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        Because my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers conducted spring training there, I grew up loving Vero Beach without ever having set foot in the place. Dodgertown was perennially regaled as the most fully outfitted spring training facility in all of baseball and, perhaps, in all of sports. Players’ wives and families especially liked Vero for its balmy winter climate, wide and beautiful beaches and congenial atmosphere. It must have been tough to return to Brooklyn and its 40 to 50 degree April temperatures for the beginning of the regular season after a winter mostly in the 70s.
        The Dodgers, sadly, left for dryer spring pastures in Arizona, closer to the Los Angeles they moved to in 1958 (this is where a 67-year-old man starts to tear up). The good news is that all the surrounding elements that made Dodgertown great –- its nine hole golf course at the time was much praised -– still make Vero Beach strongly worthy of consideration by those looking for a home in one of the area’s top-notch but reasonably priced golf communities.
Pool at Grand Harbor Vero BeachOne of the pools at Grand Harbor, Vero Beach
        This is why we are pleased to announce that Vero Beach golf home listings are now posted in our Golf Homes for Sale section, along with more than five-dozen other high-quality golf communities throughout the Southeast. Our real estate professional in Vero Beach is Suzanne Leffew who, like your editor, was New Jersey born and raised -– please don’t hold that against us –- and is one of the most successful agents on the Treasure Coast. Suzanne suggested Grand Harbor as a golf community in the area that appeals across a broad spectrum of interests and price ranges. Click on the blue button on the Grand Harbor page, send Suzanne a note with your price range included, and she will provide you with a customized list of current homes for sale at Grand Harbor that fall in your price range. She can also provide sample listings from other golf communities in the Vero Beach area that fit your requirements and budget.
        Speaking of other top golf communities in the Vero Beach area, we have also posted information at Golf Homes for Sale about Pointe West, another Vero Beach golf community with a unique twist -– shops, medical offices, restaurants and more just a short walk from within most areas of the community. Adjacent to this “Town Center” are tree-lined sidewalks in Heritage Park which lead to exhibition and entertainment venues that host festivals, craft fairs and art shows. The golf course, by John Sanford, was clearly inspired by trips to Scotland; and because the golf club is managed by the Arnold Palmer group, club members have access to the dozens of great Palmer-managed clubs around the world.
        Florida is hot again, and prices are rising to pre-recession levels, which means “relatively expensive.” Because it is far from the maddening crowds of Boca Raton and cities farther down the coast, Vero Beach golf communities are still reasonably priced. For example, I noted today a cute 3-bedroom, 2-bath home of about 2,500 square feet in Pointe West that is currently listed for just $315,000 and includes views out to the golf course from the home’s screened porch. As a home cook, I especially appreciate the gas stove in the expansive kitchen. You will too.

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Tuesday, 29 December 2015 08:40

The Trouble with Cost-of-Living Calculators

        If you are looking to move from a high cost-of-living location to a lower one, the best tool you can use during your search is one of the cost of living calculators on the Internet that compare one city to the next. The sites I reference for my clients access census and other "official" data to make their comparisons. The numbers are essential guidance because they determine how much a couple might be able to spend on a home and, more to the point, on the carrying costs, such as club dues, homeowner association fees and other living expenses, their budgets will have to accommodate. A mistake in the calculation can seriously impede a happy retirement.
        It is fundamental, therefore, to know what you are looking at on the cost-comparison web sites. A look at two of the most popular demonstrates that the results for the same comparisons can yield significantly different results.

The price of steak in Asheville
        The two sites are BestPlaces.net and BankRate.com. BankRate does a brilliant job of lining up a long list of comparisons in spending categories that get down to the most granular level; if you eat a lot of meat, for example, you will appreciate how much more or less a T-bone steak costs in the South than in the North. Comparisons of pharmaceutical costs are more relevant, especially as we age, and those are available as well for selected drugs. BestPlaces provides some of these comparisons, although not down to the level of a T-bone, but you have to jump from section to section of their web site to find the specific costs. But in one important area, BestPlaces is more functional and less prone to cause a misinterpretation of the results, and that is in the specific towns it provides for comparison, whereas BankRate uses "metro" areas that, in some cases, comprise towns with entirely different cost profiles, especially in terms of housing costs.
        I found this out during test comparisons of Hartford, CT, with Asheville, NC. I chose Hartford because it is 10 miles from my Connecticut home and I probably know the city as well as any other. On BankRate.com, the Hartford "metro" area includes the towns of East Hartford and West Hartford, as well as the larger city. You really won't find two towns much more different than East and West Hartford, the former a blue collar burg of hard working folks, many of them attracted to the area by East Hartford’s Pratt & Whitney jet engine plant which has been central to the local economy for six decades. West Hartford is home to many more upscale homes and a few multi-million dollar mansions, and its town center is a hub for thriving retail and restaurant activity.

One metro area, two different cost profiles
        Mindful that most moves from North to South will lower annual expenses, sometimes dramatically so, I was not surprised that BankRate.com yielded a 22% cost of living reduction comparing a move from the Hartford metro to Asheville, NC. And it made sense that when I checked the comparison of upscale West Hartford’s annual costs against Asheville, the drop was similar at 23%. What I was not prepared for was the much smaller reductions for East Hartford and the city of Hartford itself when compared with Asheville, 5% and 6% respectively. In short, a couple moving from Hartford to Asheville and using the BankRate number of 22% could be in for a shock when they find out that their real expenses don’t change that much. Of course, the Hartford metro area comprises many other towns, some of them with cost levels similar to West Hartford’s, but the upshot is that the BankRate number, though based on reliable data provided by ACCRA’s CostofLiving.org, is too broad in its geography. BestPlaces lists a couple dozen sources for the data it uses across its entire web site, but doesn’t indicate the specific source(s) for its cost-of-living data.  (Note:  The CostofLiving.org site charges a fee for cost of living comparisons.)
        I checked a half dozen other cost comparison sites and found that they all produced fairly similar results for a Hartford to Asheville relocation. Some provide a long list of cities the way BestPlaces does. The U.S. Department of State web site helpfully lists more than a dozen sites with cost of living comparison calculators. You will find them here. Some of the sites include multiple cities to compare in each state, others just a few (e.g. just three, at some sites, for all of Connecticut). I suggest you take a few of them for a test drive to see which ones provide the best data for you. But for our money, BestPlaces.net still provides the most helpful comparisons.

        A Harris poll that asks Americans the state where they would choose to live if they didn’t live in their own state indicates that Florida is the most popular state of all. But Florida also ranked 7th as the state least likely to attract survey respondents.
        This is Florida’s plight as a place to live: It is attractive for its wonderful winter climate, its wide range of golf communities, a choice of coast or lake-oriented living and, for many, no state income tax; and it is a turnoff for its dense population (especially on the east coast), traffic problems and a perception as “God’s Waiting Room,” overpopulated with old people.
        In a way, Florida is laughing all the way to the bank as its raw net migration in the past couple of years has exploded after a hiccup just before and during the early years of the recession. Population in the Sunshine State grows by more than 700 new residents every day, and there are strong signs that young people are being drawn by hip coastal locations, like Miami’s South Beach area. Millennials and Gen Xers who, combined, cover the 18 to 50 age group, put Florida #2 on their lists, after California.
Laurel Oak Sandhill CranesWater and sand aren't the only obstacles to shotmaking at Laurel Oak Country Club in Sarasota, FL. Sandhill cranes share space with Laurel Oak's members.
        "[There are] a lot of young professionals and a buzz starting to happen down here," a 23-year-old transplant from Seattle to Fort Lauderdale told South Florida’s Sun Sentinel.
        Baby boomers put Florida at #1 on their list and Hawaii #2 on the Harris poll. (Of course, the poll did not add an “if you could afford it” caveat to the “where would you live” question; if money is no object, few wouldn’t want to live in Hawaii.) Among all age groups, women and men put Florida at the top of their lists (the men in a tie for #1 with California).
        The Carolinas did well in the survey, with North Carolina landing as the 7th most desired state and its southern neighbor holding down the 12th spot. Neither Carolina state appears on the Top 15 list of states least likely to attract residents, although other southern states like Mississippi (#4) and Alabama (#6) did make the least likely list (neither appears on the Top 15 “most likely” list). Texas, like Florida, is liked and disliked, landing at #6 and #5 respectively.
        Speaking of Florida, I don’t think it is a coincidence that, in the last few weeks, I’ve run into people who have touted Sarasota for its urbane culture characterized by the Ringling Museum and other highlights, its lively downtown entertainment and restaurant scene and the nearby beaches, some of which have been ranked at the top of lists published by travel magazines. Our real estate professional in the area, Dennis Boyle, knows well all the area’s golf communities, among them Concession, Lakewood Ranch, Longboat Key and River Strand at Heritage Harbour, where 2 bedroom condos start as low as $145,000. Check out all of Dennis’ current homes for sale in Sarasota/Bradenton golf communities at our Golf Homes for Sale pages.  (Thanks to Golf Community Reviews reader Keith Spivey for calling our attention to the Harris Poll.)

        There’s good news and bad news for Southeast golf communities in the latest rankings of residential golf courses from Golfweek magazine. Wade Hampton, the Tom Fazio layout opened in 1988 in Cashiers, NC, once again earned the top spot nationwide. But there isn’t another Southeast golf course in the top 10. Indeed, it isn’t until the #12 position that another regional entry, the classic Seth Raynor layout for Mountain Lake in central Florida, makes the Top 100 list. After that, though, courses from Delaware south to Florida are well represented; 36 layouts from Virginia south to Florida made the Top 100 list.
        In the 13th position is Mountaintop, the Fazio layout not far from Wade Hampton in Cashiers (pronounced “cashers”). Rounding out the top 20 are John’s Island West in Vero Beach, FL (#18) and the Pete Dye layout for Long Cove on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina (#19). A common theme in all these top 20 communities is the lofty prices for real estate, averaging seven figures for a home in most of the communities.
        Things become a little more down to earth with the choice at the #21 position, the Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore modern classic at Cuscowilla in Eatonton, GA, just down Lake Oconee from Reynolds Plantation whose own Great Waters layout by Jack Nicklaus squeaked inside the top 100 at position #89. At Cuscowilla, condos are priced from around $250,000, and we noted a cute-looking single-family home currently offered for $289,000. A 2 bedroom, 2 bath cottage overlooking the practice range of the Great Waters course is listed for less than $200,000 (might need some work), but single-family homes around priced in the $500,000 range are more the norm at Reynolds, which is now owned by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.
        Other courses in communities we have visited and can recommend include Old Tabby Links at Spring Island in Okatie, SC, whose recent renovations helped it bump up a couple of spaces from last year’s ranking to #26 this year. Spring Island is another one of those upscale communities that emphasizes low density. Surrounded by Lowcountry forestation and the wildlife that inhabits it, Spring Island’s natural setting is its calling card, although its Arnold Palmer/Ed Seay original design takes a back seat to none. There was nothing unnatural about Jack Nicklaus conceding a Ryder Cup ending putt to Tony Jacklin in 1969, but it did spawn a community called Concession (#27) in Bradenton, FL, that memorializes the extreme gesture of sportsmanship. Concession hosted the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Championships this past year.
FordPar3RailroadTiesThe $7 million renovation at Ford Plantation solved myriad drainage issues on the golf course but also made substantial changes to the layout. For example, Pete Dye removed his signature railroad ties from all but this par 3, perhaps a signal that he is getting softer as he approaches his 10th decade.
        I had the pleasure a month ago of playing the totally redone Ford Plantation course in Richmond Hill, GA, south of Savannah, the 28th rated course on the Golfweek list, a strong endorsement of the work Pete Dye did there on his own original invention. I had played the course some years before the nearly $7 million rework and, although I loved it then, some of the rough edges have been sanded off and all of the drainage issues solved by the erstwhile Mr. Dye. Gary Player’s effort for the Cliffs at Mountain Park in Travelers Rest, SC, just keeps getting better in the eyes of those who rate it. The course opened for play in late 2013, and some may have been shocked to see it enter the list last year at #43; but those of us who have played it, including members of the South Carolina Golf Rating Panel, of which I am a proud member, were not surprised at all. It is fun, challenging and its few oddities –- much too short par 3 from raised tee box, V-shaped tree dead center in a par 5 fairway –- add to its charm. Mountain Park improved to #36 this year.
        The Jim Fazio layout at Toccoa, GA’s Currahee Club improved its position last year by 23 spots to #40 before falling back a bit this year to #50. Perhaps some of Golfweek’s less accomplished ball strikers who played it this last year were frustrated by forced carries over canyons and approach shots to raised greens that are totally hit or miss. Although we wished for more views of Lake Hartwell, the fewer distractions the better when taking on the Currahee challenge.
MountainParksurroundedbysandAt times Gary Player's Mountain Park course for The Cliffs Communities effects a Scottish links-style attitude, and at others a parkland valley course. But it is never mundane.
        Before Mountain Park, the best Cliffs Communities course -– there are seven -– was widely acknowledged to be Tom Fazio’s layout at Keowee Vineyards, which plays alongside Lake Keowee. It held steady at #56 on the list. Vineyards’ 17th hole may be the most photographed par 3 in all of South Carolina, and with good reason. One big thrill of my golfing life was to go to the elevated back tee 235 yards from the hole and attempt to rip a tee shot with driver over a greenside bunker and onto the putting surface and stop it before it could roll off the back into the surrounding lake. Alas, I pulled my tee shot safely a bit left and short of the green. (Any par, which I made, is a proud score on that hole.)
        The community of Briar’s Creek on Johns Island, just outside of Charleston, SC, was bedeviled by startup challenges and the recession, and only recently have its high-priced home sites started to move. But there has never been any question about the Rees Jones golf course that awaits members at the marsh-surrounded layout. The Club at Briar’s Creek weighs in at #64 on the Golfweek list. Bright’s Creek in Mill Spring, NC, has struggled with similar financial and marketing issues since it opened in 2006. Its Tom Fazio layout feels as if it is located in the western part of the country, sitting in a bowl of a valley surrounded by mountains. Bright’s Creek is ranked #70 this year.
        The fastest greens I’ve putted on in the last five years were at Colleton River’s Jack Nicklaus golf course; paired with a Pete Dye course (ranked #88), the two offer a somewhat schizophrenic tandem of golfing experiences. The superintendent of the course told us after the round the stimpmeter readings for the greens were at 13 and if, like me, Golfweek raters like ‘em fast, maybe that explains the comfortable #75 ranking.
Wexfordpar4Along with Ford Plantation's Pete Dye course, Wexford Plantation on Hilton Head was the best course we played in 2015. Like Ford, the layout at Wexford was totally redone, by Brandon Johnson, a senior designer in Arnold Palmer's shop.
        I’m a bit disappointed in the #83 position that Hilton Head’s Wexford Plantation was assigned. I played it a few months ago for the first time, after what looked to be a brilliant total rehab job by Brandon Johnson of Arnold Palmer’s shop. (Wexford’s prior layout had come in for almost universal bashing.) Smart and challenging and everything you want a Lowcountry course to be (the marsh provides a backdrop but also comes into play frequently), Wexford surpassed in quality and playability virtually all courses I have played in the last 10 years and was the equal of the higher rated Ford Plantation, which I played the day before.
        Big name designers and some great layouts populate the last 10 positions in the Top 100 list. Jack Nicklaus’ Cliffs at Walnut Cove layout (#92) may be the best in the Asheville, NC, area. Tom Fazio’s Belfair Plantation West layout, at #93, is one of two the architect produced for Belfair and one of four of his designs within just a couple of miles of each other in Bluffton, SC. (The others for Berkeley Hall Plantation made the second 100 list.) Fazio did not score on the list for his 18 holes at Daniel Island, just outside Charleston, but Rees Jones did for his Ralston Creek layout there (#98), the site for a few years of the season-ending Web.com tour event. And rounding out the Top 100, and new to the list, is Creighton Farms in Aldie, VA, one of our favorites of the last 10 years for its impeccable service and clever Nicklaus layout that puts a premium on precise approach shots. It’s a good thing that on the practice range, yardages to flags are posted with the utmost precision. You absolutely need to know how far you are hitting the ball to the yard or two before you take on Creighton’s layout.
        To see other Southeast layouts that made the list, as well as all the courses rated in the Top 200, check out Golfweek.com

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:39

North Carolina Mountain Bargains at High End

        Our real estate contacts in the Brevard, NC, area, The Clay Team (Carol & Bob Clay), just published their newsletter for December, and hiding amidst the market data seems an opportunity for those looking for a mountain home that is lofty in more ways than one.
        The Clays shared a chart showing November sales in their neck of the woods, and in terms of homes on the market, the most available are in the $600,000 and up range, where 137 homes and condos are listed for sale. The second most robust category is from $150,000 to $249,999 where 126 homes are currently listed. Allowing for the fact that the $600,000+ category extends to infinity, nevertheless 137 homes in an area where only 53 are on the market in the $450,000 to $600,000 range is still a lot.
        When there is too much of a good thing, in this case luxury mountain homes, that breeds price competition and a buyer’s market on the high end, a fact that seems borne out by a quick scan of homes currently listed for sale at The Clay Team’s web site. Below is an idea of the view from the rear deck of a home called The Trace just 15 minutes from Brevard and 45 minutes from Asheville. The Tuscan-style home sits on 27 acres of property and features long-range mountain and pasture views; as an extra bonus, the property includes 500 feet along the French Broad River. The home and property are priced just under $1 million.
        If you would like more information on this property or any others in the Brevard area, please contact me and I will put you in touch with the Clays.
Photo courtesy of The Clay Team, Brevard, NC

        The December issue of Home On The Course, our free monthly newsletter, is on the launch pad and ready to be emailed to our 1,000 subscribers. This month’s feature story is all wet. We compare the price ratios of water view home sites in golf communities with golf course and interior lots. (Spoiler Alert: They are much more expensive.) And we suggest a few golf communities where prices are low enough that “taking the plunge” on a waterfront lot or home won’t drown you in debt.
        Our special sidebar feature this month looks at the fastest growing counties in the Southeast, and we identify condominium oriented golf communities in those rapidly improving. Those of you looking for a vacation home in a warm weather area –- many of the fast-growing communities are in Florida –- should find the information especially timely and helpful.
        It happens every year. As cold weather (and snow) start to burden those of us who live in the northern U.S., our thoughts turn South and the urge to consider looking for a vacation or permanent home in a warmer climate becomes stronger. If you are contemplating a move in the next year or two, we have a few spots open for couples who have targeted the Southeast. Our services are free and without obligation. To get things rolling, please fill out our Golf Home Questionnaire. We will get back to you with some initial ideas within a few days.

weehawka cathyCondo prices are rising faster than single-family home prices across the U.S., and especially in resort areas like Myrtle Beach. Yet bargains still abound, like the 2 BR, 2 BA unit Pawleys Plantation (Pawleys Island, SC) that can used for rental income or spur-of-the-moment vacation visits. It is priced at just $125,000, fully furnished and facing the 10th hole of the Jack Nicklaus golf course.

        Assuming you are not retired yet, do you expect to reduce your spending in retirement? Not so quick. Chances are almost 50/50 that you will increase your spending. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute in a November 2015 report, 46% of retirees spent more in their post-retirement years than they spent just before retirement.
        Overall, for all couples, household spending dropped by 5.5% in the first two years of retirement, and by 12.5% in the third and fourth years. But after the fourth year, the reductions slowed down.
        For those 46% of couples whose spending increased after retirement, the number fell to 33% by the sixth year of retirement. Yet those who spent more in retirement were not just the most well-off; the increases were spread across all income levels.
        Those who have purchased a golf community home in the last few years won’t be surprised that median spending on transportation fell -– by 25% -- in the first two years of retirement but that, in subsequent years, the reduction was much smaller. The couples we work with spend their first few years getting to know their neighbors in a golf community, playing a lot of golf, and finding their social lives are centered in the

Retirees who move south may be on a fixed income, but it is fixed lower than it would be if they had remained in a higher-cost location.

community’s clubhouse or in new friends’ homes. Beyond two years, a bit of wanderlust sets in and interest in travel intensifies. Of course, with the typical drop in cost of living that comes with a move south, couples find they have more discretionary income to use for entertainment and travel. They may be on a fixed income, but it is fixed at a lower level than it was in their former lives.
        CarolinaLiving.com recently published in its semi-annual magazine cost comparisons among cities and states in the Carolinas and cities and states in the rest of the U.S. Some of those comparisons are so stark that we wonder how any couple could spend more in retirement after moving from, say, Boston to Raleigh, NC; Boston’s cost of living index is 140% above the national average, while Raleigh’s is 7% below.
        The following are a few additional comparisons that illustrate the often-dramatic cost savings of moving from one city to another. We’ve added the names of a few golf communities we can recommend in the destination cities; contact us if you would like more information.

(#s are Cost of Living % compared to U.S. average)

San Diego, CA +142 Charlotte, NC -4

A few nice golf communities dot Lake Norman, a half hour north of the city. Two upscale communities, The Peninsula and The Point, feature Rees Jones and Greg Norman layouts, respectively. The Point’s golf club was purchased out of near-bankruptcy by the Trump organization five years ago. River Run is a middle-price-point community also beside the lake whose Robert Walker/Ray Floyd course was refurbished a few years ago.

Boston, MA +140 Asheville, NC -1

Asheville seems to be on the target lists for baby boomers looking for a southern mountain location. The city is hip, the surrounding mountains are beautiful and the local golf communities run the gamut, from the classic and expensive Biltmore Forest to the modern and expensive Cliffs at Walnut Cove to the sharply priced Reems Creek, whose British-designed golf course is a semi-private bargain.  In the Hendersonville area just a half mile away, Champion Hills and Kenmure are both excellent choices.
Reems Creek from elevated teeReems Creek golf course, outside Asheville, NC, was designed by the British firm Hawtree & Sons.

Philadelphia, PA +121 Greenville, NC -6

If you have the least bit of concern about access to medical facilities, you can hardly do better than the “other” Greenville (not the one in SC), whose medical campus and adjoining facilities would be more in place in a city five times the size. The three private golf clubs in the area provide the widest range of styles: Ironwood Country Club’s course was designed by Lee Trevino and is as fun to play as Mex was to listen to; Cypress Landing lies beside the Pamlico River and its properties are bargain priced; and Brook Valley, a shot maker’s delight designed by Ellis Maples, is part of the McConnell Group, which means membership provides access to nine other outstanding clubs in the Carolinas.
BrookValleyapproachoversandGreenville, NC's Brook Valley is a classic layout by Ellis Maples. Its members have access to nine other McConnell Group golf courses in the Carolinas, including Sedgefield in Greensboro and Raleigh Country Club, both designed by Donald Ross.

Seattle, WA +133 Greenville, SC -3

This is the more famous Greenville, and for good reason. Greenville is economically sound, thanks to the BMW North America plant in nearby Spartanburg; sophisticated yet artsy; and home to the beautifully landscaped Furman University. The golf communities are diverse and excellent, including the in-town Greenville Country Club (two courses, one of them a perennial top 5 in the state), Thornblade (Tom Fazio) and a few Cliffs Communities (for example, Gary Player’s Cliffs at Mountain Park course which opened in 2013 and debuted at #36 on Golfweek’s list of best residential golf courses).
MountainParkpar5throughtreeOne par five on Gary Player's Cliffs at Mountain Park course, just outside Greenville, SC, features a tree in the middle of the par 5 fairway. Its "V" shape is only for victory if you manage to put your second shot on one side of the tree or the other.

Hartford, CT +125 Aiken, SC -5

It pains me to list Hartford, where I worked for 10 productive years, but Connecticut’s cost of living is causing many of its baby boomers and young people to head for the hills (and coast). Aiken is pretty much the opposite, laid back, inexpensive and with some solid options for golf community living. Top choices include Woodside Plantation, home to three golf courses and plenty of other amenities, and Cedar Creek, a more mundane but smartly laid out community with a fine Arthur Hills layout (semi-private) and bargain-priced real estate.

Chapel Hill, NC +121 Myrtle Beach -7

This is a bit of a ringer, since Chapel Hill, one of our favorite college towns, is located smack in the Southeast region. But real estate is pretty pricey in the area, and so too are other costs. (Of course, if you are moving from, say, San Francisco -- +173% of U.S. average cost -- to Chapel Hill, it is a relative proposition.) For those considering a more coastal location, the areas around Myrtle Beach –- rather than in the heart of the town, which is a bit tourist tacky -– provide a wide range of low-cost options. Our favorite combinations of beach and golf are in the Pawleys Island area (Pawleys Plantation, Reserve at Litchfield Beach, Wachesaw Plantation) and north of the SC/NC border (Ocean Ridge Plantation, River’s Edge and many low-price options).
Wachesaw par3 7thThe par 3 7th hole at Tom Fazio's Wachesaw Plantation layout does not permit of any bailout.

        We could go on, but if you would like us to run a cost of living comparison between your current home and anywhere in the South that you might be considering for your golf home in retirement, please contact us.

...and it's for an unlimited time only

        Those are not misprints. Our services are free to those searching for a golf community home; and you can call on us anytime for assistance, not just on some made-up retail holiday. And you don’t have to risk getting trampled. All you need is a computer, a few minutes and a phone (if you would like to speak with us directly).
        Here’s what you get from our Home On The Course service:

• Our free Golf Home questionnaire that helps you -– and us -– focus on your requirements for a golf home or property in the Southern U.S. The questionnaire takes about 10 minutes at most to fill out. 
• Our customized initial recommendations based on 160 golf communities we have visited and reviewed. We also provide research and in-depth analysis for other golf communities in areas you target.
• Follow-up consultation after our initial recommendations -- via phone or, if you prefer, an exchange of emails.
• Our assistance in building an itinerary (or more than one) for you to visit those golf communities that you decide best match your requirements.
• Our recommendations of the most professional and experienced real estate brokers in the areas you identify who provide in-depth information about the area and specific communities you target, and arrange for personalized tours of the communities and visits to specific homes currently for sale.
• We follow-up with you after every group of visits and refine the search if necessary until you find your dream home on the course.

        There is never an obligation for you to purchase a property. And our services are on sale for the best price of all, free* –- 365 days a year. Click here to get things started with our free Golf Home Questionnaire.  

* We are paid a referral fee by the real estate agent who helps you find a home. But you are never under any obligation to purchase anything.

        We are monitoring the progress of a home for sale in the popular Venice, FL, community of Waterford. Waterford features three golf courses, a location near the Gulf of Mexico beaches and, needless to say, is a wonderful place to spend the winter months. Owners of the Waterford home have just dropped the price to $367,000 from $395,000. It isn’t too late to step in, make an acceptable offer and wind up enjoying most of the winter in a fine Florida golf community.
        At 3,700 square feet, 2,700 of it heated and air-conditioned, the home prices out at under $100 per square foot. Dennis Boyle, who has the listing for Atchley International Realty in Bradenton, tells us that similar homes in Waterford rent for about $1.50 per square foot in season, which would put the potential rental income for the Waterford home at around $4,000 per month for the four prime months of winter for any buyer looking to get a foot in the door in the Venice market with an eye to moving there later.
        For more information, please contact Dennis Boyle at Dennis_Boyle@Topproducer.com. Please mention Golf Community Reviews if you contact him.  Thanks.  (Full disclosure: The home for sale is owned by an acquaintance of the editor.)

Fontana homeThis 3,700 square foot home in the three-golf-course community of Waterford in Venice, FL, is currently unoccupied and waiting for an offer. The listing price, just reduced, is $367,000. Taxes and club membership fees are low. Contact Dennis Boyle at Dennis_Boyle@topproducer.com.

        I have mixed feelings about Hilton Head Island, especially after my first round of golf at the recently renovated Wexford Plantation. It almost made me forget about traffic there, a major headache for those who live on and just off the island, as well as those who vacation there. On the one hand, the golf on the island is superb, what with Harbour Town Links, the ultra-private and regaled Long Cove, and 22 other layouts, including one of my new favorites in all of the South, the aforementioned Wexford Plantation. At just 42 square miles and with 24 golf courses and a heritage going back to the late 1960s, Hilton Head is both the granddaddy of golf communities and one of the most dense golf areas in the nation.
        But it is also one of the most densely populated, especially at peak seasons when its 39,000 residents tend to crowd onto the modestly sized island, joined by thousands of golfers and beach goers. That makes even the most basic transportation, but especially on the one bridge to and from the mainland, seem downright Manhattanesque. (I once waited eight full minutes to make a left hand turn onto Fording Island Road, Route 228, the only road between Bluffton and Hilton Head.) As I left Wexford late on a November Saturday afternoon, I turned into a long line of cars on the road just outside the gates. Since there was no football stadium within a hundred miles, I wondered where they were going on a Saturday. (Hilton Head did not strike me as a haven for early bird buffets.)
Wexford Green House behindWexford's homes are almost all big and lavish and priced well into the millions. Many of them are second homes.
        The best remedy for traffic for Hilton Head residents is to stay put inside their golf communities, of which there are many to choose. If I could afford to live in Wexford –- home prices average into the millions -- I don’t know that I would have much reason to wander anyway. I’ll get to the golf in a minute, but although I am somewhat allergic to water, I found myself lusting over the parade of boats parked in the marina beside the clubhouse, some as big as a small house. The community’s system of locks, one of only three such systems on the east coast, maintains water inside the 37-acre marina at a consistent level, no matter what is happening in the Broad Creek and Intracoastal Waterway, which flow from Wexford out past the famed Harbour Town Lighthouse, across the Calibogue Sound and into the Atlantic. Half of the 280 boat slips are located behind homes along the marina’s canal. The snack bar just before the 10th tee does double duty as the dock master’s station.
        In addition to the boating, Wexford puts a heavy emphasis on tennis, with six Har-Tru courts, four of them lighted. The tennis center includes two decks of seating for viewing the matches between Wexford’s players and those from other communities in the Carolinas. The club employs a director of tennis and head tennis professional. For those interested in more cerebral pursuits, the community sponsors discussion groups and a “sunrise salutation yoga” session (an interesting way to greet the new day).
Wexford volcano with bunkersArnold Palmer designer Brandon Johnson created some interesting effects in the fairways at Wexford. Here, a "volcano" of bunkers obscures the approach shot to a green.
        Most residents of Wexford Plantation greet the new day, when they are in residence there, in beautiful 6,000 square foot and larger homes, many of which you would feel comfortable categorizing as “mansions.” Adjacent to the marina and just across the narrow canal from the 9th fairway, a sprawling home stretched across what looked like at least three fair-sized lots. “Nice looking Marriott,” one of my playing partners blurted. I’d guess that Marriott included at least 15,000 square feet of living space. Other homes around the golf course were larger and more elaborately landscaped than any I had encountered in 10 years of golf community visits. And, yet, there were few signs of life inside and outside those homes on an early November day; apparently Wexford’s part-timers start arriving a few weeks later for the winter.

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