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.
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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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It is incumbent on private clubs these days to be as creative as possible in seeking new members...and keeping the ones they already have. The most actively managed clubs do not let a good opportunity for promotion go by.
Governors Club, the 25-year old community in Chapel Hill, NC, is celebrating its Silver Anniversary this month in a big way, hosting a special dinner on September 29 with invited guests Jack and Barbara Nicklaus in attendance. Nicklaus designed the club’s 27-hole golf course under his “Signature” course banner, which indicates that he gave his full personal attention to the design.
Some club members will have the opportunity to join the Nicklauses at the dinner and cocktail party that precedes it. And during the month of September, a few new members will have the opportunity to attend the cocktail party as well. As we write this, Governors Club is offering 15 “Reserved Membership” packages to new members,
Registration closes in the coming days for our special weekend at the Carolina Colours golf community in New Bern, NC, October 29 – November 1. We are co-sponsoring the weekend with CarolinaLiving.com, the foremost lifestyle and information service for the Carolinas, and Carolina Living’s co-founder Pat Mason and I will join Carolina Colours developer Ken Kirkman for a special panel discussion on how to search for a golf community home. With lodging included, as well as golf on the Bill Love designed layout and some meals, the weekend is specially priced at just $350 per couple. But time is running out. For more information or to reserve your spot, please contact me, Larry Gavrich, founder and editor of Home On The Course, LLC. I look forward to greeting you at Carolina Coloours on October 29.
Friends have been sending me links to articles this week that rank U.S. cities in terms of their housing prospects and friendliness. NASDAQ recently published a list of 11 “up and coming” housing markets. Charlotte weighs in at the #10 spot, with Austin, TX, at #8 and the Raleigh/Durham area at #6. We’ve received a number of inquiries recently about Charlotte from prospective buyers looking for a golf community within an easy commute of a full-service urban area. The area north of Charlotte, principally around and near Lake Norman, and the city’s southern suburbs, which stretch to Tega Cay in South Carolina and beyond to Rock Hill, are rich in golf communities of every stripe, from the upscale Quail Hollow to a few more-mundane but high-value communities just off Lake Norman. We visited Austin years ago, and most of its sprawling golf communities are also within an easy drive of the city and the large University of Texas campus. Great barbecue is never far away either. Raleigh/Durham has been one of the south’s major economic success stories over the last three decades, with the Research Triangle area the major lure for technology and other companies looking to relocate from northern areas. With all the activities surrounding Duke University, the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University, one of Raleigh/Durham’s nice selection of golf communities would certainly be an educated choice.
Conde Nast’s Traveller magazine asked its readers to weigh in on America’s friendliest and most unfriendly cities, and most choices on the unfriendly side are not surprising (e.g. Newark, NJ, tops that list). But for those contemplating a move south to a golf community, the list of most friendly towns points the way toward a few nice options. (Although Park City, UT, weighs in at the top spot, the next two are deep in the heart of Dixie.) At #2 is Savannah, which the magazine’s editors describe as “Bubbling with Southern charm.” We agree, and if you want proximity to the city (just 20 minutes) in a large community with dozens of clubs and other activities, including six terrific golf courses, The Landings on Skidaway Island is a good choice. For a more upscale experience, Ford Plantation, on a beautiful patch of ground by a river where Henry Ford and his family once spent their winters, is just 25 minutes south of the city.
Charleston, SC, holds the #3 spot on the Conde Nast ranking, and while we prefer it slightly to Savannah – mostly for its inventive and world-class roster of restaurants – both deserve their high ratings on the friendliness meter. Surprisingly, most of the golf communities in the Charleston area are semi-private, with Rivertowne in Mt. Pleasant near the top of our list. Kiawah and Seabrook Islands are 40 minutes away, and both offer near-private golf experiences (resort guests have access to all but a couple of the islands’ courses).
Nashville & Asheville, friendly rhymes
Other good choices on the Conde Nast list include Nashville at #4 and Asheville at #7. We did not know much about Nashville until a meet up with friends for a couple of days of music club hopping in May. Although time constraints did not support an investigation of the golf communities near the city, we did stop for a round of golf and a quick drive-through at Fairfield Glade, the expansive community on the Cumberland Plateau about an hour east of Nashville. We were matched with a couple from Florida who had just moved to Fairfield Glade a week earlier, and they were definitely in the honeymoon phase with their new second home and community. For reasonably priced real estate and three good golf courses, Fairfield Glade seems an excellent choice.
Asheville, of course, is on everyone’s list of best cities for retirement. It has been an especially strong lure for Floridians looking for relief from summer heat in the Sunshine State. On the upscale end of golf communities in the area, The Cliffs at Walnut Cove features $1 million homes and higher and one of the most elegantly sculpted golf courses in Jack Nicklaus’ oeuvre. One $50,000 membership provides access to The Cliffs’ seven other courses, all different yet all as good as Walnut Cove. (Tom Fazio’s layout at Keowee Vineyard may be even better.) For an interesting, albeit more down-market experience, the Reems Creek community north of the city features a wide range of real estate at price points that begin hundreds of thousands lower than Walnut Cove but with a unique golf course designed by the Great Britain based Hawtree & Sons, close relations of the designer of Donald Trump’s heralded new course in Aberdeen, Scotland.
If you would like some friendly suggestions of which golf communities in the South might best match your requirements, please contact us.