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Monday, May 7, 2007

Whole-in-one community: Savannah's The Landings loaded with amenities, six courses

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  Arthur Hills' Palmetto Course often invites you to take the short way home, but beware.

    We had dropped into the golf community version of Apocalypse Now.  The daily cart invasion along the roads of The Landings at Skidaway Island, GA, reaches its peak around 8:30 a.m., as residents scramble to make their tee times at one of the community's six golf courses.  As the golf carts rose up and down the swales of streets and cart paths, we almost dove for cover.
    Except for the sheer number of golf carts, we experienced little of the high-density we had anticipated before our two days in The Landings community, although with 1,900 members for the six courses available, we would hate to see them all decide to play at the same time.  Overall, The Landings developers planned well.  We drove a few times from the community to Savannah, 12 miles to the west, and never hit traffic of any consequence.
    The Landings golf courses appeal to the widest range of golfers, from the least difficult, wide open and nicely groomed Arthur Hills track (Oak Ridge) to the complex's most difficult layout, the Palmetto Course, also an Arthur Hills design, which we played and loved (see notes tomorrow at this site).  Rounding out the rotation are two Arnold Palmer courses, a Willard Byrd design, and the Tom Fazio Deer Creek course, which we also played and found less challenging than some of the designer's more notorious layouts.  With all the traffic the courses get, we were amazed at the speed of play.  Our two rounds took less than four hours each.     

    The clubs at The Landings exhibit styles somewhere between private club and daily fee course.  Because everyone seems to own a golf cart, there is no need for locker rooms; members keep their clubs on the carts in their garages and change into their golf shoes at home.  For our two rounds, there was no greeting at the bag drops, and when we signed in at the pro shop, our instructions were to "take any cart available," meaning we hoisted our clubs onto the cart.  At the end of the round, no attendant waited with a rag to clean our clubs.  We don't consider ourselves country club prima donnas, but those looking for a little more in the way of private club amenities for a $55,000 (equity) initiation fee might be put off.  On the other hand, maybe we just caught them on a bad day. 100_1174savb

    By the way, when you give up your membership, $25,000 of your equity comes back to you, a little lower than many other private clubs.  Monthly dues for golf, which also includes tennis and social memberships, is $483, which seems reasonable for access to six good courses and their clubs' facilities as well as other amenities.     

    Housing options at The Landings run the gamut, from condominiums that begin at $275K and end beyond $1 million for a 3,000 square foot unit with a marsh view; to patio homes (on ¼ acre lots) from $350K to $1 million; to single family homes that range up to a $2.5 million.  There are only a few original developer lots still available.  Almost 90 percent of the community's 4,300 lots have been built on, and the lot-resale market is tight (about 25 lots on the market at any given time).  Available lots range from $250,000 to $1.4 million for the choicest (large and on the marsh).  Once you buy a lot, you can count on construction costs of about $175 to $200 per square foot.

    Virtually all activities are on site at The Landings or close by.  Tennis players can choose any of 34 Har-Tru courts.  There is a popular community dog park and a 2½- mile nature trail through 50 acres of undisturbed forest and thicket.  Two deep water marinas provide storage for boats and a 10-minute trip to the Atlantic Ocean.  More than 150 stocked manmade lagoons on the property support those interested in bass fishing. Although The Landings does not have a beach, it is less than a 10-minute boat ride to a "private beach" on the state-owned Wassau Island.           

    Residents are an active and involved bunch, right from the moment they land at The Landings.  A New Neighbors Group comprises any new residents who want to join for their first two years in the community.  The group holds lunches once a month, invites speakers to present on topics of local interest, and they all volunteer as a group at local organizations.  It is a quick way to acclimate to a new community, and it sets a tone of engagement that seems to characterize The Landings residents.    

    The sense of community on the island, however, does not stop residents from strong feelings of regionalism.  It was a hoot watching The Landings' closed circuit TV channel that announced that the Ohio group would be getting together for some activity, the Illinois group for another, and so on.  Every state in the union is represented in the community, and a fair number of countries as well, and it is typical for pennants to emerge and wagers to be placed at times of national sporting contests.    

    With all this discretionary activity, one might get the feeling that this is a retirement community, but 40 percent of the families that live in The Landings include at least one member working full-time.  Even the retirees who filled out our foursomes on the golf course were on the young side (e.g. the former pharmaceutical executive from New Jersey and his wife who are both well short of 60). However, The Landings is not a bad place to grow old.  Three well-rated hospitals are within 20 minutes of the community.  Everyone we met sang the praises of "First Responders," the Landings emergency medical team.  An assisted living center was recently opened on the island just outside The Landings' gates, and although it is independently run, residents who leave the community to live there are offered continuing social membership in the Landings' clubs.  100_1185savc
    Those guiding the future of The Landings are being careful to make sure no maintenance is deferred on the golf course or in the community at large.  A good slug of every new initiation fee goes into a capital fund, and one of the six courses undergoes cosmetic surgery every year, whether it means refurbished bunkering or repaved cart paths or a combination of things.  Members have been hit with only one assessment over the last 13 years, $1,600 per member to redo the Marshwood course, originally designed in 1974 by Arnold Palmer, one of his first.  Club dues increase at about the consumer price index each year.  Annual property-owners-association dues are $1,250.

    Since the developers of The Landings turned the property over to the owners nine years ago, the property owners association has run The Landings Company, the community's on-site real estate agency,.  All profits from real estate sales go back into the kitty to fund community needs as well as The Landings' $1 million communication budget.  The Landings has much to communicate.    

    We can't think of a single amenity or convenience that is missing at The Landings.  The variety of golf courses, its proximity to Savannah and all that a good-sized city offers in terms of culture, entertainment, shopping and healthcare make The Landings a comfortable choice for anyone looking for a diverse and active lifestyle.  If you are interested in more information about The Landings, or want to visit, send us an email and we will be pleased to arrange things. 

Coming tomorrow:  Notes on the Palmetto and Deer Creek courses. 

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The background of moving carts behind #18 at the Palmetto Course just adds to the challenge of the approach shot. 

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Tom Fazio's Deer Track course at The Landings is not as tough as Hills' Palmetto course, but some holes are no pushovers by any means. 

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Larry Gavrich

This blog was conceived and is published by me, Larry Gavrich, a former corporate communications executive who founded HomeOnTheCourse, LLC, in 2005.  Our firm advises baby boomers and others seeking a lifestyle in which golf is a major component.  My wife Connie and I own a home in Connecticut (not on a golf course) and a condo at Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC, on a Jack Nicklaus layout.  We began our search for our home on the course more than 15 years ago, and the challenges of the search inspired me to research golf communities and write objective reviews of them.

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