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        I consider myself fortunate that, last weekend, I was able to play two outstanding golf courses in the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia that had been dramatically -– and at substantial expense -– renovated in recent years. Both golf courses –- Ford Plantation and Wexford Plantation –- are at the centers of communities of homes valued at $1 million and more, and the conditions and layouts of both are what you would expect from clubs populated by people who are used to the best things in life that aren’t free.
        Ford Plantation, which surrounds the golf course, has a rich history. Located in Richmond Hill, less than a half hour south of Savannah, it occupies grounds that served as the winter home of Henry and Clara Ford. At one point, the famous car manufacturer had amassed 70,000 acres in the Richmond Hill area to serve as his family’s winter playground. With Lake Clara at its heart and the Ogeechee River alongside the property, it is a congenial host for fishing, boating, as well as top-flight golf for its property owners, all of whom are required to be club members in some fashion or other. Ford even maintains a position for Director of Outdoor Pursuits, in other words a naturalist available to help members chase birdies and other fauna of a different type than on the golf course.
FordPar3RailroadTiesUse of railroad ties was reduced to just this one par 3 at Ford Plantation. "Mr. Dye," the President of Ford Plantation Club's board told us, "has become more member-friendly."
        Water is central to the community but water has always been a problem for the golf course since the original developer, from the Mideast who didn’t play golf, bought the land, was convinced by confidantes that he needed a golf course, and hired Pete Dye –- he had heard he was the best -– to lay it out. Dye, reportedly, told his patron that there was not enough dry land to accommodate a full 18-hole golf course, to which he was instructed to fill in some of the marshland to accommodate the extra holes. “Too expensive,” Dye allegedly responded. “Spend whatever it takes,” replied his not-to-be-denied patron.
        It took $11 million, one of the most expensive golf course jobs of its era when it opened for play in 1985. That was pretty much before any dwellings had been built on the site. When I played the Ogeechee Golf Club in 2007, before its name change and long after the original developer had fled to the Mideast to avoid some unpleasantness with American law enforcement officials, I thought layout of the course was among the best I had encountered in recent years. On the back nine especially along the river, the course felt links like, festooned with hillocks and pot bunkers indigenous to most Dye designs. I was blessed by good weather back in 2007, and what I did not know was that rains of any duration could render the course unplayable; the original sin of having built some holes on the marsh came back to haunt club members decades later.
FordGreenwithHomebehindMost homes in Ford Plantation are priced above $1 million. We saw a few currently under construction.
        Only a small handful of the club’s members –- 15, I was told -– walked away when the majority voted to assess themselves the equivalent of an initiation fee at a high-end club in order to get the renovation going. Last year, after spending a whopping $7 million, most of it on the drainage issue and a total redo of the layout by Mr. Dye himself, the club re-opened to critical praise and, more important, the plaudits of its club members. I can understand the positive fuss after playing 18 holes there with Paul Wickes, a former New York based attorney with a top international law firm and in his second year as Ford Plantation Club’s President; and two enthusiastic fellow members, one a doctor and one a former specialist on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
        The layout is sleek and challenging and fun to play, and the turf on fairways and greens is beautifully conditioned. (And after a few days of on-and-off rain, I saw no obvious wet spots on the course.) But this is not, to the casual eye, a golf course that fits the standard Pete Dye oeuvre, even though the back nine retains its feel of a links course (thank goodness). As Paul Wickes pointed out, the Dye signature railroad ties that buttressed lakes and lagoons and the occasional bunker are gone, except for one par 3 where it would have been a crime against art to remove them (see accompanying photo).
        “I think Mr. Dye has become more member-friendly in his advancing years,” Paul noted. Dye turns 90 next month.
FordLiveOakfrontinggreenPete Dye redid the entire layout at Ford Plantation. He fixed a multitude of drainage issues beside the marshland. The layout is a mix of Low Country parkland holes on the front nine (one par four shown here, back nine hole shown at bottom) and more links style holes on the back, by the Ogeechee River.
        There were other touches that illustrated Paul’s assessment was spot on. The bunkering was emphatic without being aggressive, which is to say pot bunkers were at a minimum; happily, fairway moguls were also almost non-existent, maintaining the sweeping views across the landscape. The green complexes were challenging and thoughtfully molded, providing a number of opportunities to putt the ball from five yards or more from the surface.
        Ford Plantation is solidly in the category of “upscale” golf community, and the price of admission is for high worth individuals only. The least expensive home currently for sale at Ford Plantation is priced a bit deceptively and out of character with its neighboring homes, given that it sits on a 2.9-acre lot that looks out onto the Dye golf course and yet is listed for only $475,000. But a closer reading yields a description of a 1-bedroom, 2-bath carriage house of just over 1,100 square feet, certainly habitable for a couple that likes their surroundings ultra-cozy, at least for a relatively short period of time. Alas, the broker with the listing sees it only as temporary housing. "Live on site," the description reads, "as you build your main home." The cottage is a bargain in another way; if the next owners purchase it by the end of the year, they will save $50,000 because Ford Plantation Club will raise its mandatory membership initiation by that much, to $100,000, at the end of December.
        For more information about Ford Plantation, please contact me. I will have some thoughts about Hilton Head Island’s Wexford Plantation in the coming days.

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Monday, 09 November 2015 01:26

Living High on the House in Low Country

        I am approaching my 200th golf community visit, but the most recent ones, just last weekend, were eye openers. From the golf course at Wexford Plantation on Hilton Head Island, I saw a collection of the largest homes I have ever seen in any golf community; in fact, they are probably the largest homes I have seen in any one neighborhood. (Most of the homes were unoccupied, waiting for their owners to arrive for the winter season in a few weeks.) Across the river from the marina, which is adjacent to the clubhouse area at Wexford, one home appeared to span at least 20,000 square feet. One of my playing partners dubbed it "a nice Marriott."
        The median value of homes in Wexford, whose golf course was redesigned a couple of years ago by Brandon Johnson of the Arnold Palmer design team and is one of the best I've played in the last five years, is well into seven figures. The most expensive home currently on the market in the Hilton Head Island MLS (multiple listing service) is listed for $5.5 million and includes 6 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms and nearly 10,000 square feet. It looks much bigger from the  golf course.

imageOne of he biggest homes in Wexford Plantation has commanding views of canal and golf course.

        The least expensive home in Wexford Plantation is listed for $409,900 and includes three bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms and 2 half baths. It encompasses just over 2,000 square feet but is on a lot of 0 square feet, which implies it might be a free-standing condo, although the listing does not indicate that. On a per-square-foot basis, its $205 compares with the huge home's $550 per square foot.

        I played the golf course at Ford Plantation the day before Wexford. Although not as well established as the Hilton Head community, the Richmond Hill, GA, Ford Plantation is every bit as upscale. Like Wexford, its golf course was totally redone in the last couple of years by its original designer, Pete Dye, for a budget busting $7 million, for which all but 15 of Ford's members apparently kicked in serious dollars in added assessments. The precipitant for the redesign was a severe drainage problem that made play all but impossible the day after a heavy rain -- and it does rain heavy in the Savannah area. Although all but the most astute designers probably can't tell the difference between, say, a $4 million and a $7 million rehab, the layout and condition at Ford were superb, and the fact that the course was without damp spots after a few days of on and off rain offered positive testimony to the investment.

 image 102Ford Plantation owners are enjoying their totally redesigned golf course, a gem by Pete Dye that cost a hefty $7 million.

        While the homes surrounding the golf course were not as relentlessly large as those at Wexford, many communicated lofty price tags. Compared to the most expensive house for sale in Wexford, Ford's premier home, listed for "just" $3.2 million, seemed a relative bargain, but at $615 per square foot from its 5,191 square feet, its fit and finish may be beyond even the expensvie Wexford home. (The carriage house guest suite, the Lake Clara views, the Tennessee fieldstone and art studio give hint at the grandeur of the home.)
        The least expensive home at Ford Plantation seems like an extreme bargain given that it sits on a 2.9 acre lot that looks out onto the Dye golf course and is priced at just $475,000. But a closer reading yields a description of a 1 bedroom, 2 bath carriage house of just over 1,100 square feet, certainly habitable for a couple that likes cozy. Alas, the broker with the listing sees it only as temporary housing. "Live on site," the description reads, "as you build your main home." Your friends or family will be perfectly content in the carriage house, and you will save $50,000 if you contract to purchase the property by the end of the year. That is because The Ford Plantation Club will raise mandatory dues by $50k, to $100,000, at the end of December.
        For those with the resources and desire to call either of these great golf courses their own, contact me and I will be happy to make introductions to Ford or Wexford...or both.

        I'll publish in this space a few notes and photographs in coming days about my rounds at Ford Plantation and Wexford.

        Whenever I arrive in Pawleys Island, SC, as I do a few times a year, I grab from the rack at the local supermarket one of those brochures that include listings of current homes for sale. When you do that enough times over the years -- and this has been a habit of mine for the last 15 years -- you get a strong sense of what is happening with prices locally.
        I landed in Pawleys Island yesterday, made a grocery store run and grabbed the latest free copy of the Pawleys Island Rag, a 20-page list of current condos, townhomes and single-family homes for sale in one of the most well known and popular towns on the Carolinas coast. My wife and I have owned a condo in Pawleys Plantation for 15 years beside the 15th tee of the Jack Nicklaus course which opened in 1989. We also purchased a lot on the 16th hole just before the recession -- yuck -- on which we intended to build a single-family home. That idea is in limbo for now.
        The long and short of my latest reading of the Pawleys Island Rag is that prices, finally, in Pawleys Plantation and surrounding golf communities like Heritage Plantation, The Reserve at Litchfield and the others, have risen and firmed up. The obvious bargains, including vacation condos at Pawleys Plantation that generate about 20 weeks of rental revenue for their owners each year, have vanished from the brochure's pages. Some of those units had been selling as recently as last winter for $125,000, or less than $100 per square foot. I noticed another condo currently listed for $300,000; its type had previously been listed $50,000 lower last winter.
        At the other end of the spectrum, one of our favorite homes in Pawleys Plantation, with a floating and fixed dock and a view out over a wide expanse of marsh toward the island and ocean beyond, is on the market for $1.1 million, only the third or fourth such home in the community to ever top the $1 million asking-price mark.
        The lack of available properties at the lower end signals that those searching for a vacation home have descended on Pawleys Island for its laid-back

Price increases in the Myrtle Beach area, which have lagged other golf rich markets, finally seem to be picking up steam.

lifestyle and easy access to some of the best beaches and golf along the coast. But homes for more permanent living appear to have gained some price momentum as well, although we need to remind ourselves these are listing prices, not selling prices. But as much as listed prices seem to have risen, selling prices, according to the real estate site Trulia.com, have exploded in recent months. The median selling price in Pawleys Island between July and October, according to Trulia, rose $40,000, to $225,000. Yes, that very well could be a timing issue, but a $40,000 jump for any reason is a strong vote of confidence in the market.
        As prices rise, bargains may be fewer and farther between. We note that the house a few doors from our empty lot on the 16th hole recently sold for $524,500. At 4,700 square feet, that works out to about $112 per square foot, a grand bargain for any nice golf home, which it is. And that is without consideration of the inherent value of the lot itself which, given its view down the 16th hole and out across the marsh to the island a half mile away, is probably worth $250,000 itself.
        Pawleys Island and the entire Myrtle Beach area have lagged most other leisure residential, golf-oriented markets. There are two equally logical reasons why this area's real estate prices seem to be catching up now. One could be that buyers have finally figured out that Pawleys Island and its surrounding areas are undervalued compared with other golf rich areas. Or, second, this spate of buying and firming of prices in Pawleys Island may be reflective of the overall leisure real estate market up and down the east coast. For those who have been waiting to buy or build their dream homes in a warmer climate, the time for a cost-effective decision may be nigh. Contact me if you would like to get the process started.

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.
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.

        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.

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