ famous “That’s good” to Tony Jacklin at the 1969 Ryder Cup at England’s Royal Birkdale. The two golfers designed The Concession golf course, which is considered one of the best in the Southeast by many golf course rankers. Features on this cul-de-sac-located newly built home include just about everything you would expect, with a surround sound system throughout the entire house, a kitchen a pro chef would appreciate, separate large walk-in closets off the master suite, Roman shower with a spa-style rain showerhead and an outdoor living area with heated pool/spa, water view and fully accessorized outdoor kitchen. Access to all current Concession homes for sale at Golf Homes for Sale.

The Ford Plantation, Richmond Hill, GA...$495,000...5 BR, 5 BA, 2,500 sq. ft.

About half of the 24 homes for sale on the property where Henry and Clara Ford spent their winters are priced below $1 million, only five of them under $600,000. This home packs a lot of rooms into a tidy lot of a quarter acre, but what is outside this cute-as-a-bugs-ear home is almost as important. That includes a 1 BR, 1 BA guesthouse and, nearby, Pete Dye’s Ogeechee Golf Club, named for the adjacent river. Ford Plantation members recently commissioned the octogenarian Dye to redo what was already a great, if occasionally waterlogged, layout to the tune of $7 million. We are looking forward to a go at the “new” course in a few weeks. For listings at Ford Plantation, see Golf Homes for Sale; contact the real estate broker listed there for a full property listings.

Cliffs at Walnut Cove, Arden, NC...$949,000...3 BR, 4 BA, 2,803 sq. ft.

Of all eight Cliffs Communities, Walnut Cove may be the most “cosmopolitan” of all, given its location just 10 minutes from Asheville and a less-than-rustic look to the homes surrounding the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, some of them deluxe townhouses. Prices seem to have stabilized post-recession as quickly as at any of the Cliffs communities and, at present, we count just five homes listed for sale at prices under $1 million, and 35 over that level. The current low price goes to a townhome that is a short walk to walking trails. Photos sure make it seem like a spacious home inside. For a full listing of current homes for sale at the Cliffs at Walnut Cove, see Golf Homes for Sale.

Daniel Island, SC...$440,000...3 BR, 2 ½ BA, 2,372 sq. ft.

Although Daniel Island, an exquisitely planned community just 15 minutes from Charleston, SC, but set off by itself, offers the widest range of home types, it currently is showing a total of 52 single-family houses for sale, 29 of them above the $1 million mark. With two highly rated golf courses by Fazio and Rees Jones and its proximity not only to Charleston but to the airport, abundant shopping and beaches all within about 20 minutes, it could not be better situated. This lowest priced home is on a small lot facing a 7-acre park and is within an easy walk of shops, dining and the river that surrounds the island. A front porch is there to enjoy the view of the park and to keep an eye on the kids or grandkids. For all listings on Daniel Island, from townhomes to estate homes, see Golf Homes for Sale.

Greenville Country Club, Greenville, SC...$587,605...5 BR, 5 BA, 3,600 sq. ft.

Some serious golfers in South Carolina believe Chanticleer is the best non-coastal golf course in South Carolina, and they will not get any argument from this quarter. The Robert Trent Jones, Sr. layout ranks consistently in the top 5 for all state golf courses. The in-town location of the surrounding community of mostly estate style homes makes Greenville Country Club especially popular with local professionals and business owners. The addition of another excellent golf course, the Riverside club three miles away, only adds to the attraction. This home for sale is on a half-acre tract and features a new kitchen and baths, as well as his and her offices and an outdoor area with a stone terrace and covered pergola. For access to all the listings in Greenville Country Club, check out Golf Homes for Sale.
GreenvilleCC sweeping fairwayHis design for the Chanticleer Course at Greenville CC in Greenville, SC, is one of Robert Trent Jones Sr's finest.

        Some of us who are technically “retired” don’t want to stop working at the end of our careers. And, therefore, we continue to work, at least part-time, after we accept the retirement package from the company or firm for which we have worked most of our careers. Sometimes that post-retirement job is related to our experience and expertise, and sometimes we switch gears.
        For those who wish to retire to the Southeast and occupy their time with something more than golf or sitting on a lawn chair at poolside, we found an interesting group of charts that show the average pay and adjusted pay, or “earning power,” in cities across the country, including those near golf communities in the Southeast. Although the average and adjusted earnings are for full-time jobs, we expect that part-time employment will yield comparable compensations.
        Many of those who retire to the Southeast after successful careers decide to sell real estate in the golf communities in which they take up residence. After all, real estate is all about customer service and follow-through and an organized approach, attributes many of us develop during our careers in sales, marketing, retail and similar jobs. But, according to

Durham, NC, shows up on lists of cities where salaries are highest nationwide.

graphs and charts generated by Tableau.com using U.S. Census bureau and other data, the earning power for real estate agents varies widely by where they choose to relocate. For example, the most powerful city in the Southeast for generating income from real estate work is Durham, NC, where the average pay for a real estate agent in 2014 was $73,200; when that amount was adjusted for the cost of living in Durham, the “buying power” was actually $77,050. (Durham ranks #3 nationally, behind Denver (#2) at $80,910 actual and $77,570 adjusted, and the overall clear winner, Indianapolis, IN, at $99,540/$106,010. (Who knew?)
        In the Southeast, Huntsville, AL, ranked second to Durham and 6th overall ($64,700/$70,870). Virginia Beach/Norfolk ($68,180/$68,660) was also ranked in the Top 10, followed by Raleigh ranked #14, Greenville, SC, #21 and Birmingham, AL, #22. Those contemplating a move to Charleston, SC, and a job in real estate might think twice; Chucktown ranked #96 and last on the Tableau list for real estate agent income, with $31,910 in average pay and $33,340 in adjusted pay. (This low pay for agents seems to be consistent for many popular and high-cost real estate cities. In San Francisco, for example, where small and modest homes routinely sell for more than $1 million, average pay in real estate is $63,250 and adjusted pay is a paltry $52,140. That may seem counterintuitive, but these popular, high-priced cities have attracted a surplus of real estate agents trying to cash in on big-ticket sales. A large pie, yes, but split many ways.)
        Marketing managers, according to the Tableau.com charts, earn about twice what real estate agents earn across the major markets of the country, and the top three markets for such jobs are all in the Southeast. Surprisingly, Fayetteville, NC, leads all markets nationwide with real pay at $158,280 and adjusted
With so many real estate agents chasing high-priced listings and sales, Charleston ranks 96th in terms of real estate earning power.

at an even more impressive $175,280 for marketing managers. (Note: The numbers may be skewed by a small population of marketing managers in Fayetteville, just 30 according to CityTownInfo.com.) Durham, NC –- again! -– comes in at #2 ($158,330/$166,660), and Birmingham weighs in at #3. Other Southeast towns in the top 25 include Charlotte (#9), Huntsville (#11), Greensboro, NC (#14), Richmond, VA (#15), Atlanta, GA (#17), Raleigh (#19) and Winston-Salem, NC (#23).
        I spent my 35-year career in corporate communications, and if I wanted to give up my day job -– which includes writing articles like this one –- I suppose I could look for a part-time public relations position. But I might be the poorer for it, after scanning the Tableau.com list of earnings for Public Relations. PR practitioners earn a bit more than real estate agents do, but to earn at the top of the profession, you need to live up North. Richmond, at #11, is the highest ranked town for PR professionals in the Southeast, with regular earnings of $64,100 adjusted to $66,490 for a slightly lower than average cost of living. Durham and Huntsville show up again, at #s 13 and 14, respectively.
        The highest paying market for PR Specialists is where words get slung around with irresistible force -- Washington, D.C.
        If the Tableau.com data establishes one thing, it is that Durham, NC, might be a good choice for those who intend to continue their careers into retirement, at least on a part-time basis. On the assumption that you are reading this because you play golf and have at least a passing interest in considering a move to the Southeast, here are a two golf communities in the Durham area that are worth considering.
        Governors Club in Chapel Hill, NC, is almost as close to Durham. The community’s 27 holes of Jack Nicklaus Signature golf and proximity to both Duke University (Durham) and University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) make it an educated choice in that area. The community has been celebrating its 25th year and, a few weeks ago, hosted Barbara and Jack Nicklaus at a special anniversary party. For an expanded description of Governors Club and access to current homes for sale in the community, check out our Golf Homes for Sale page.
        Hasentree, one of the most recently built luxury golf communities in the Carolinas, is located just to the east of Durham and features a Tom Fazio layout that has garnered local and national praise. The community is set amidst tens of thousands of acres of protected forestland but is convenient to the Interstate roadways that enter and leave both Raleigh and Durham. After the community got off to a rocky start just before the recession of 2008, national builders Toll Brothers stepped in to reorganize everything. Contact us if you would like more information about Hasentree or any of the other fine golf communities in the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill areas.
        To scan the Tableau.com tables for the salaries of different professions by city, click here

        Every so often I read something that ticks me off, indirectly, about the attacks on golf's future (it's too expensive, it takes too long to play, golfers have other responsibilities on the weekend, yada yada). The latest spark was lit, innocently enough, by an article in the Wall Street Journal's sports pages (yes, the paper does have a few sports pages). The article concerned the length of time it takes to play an average Division I football game (a bit under four hours, but a fair number over four hours). I got to thinking about the time it takes to get in and out of the stadium parking lot, the drive time to and from home, and it became clear that a day at the football game makes a round of golf look pretty quick. And for those who think golf is light on exercise, try sitting in a stadium seat, jumping up and down only if your team scores.
        Our latest defense of golf and its future is the main feature in our upcoming October Home On The Course newsletter. The accompanying article, unrelated, was sparked by yet another couple of articles we read in Time magazine and at the web site Livability.com that ranked the best places to live in America. Surprisingly, southern towns were way under-represented. Rochester, MN, we are sure a lovely but brutally cold town in winter, topped one list. Mindful that cost of living is one feature of a "best" place to live, we compare the cost of living in Rochester -- it isn't bad -- to those of a few of our favorite towns in the South. If you are contemplating a relocation to a golf rich area, or are just curious about how some southern towns stack up against the best in the U.S., please sign up here to subscribe to our free monthly newsletter.

        BoardRoom magazine has awarded Governors Club in Chapel Hill, NC, its prestigious Distinguished Emerald Club of the World award. The trade publication that serves private clubs makes the award annually.
        Governors Club joins other top clubs in BoardRoom’s “Residential Country Club” category that we follow here at Golf Community Reviews, including Belfair, Berkeley Hall and Colleton River in Bluffton, SC; the Daniel Island Club outside Charleston, SC; the Club at Mediterra in Naples, FL; and Spring Island in Okatie, SC. (BoardRoom maintains a separate, more expansive category for “Golf Clubs” not built within a residential community.)
        That experience is in full display at Governors Club, which features 27 holes by Jack Nicklaus that opened for play in 1990, shortly after the community’s developers began selling properties on the 1,600-acre plot.  This year, the North Carolina Golf Rating Panel ranked the Nicklaus layout as the 36th best in the state, a huge jump from its placement at 57th in the 2014 poll. The expansive Governors Club clubhouse deserves similar plaudits; we have eaten the food  and can testify to its high quality.
        The modest changes in elevation on the golf course and the impressive rock outcroppings mirror the terrain of the entire community, one of the most imaginatively laid out of any we have visited. Home prices, which were battered in the wake of the 2008 recession, have sprung back to pre-recession levels but are still relatively modest, beginning in the high $300s and up, in a community that was recognized by BoardRoom “for providing an excellent member experience.” One of the best buys currently listed in Governors Club is a 4 bedroom, 2 ½ bath, 3,149 square foot house in one of the more level neighborhoods in the community, ideal for walking. Its list price of $389,900 works out to $124 per square foot, land included. To build a home on one of Governors Club’s remaining lots – they begin in the $60s – would run to $150 per square foot or more.
        You can access all the Governors Club currently available properties for sale – as well as listings in 60 other top communities in the Southeast -- in our Golf Homes for Sale section. Or for more information about Governors Club, contact Kay Dunson, our real estate professional in Chapel Hill.

Thursday, 01 October 2015 17:28

The Cliffs spruces up its practice facilities

        Back in the day at The Cliffs Communities when its founder, Jim Anthony, spent lavishly to burnish his communities’ deluxe image, a half-million dollar investment in anything might have seemed like petty cash. After all, $525,000 would have been the equivalent of four club memberships at The Cliffs and would have paled in comparison with an eight-figure marketing budget, outposts in British Columbia and Patagonia, and a reported $20 million design fee for a still-fledgling golf architect named Tiger Woods.
        But at communities like The Cliffs, where a full club membership of $50,000 is today about one-third its former lofty level, a $525,000 investment is no longer something to sniff at. While the popular media is going all Sword of Damocles about golf’s future, The Cliffs commitment to the practice facilities at its two oldest clubs is a thumb in the eye of the naysayers and a statement of welcome to serious golfers looking for an upscale community (and a nice show of support for its current club members looking to hone their golf games).
Cliffs Valley practice rangeCliffs Valley practice range        The two communities are Cliffs Valley and Cliffs at Glassy and, in the words of Cliffs Director of Golf Brian Peeples , the practice areas are now in harmony with the golf courses themselves.
        “...the fun part [of the overhaul] is we now have a practice area that better replicates the experience to be had on the course,” said Peebles.
        Most of the work was focused at Glassy, where the practice area was totally rebuilt and expanded from 18,000 square feet to 31,000 square feet. Exposed granite was added to the practice range’s landing areas to mimic the terrain out on the Tom Jackson designed golf course, one of the most dramatic layouts in the Carolina mountains. A short-game green and practice bunker complex were also added.
Cliffs Mountain Park Sand approachGary Player's Cliffs at Mountain Park is the most links-like, and the most recently opened (2013) of the Cliffs' seven golf courses.        Most of the renovations to the practice area at the Valley course, which was designed by golf commentator Ben Wright in 1995, were focused on the short game area. The grounds were reshaped to simulate many of the bump and run situations players will find out on the course.
        The Cliffs’ seven golf courses span a range of designs by noted architects like Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, as well as Messrs. Wright and Jackson. Membership in one of the clubs confers privileges at all the others, although most members we have talked with tend to play the vast majority of their rounds on the courses where they live. (It is more than an hour’s drive one way, for example, from Cliffs at Walnut Cove in Asheville to Cliffs at Keowee Vineyard beside Lake Keowee.)
        Still, for those looking to put an appropriate cap on a successful career or well-made investments, it is hard to beat the golfing oriented lifestyle at The Cliffs, whose current owners show no signs of slacking off on their commitment to the game.
        For more information on any of The Cliffs Communities, please contact us.
Keowee Vineyard 17There is no better looking or more challenging par 3 in South Carolina than the 17th at Tom Fazio's Cliffs at Keowee Vineyard.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015 11:50

How and Where to Live in Splendid Isolation

        Thanks to the hyperactive optimism of speculators who bought properties just before the 2008 recession, beautifully sited home sites beside a terrific year-round golf course within an easy walk of the beach are available for less than the cost of a candy bar.
        Six lots inside the boundary of Haig Point, the lush and isolated golf community amidst a forest of live oak trees and coastal marshland on Daufuskie Island, are listed for sale at just $1 –- and have been for years. The costs to build a dream home on Daufuskie Island are higher than on the mainland because only boats and a ferry can bring the materials and labor to the isolated island. But when a nice plot of land costs a buck, even $250 per square foot can yield a very nice 2,000 square foot cottage in paradise.
HaigFerryThe Haig Point ferry to and from Hilton Head Island is the lifeblood of the community, and the most expensive component of homeowner dues.  Photos courtesy of Hilton Head Island Multiple Listing Service.
        And Haig Point pretty much meets the definition of paradise...if that definition includes clean air (because there are no polluting vehicles on the island except for a few service vehicles), peace and quiet, a Rees Jones 29-hole layout that maximizes the marsh and forest of live oaks, and a frequently running ferry that makes connections with the mainland easy when necessary.
        A few of the $1 lots include club membership in the deal, which saves about $20,000 against the current tariff. Carrying costs in Haig Point are not the cheapest in golf community living, but that ferry is expensive to run and it isn’t as if the island is teeming with industry to offset property taxes and other costs. Actually, Haig Point did begin as a business location; International Paper saw the island as a great logging opportunity and, later, when the price of paper no longer justified island operations, as a great opportunity to get into the residential community business (as other big land-owning paper companies like Weyerhauser did). But IP found that running a golf community was more complicated than they thought, and they disposed of unsold lots at very cheap prices and left the island in the 1980s.
HaigGreenonSoundThe 29 holes at Haig Point -- the 29 is not a typo -- are by Rees Jones and compare favorably with Harbour Town Links at Sea Pines Plantation, just across the Calibogue Sound on Hilton Head.
        Since then, Haig Point has struggled to translate for the market the wonderfulness of life in a golf community on an isolated island. It doesn’t help that the nearby Daufuskie Island Resort, with homes for sale and its own excellent Jack Nicklaus layout and another 18 holes at Bloody Point, went out of business in 2009, leaving homeowners there a bit in the lurch and drying up the number of visitors (and potential Haig Point owners) to the island. Bought by a Denver businessman in 2011, the Resort still has not re-established its footing, denying Haig Point of an important source of potential property owners.
        Those not interested in building a new home will find house prices beginning just under $300,000 and ranging up above $1 million.  We note a cute yellow golf cottage of 3 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and almost 2,600 square feet with a lake view currently listed at just $285,000. 
        For the curious, and those who dream of true island living with an adjacent golf course that professionals have used as practice for the annual event at Sea Pines Plantation across the Calibogue Sound and raved about it, a visit should be in order.  Contact me for an introduction to our real estate professional in the area who knows Haig Point and Daufuskie well.  Or check out the Haig Point page in our Golf Homes for Sale section.

HaigHouseMost homes in Haig Point are set on lots nestled among the live oaks and scrub pines. A few lots are available for just $1.

Friday, 25 September 2015 15:03

Fall for Apples: Orchard Golf Best in Autumn

        LINKS magazine is out with an email today about the best golf courses to play when autumn leaves start to take on some color. As always for LINKS, the accompanying photographs are lush and beautiful. Click here for the article.
        I especially appreciated the LINKS article because, just yesterday, I played a Robert Trent Jones course that could be a contender for LINKS’ top 10 Fall Golf Course list. Lyman Orchards is located in central Connecticut, in the town of Middlefield, and as the name implies, is set beside an apple orchard. However, the Jones course (circa 1969), which shares the complex with a more recently opened Gary Player course, wends its way through former farm land with clusters of pine and maple trees for background and extra challenge; the apples are left for the slightly longer and more challenging Player layout. After my round, I drove up to the rows and rows of apple-laden trees and had a lot of fun maneuvering my golf cart up and down the rows, stopping to pluck a Macintosh here, a Macoun there and a few sour green apples.
LymanOrchards10teeThe landing area on #10 at Lyman Orchards' Jones course seems very narrow, but those trees on the right force a drive that must challenge the water.
        It reminded me of another impressive orchard course, Orchard Creek, just west of Albany, NY, where I followed my son during a junior golf tournament 12 years ago. Each fairway was lined with apple trees bearing different breeds of apples; by the 4th hole, I was starting to suffer a stomach ache after having picked and eaten one per hole.
        I was hell bent on some revenge on the Jones course yesterday. The only other time I played the course was 25 years ago, shortly after I moved to Connecticut from Manhattan. On the first hole, I snap hooked my drive into the lake on the left; it set the tone for a horrible round. Over the years, Lyman Orchard switched the nines, and I had to wait until #10 this time around. This time I made sure to aim down the far right side and, once again, pull hooked my shot, dribbling it into the water. I won’t wait another 25 years to have another go at it.
LymanOrchards14approachThe 14th at Lyman Orchards' Jones course isn't long but requires a deft approach shot over a nasty looking stream.
        The course was in wonderful condition, the greens smooth, large and undulating. Jones the elder guards them well with bunkers, but there always seems an option to enter directly from the front, although with many false fronts that make full carries pretty much the only way to get close. The starter explained to me that the green superintendent uses a new type of aeration that sends just a few tines into the turf and then distributes a burst of air underground. That means the few aeration holes make putting almost normal a day or two after the aeration process. Thankfully, the greens were quite receptive, even though that part of Connecticut hasn’t seen much rain lately; perhaps it is all that air they blow under the greens.
LymanOrchardsPlayerpar3The Gary Player layout at Lyman Orchards, which features rows of apples just off a few of the fairways, is considered the tougher of the two layouts.  Judging by one of its par 3s, we understand.
        Although there are really no blind holes on the course -– I understand there are some on the Player layout next door -– I found some golf balls tough to find even after well struck and straight shots. My drive on the par 5 4th hole pretty much ruined my day. Per the instructions of my playing partners, who know the course well, I flew my tee shot over the fairway bunker that cut into the left side of the fairway about 200 yards out. We watched it bounce once beyond the right center of the bunker, but when we got to the fairway, it was nowhere to be found. Five minutes later, after scouring the rough on both sides, I threw down another ball, angry and frustrated. I don’t mind losing one in the woods, but this ball should have been center cut.
        How’d I like them apples? Not very much.
LymanOrchardapplesWhen you play the Gary Player 18 in late September or October at Lyman Orchards, you can divert for a little refreshment just off a few of the fairways.

Friday, 18 September 2015 11:30

Bargain Golf in Simsbury, CT

        Tower Ridge in Simsbury, CT, about 20 minutes from Hartford, is not a perfect golf course, but for the price of its green fees, it has enough good holes –- and a few excellent ones –- to make the cost/benefit proposition skew in the direction of benefit. And as the leaves begin to change color on Avon Mountain, which forms the backdrop for most holes at Tower Ridge, the club’s $30 weekday fees -– cart included -– on crisp autumn days will be too good to pass up.
TowerRidge7greenTower Ridge's side-of-the-mountain holes are set well above the Farmington Valley. The view is from the 7th green.

        It isn’t quite autumn yet, but my round at Tower Ridge yesterday was a special bargain of $20 from one of those online golf tee time consolidators. I booked the 11 a.m. round at 8 a.m. the same morning and was paired with another bargain seeker. We caught the foursome in front of us for the first time on the 15th hole and eventually made it around in just over 3 ½ hours. (Thankfully, Mike didn’t spend more than a few seconds looking for hopelessly lost golf balls.)
        Tower Ridge, which was designed in 1959 by respected New England architect Geoffrey Cornish, plays between the Farmington River on its western edge and up the lower slope of the Avon Mountain. Holes #5 through #8 –- three par 4s and a long par 3, respectively -- play parallel to the mountain, the rest up and down, providing uphill carries to small, firm greens and elevated tee shots and approaches to somewhat softer greens where the water drains down the hills. Fairways on the par 4s slope significantly from the higher level to the lower, and a shot to the middle of a fairway can bounce into the rough. The 8th hole sticks out as unusual, and interesting, in that it is a long par 3 from a significantly elevated tee to a green that is deeper than it is wide, and extremely difficult to hit. The rough to the left of the green is thick and sloped downward, and the hill to the right is steep. Its designation as the 11th hardest hole on the scorecard, which is low for a par 3, should be even lower; the straightforward and short par 4 1st hole noted as the 9th handicap hole seems off, comparatively speaking.
TowerRidgehouse6greenThere is just one house facing the Tower Ridge golf course, and it is a beauty, overlooking the 6th green and the valley below.
        I especially like the holes at the base of the mountain which put a premium on the placement of the tee shot in order to keep the ball out of the gnarly rough and away from draping trees that hang over the edges of the holes. The small greens on the 5th and 7th, the hardest and third hardest holes on the course, respectively, are perched up on hills and are very difficult to hit and hold. The 6th hole features a steep hill on the left that, at other times I have played the hole, kicked balls down into the fairway; but not on this day, as the rough was too thick to permit a bounce. The green on #6 is fronted by two nasty bunkers, and another one waits behind to catch any shot that rolls off the firm green.
        My only sour note of the day occurred at the 10th hole, a short but uphill par 5 dogleg right where a solid drive hit straight at the middle of the fairway can bound through to the rough on the left. I hit my best drive of the day; it followed the shape of the fairway and landed in the bright sunlight middle right on the fairway. But when I approached my ball, I found it had bounded off a severe fairway mound into the right hand rough. I don’t typically quibble about golf course layouts, and I can’t believe this was a feature the nuanced designer Mr. Cornish would have built into the hole, but this seemed a rather dopey and unfair way to make a short hole tougher.  In retrospect, the prudent play off the tee would have been a fairway metal, which seems pretty wimpy on a par 5.
        Tower Ridge, which was a private club until about 15 years ago, shows some signs of a revenue struggle, with somewhat uneven cutting of the fairways, greens that showed bare spots around the peripheries, and cart path buckling that threatened to send me to the chiropractor a few times. A posted annual weekday membership for 2016 of $999 –- cart included! – may also be a sign of the day-to-day challenges to generate revenue. That said, if the okay conditions I found yesterday are maintained through 2016, that $999 will be a gigantic bargain. Play 10 rounds per month, and the average cost will be less than $15, cart included.
        Looming over the golf course from the top of the mountain is Heublein Tower, named for the man who started the alcoholic beverage company of the same name, which was headquartered nearby. Local hikers can make the one-mile trek to the Tower from the other side of the mountain and enjoy stunning views of the Farmington Valley below to the west and the city of Hartford to the east. The views of the Valley from the golf course itself are significant, and certainly worth the modest price of admission.
TowerRidge14wTowerThe Heublein Tower looms over the entire golf course of Tower Ridge, including the par 5 14th hole.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015 10:49

Winter Retreat: Venice, FL, Golf Home for Sale

        Just in time for winter, a friend has placed his mother’s home for sale in the comfortable community of Waterford in Venice, FL. Venice, which is a magnet for snowbirds from the North, is located between Sarasota and Ft. Myers, and just off Interstate 75. Needless to say, the climate from November through March is balmy, with excellent golf weather virtually every day of the week on the three golf courses available to residents of Waterford and surrounding communities for one annual membership fee.
Fontana home
        Our golf real estate expert in Sarasota, Dennis Boyle of Suncoast Golf Homes, is handling the sale. The home is located on a quarter acre lot with views of an adjacent lake from virtually every room. It is less than 40 minutes from the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport. The 3-bedroom, 2 ½-bath house features almost 3,700 square feet, more than 2,600 heated and air-conditioned. The large lanai at the back of the home is the perfect place to enjoy drinks while watching the sunsets out over the Gulf of Mexico. The kitchen is especially large, with Euro-style cabinets, a Jenn-Aire range and an open entrance into the expansive Florida room, the perfect place for entertaining or just plain relaxing. The home, which has been listed for only a week, is priced at $395,000; property taxes are a modest $3,155, and HOA fees cover use of the community pool, tennis, fitness center and clubhouse. The widely praised Venice beaches are just 15 minutes away.
        Given the approaching winter and the uptick in Florida real estate, it should not take too long to sell this well designed home in a community designed for active retirees.
        For just $3,500 in annual dues, for example, with no initiation fees, Waterford residents can become members of the semi-private Waterford Golf Club and have access to two other local clubs as well. The annual payment works out to the equivalent of about $11 per round in green fees per person if a couple plays an average three times per week. If you are an occasional player and don’t want to pay the annual fee, Waterford and its companion courses, Calusa Lakes and Capri Isles, offer pay as you go rates. Waterford features 27 holes designed by Ted McAnlis; its toughest combination of 18 holes plays to a rating of 72.3 and slope of 136 at 6,670 yards. The yardages and course rating at Calusa Lakes, also designed by McAnlis, appear to be similar to Waterford’s, although the slope ratings are a bit lower. The ratings at Capri Isles, designed by Andy Anderson, are slightly lower than at the other clubs.
        You can access the full listing details for this home by clicking here. If you would like more information about Venice, Waterford Golf Club and this reasonably priced home for sale, contact Dennis_Boyle@Topproducer.com. Please tell him you read about the home at Golf Community Reviews.

Golf Course 1
Waterford Tennis
Pool w clock

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