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  Haig Point
Marsh grass, live oaks and sand give Haig Point's layout a strong links feel. Wind and views of the Calibogue Sound only add to the effect.

Golf Community Review 

    If you have a bit of the Garbo in you, Haig Point on Daufuskie Island, SC, may float your boat.  Isolated and reached only by an hourly ferry from Hilton Head Island across the Calibogue Sound, the small community offers upscale leisure living and one of the best golf courses we've played in the last year, a 27+ hole Rees Jones layout that winds through live oaks and marsh and eventually along the Calibogue.  Why 27+ holes?  Jones was so smitten with the terrain he just couldn't help routing two holes in two different ways.
    Only 100 families live full time in Haig Point, but residents never feel alone.  They are a tightknit group, both because they have to be and, it seems, want to be.  We were greeted warmly when we met some of them for drinks on a Friday night in November in the community's "mansion," and later the clubhouse dining room was filled with chatty members who bellied up to the piano and belted out a few songs after dinner. 
    The mansion, which includes a few guest rooms for those visiting friends or looking at property, had been relocated by boat in the 1980s from somewhere in Georgia and reconstructed at Haig Point, just west of the ruins of the former slave quarters.  The slave homes' tabby material was made from a mix of oyster shells and a kind of concrete, and it was a little eerie to see the contrast of modern and 18th Century, of luxe and servitude, side by side.  The original developers of Haig Point, International Paper, left the ruins in place as one reminder that Daufuskie had a sobering history before it gave way to mostly leisure living.  Another such reminder is the Mary Field School, where author Pat Conroy taught Gullah children in the 1960s (Jon Voight had the starring role in the 1970s film of Conroy's island experience).  The school is still in use although the Gullahs, for the most part, are gone. 
    Real estate prices in Haig Point are almost too good to be true, with cottages and single family homes nestled in the live oaks going for hundreds of thousands of dollars less than comparably scaled homes on the mainland, and with $65,000 club membership fees thrown in for good measure on most sales.  But you know that when things seem too good to be true, there is usually a catch or two; at Haig Point, there are a couple of catches.  One is that carrying costs are high, with club dues running more than $10,000 a year.  And if your fellow members decide they want to rehab the clubhouse or beach club, you will share in the potentially steep assessment.  After all, on an island where virtually everything is shipped in, including labor, prices are much higher than on the mainland (Note:  If you buy a piece of property at Haig and elect to build a house, your construction costs could reach as high as $500 a square foot, compared with around $200 on Hilton Head).  Chairs at Haig Point
    And then there is the most obvious "catch" of all, Daufuskie Island's isolation, a half hour boat ride from the mainland, and if you need provisions or just want to get away, there is only one way in and one way out.  That said, those who have chosen Haig Point love it and speak of their community as an oasis of calm.  They are a hardy and upbeat group, an engaging mix of former captains of industry, a few architects, real estate people and consultants who can work via satellite from the island, with the occasional flight from Savannah to meet with clients.  Those clients should hold out for meetings occasionally at Haig Point.  It's a wonderful, soothing and friendly place, and for its residents, half the fun is getting there.
    We spent two days at Haig Point and also played the nearby Melrose Club at the Daufuskie Island Resort (we'll comment on Melrose and its fine Jack Nicklaus course at a later time).  In a later post, we'll also discuss our visit to Bald Head Island, site of the only other "true" island golf community off the east coast.

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�lbemarle Plantation season shot  
North Carolina communities like Albemarle Plantation in Hertford are a magnet for Florida residents who miss a little change of seasons. 

   
    Wherever we go in the southeast, we hear the same thing from real estate agents:  Floridians are "bouncing back" to the Carolinas.  In the early years of this decade, the reasons seemed to be storm related; those with expensive homes on the Florida coasts were intimidated by the threat and, in some cases, reality of hurricanes.  They were already leaving before Katrina.  Others were fed up with New York metro-area-type traffic as local road infrastructures could not keep up with the population explosions in places like Dade County and Naples.  What’s the point of trying to save money by eating dinner at 4:30 p.m. at the local Smorgie Board if you are going to sit in traffic and waste gas?  Lately, though, Florida residents are moving to Wilmington, Charlottesville, Asheville and other cities in the southeast for another reason:  They miss winter.
    Ironic, isn't it.  The reasons our parents and grandparents left New York and other northern cities decades ago was that they were sick and tired of cold and snow, and that on a fixed income, they felt a wardrobe of a few tee and golf shirts and three pairs of shorts would save money.  They never imagined they would miss winter, or a reasonable facsimile of it (winters in the Carolinas are wussy winters).  Today, many are trading in their lanais for fireplaces.  
    Of course, it is never just about the weather as much as it is about economics, loathe as some of us are to admit it.  Just as they did decades ago when they cashed in the wild appreciations on their homes in Skokie and Scarsdale for brand new houses in Boca and Boynton Beach, the new refugees, also known as “halfbacks” for how far they’ve come since leaving north for Florida, are doing the same thing, playing the real estate game for all it is worth, pocketing the difference between their wildly appreciated houses in Florida for plenty enough house in the Carolinas.  (Of course, if they waited until now in places like Miami and Naples, they won't get the prices they could have gotten a year ago, if they can sell at all.)
    Call it creative financing on a fixed income.  They no longer need worry quite as much about income tax rates – Florida has none – because their taxable income is no longer a huge factor as they've spent some of their net worth over time.  What they make on the sell and buy transaction pays for a lot of firewood and all the sweaters they need for the Carolinas’ mild winters.  And North Carolina has no estate tax, so what they don’t spend in their lifetimes the halfbacks can leave substantially to their heirs.  
    From the macro economic view, this new phenomenon is good news for real estate price stability in the Carolinas; on the other side of the coin, we have to wonder if Floridians who wait too long to follow suit may suffer more winters of discontent.
Wednesday, 24 January 2007 18:00

Aim. Ready. Fire. We are launched.

 In the history of critical writing, today's launch of golfcommunityreviews.com won't amount to a hill of beans for anyone but my wife and kids -- and them I am not too sure about.  They thought I spent enough time already hunched over my laptop. 
    Now this.  After almost a year of publishing the HomeOnTheCourse advisory newsletter (see HomeOnTheCourse.com), I am more convinced than ever that there is a big need for unbiased information about golfing communities.  Sure, you can find tons of material on the subject online, but virtually every scrap of it is hype, promoted by the communities themselves or their marketing agents.   After 30+ years in corporate communication, and having banged out plenty of press releases, my nose can smell the subtle techniques the marketing experts use
    A few months ago we read in a magazine with the helpful-sounding name Resort Living that one group of communities offers "one of the most comprehensive golf memberships" anywhere.  Resort Living may sound like a Travel & Leisure clone, but our radar told us something was funny (even T&L doesn't often use such overheated superlatives).  With a little research, we discovered that Resort Living is published by the same company responsible for marketing that group of communities.  (Okay, it's the well-appointed Cliffs Communities, and we can't quibble with the claim, just that it is promotion in the guise of objectivity.)
    Aside from support of truth, justice and American blunt honesty, this blog will share more subtly shaded information about golf communities; e.g. how they differ, one to the other, in terms of their golf courses, their residents, proximities to things that matter besides golf (like health care, culture, restaurants, transportation) and the range of real estate available. We'll continue to look at the cities nearby and what they offer in the way of lifestyle choices. We intend to appeal primarily to those looking for retirement or second-home properties, but what we have to say will be equally germane to the investor looking to park some money in a relatively safe, and potentially rewarding, place.  After all, the old real estate saw holds true for everyone -- Location. Location. Location.
    We will continue to travel so that we can provide information from on location -- there's that word again -- not just material cobbled together from the internet, the Wall Street Journal, and other sources we review daily.  But we will also be a consolidator of information, saving you time and money by being your eyes, ears and representative as you face some major investment decisions about vacation or retirement real estate.  When you spend the time and money to travel to investigate golf course communities, we want to arm you with the most objective information possible.
    Now here's the truth in advertising statement:  This venture isn't entirely altruism, although we do feel as if we are on a mission.  Our humble little blog will be gussied up by those intrusive sponsored ads from Google and others; this helps us pay the electricity bills and supplement this author's fixed income.  But rest assured that a community whose unsolicited ad pops up on our site will be treated with the same objectivity as one that never advertises, and that we are as likely to bury an advertiser as we are to praise it, although we will more often choose to review those communities we can recommend than those we can't.  We don't want to waste your time and ours savaging places that clearly offer bad golf and sub-standard real estate options.
    We hope also that if you return to this site, you find enough value in our observations and research that you will opt for the more in-depth reviews in our HomeOnTheCourse advisory newsletter, which we will soon offer at a nominal annual charge.  More information on HomeOnTheCourse will be forthcoming.
    Finally, from time to time, you may find that we hop the tracks a little and raise an issue unrelated to golf or real estate.  I hope you will join me in the occasional musing.  My wife and children are tired of taking the brunt of my observations about political correctness and other pet peeves.  So the price you pay to read this blog will be the occasional observation from your editor.  I look forward to your own comments.  I hope we all have some fun and learn from each other's experience and interests in golf-related living.  Golf is a game for life, and my mission is to help you find the best possible place to play it for the rest of your days.     
    Happy reading.

    Larry
   Thornblade

   We often come upon private golf clubs not connected to a planned community.  They offer all the privileges of golf community courses but with the extra flexibility of choosing a home anywhere.  In the case of the excellent Tom-Fazio designed Thornblade Club in Greer, SC, the adjacent neighborhood of mostly single-family homes, with a few condos, is worth serious consideration.
    According to the December issue of Smart Money, the most undervalued market for housing in all of the U.S. is Montgomery, AL.  After bond rate appreciations of 6% each of the last two years, the residential real estate prices improved a meager 1% in the 2nd quarter of 2006.  Compare that with ‘04 to ‘05, ’05 to ’06, and Q2 ’06 appreciations in such non-coastal southern cities as Orlando (+22%/+26%/+4%), Albuquerque (10/18/5),  and Phoenix/Scottsdale (26/26/3).  Smart Money indicates Montgomery is 24% undervalued, with a median home price of $154,000.  The most overvalued market in the nation comes as no surprise; it’s Naples, FL with an overvalue rating of a whopping 94% and house appreciations that have ground to a halt after years of double-digit increases.
    Private golf course developments in Montgomery are few.  Wynlakes Golf and Country appears to be at the top of the list.  Sporting a 1986 Joe Lee design, the community has a nice array of single-family homes.  One recent listing, a 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath home on the golf course, was listed for $649,000. Local developer Jim Wilson, Jr., founded Wynlakes, and his “mission” statement for the club indicated a clear vision and a sense of humor:  “We want the best chicken salad, for the best price, in the best possible surroundings.”  Sadly, the world has been denied additional homespun wisdom:  Mr. Wilson passed away this past September at the age of 71.
    Wynlakes' web site is www.wynlakes.com.
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