When was the last time we read about a professional golfer drinking and driving his car into a tree? The baddest boy the PGA tour can offer is John Daly, whose flaws seemed to give the tour a more human face, not a nastier one. And how great it is that Daly seems on a strong reformation kick lately.
Growing up, my favorite golfer was Champagne Tony Lema, but I don't remember Lema wrecking any cars (I do remember he drank a lot of champagne, though).
I thought of Champagne Tony today. If you read the U.S. sports pages, you know that St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Josh Hancock was killed in a tragic car accident in the early morning hours a few days ago. He was a well-respected and well-liked young man (too young). In the days that followed his death, the media respectfully did not speculate about what caused the one-car accident. But the media can be respectful only so long. Today the specter of alcohol looms large in follow-up reports. (He ran into a tow truck with its warning lights blazing, so where's the surprise?)
Baseball has its alcohol and steroids problems and football has its convicted murderers. And if we totaled up the number of children across the land that are carrying the DNA of their absentee NBA basketball player dads, we'd probably fill a small city (Heck, Wilt Chamberlain did that himself!).
Golf, on the other hand, is a game played by gentlemen whose adherence to the game's intricate set of rules and regulations is almost anal-retentive. These are not perfect men by any means, but their flaws seem almost quaint compared with those of other professional athletes. I loved playing all sports as a kid, especially the "major" ones but, on balance, I'm grateful my son is a golfer.
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Faithful readers of our newsletter and this site know that we are obsessed with traffic. It is one big reason we haven't rushed to review golf course communities on the coasts of Florida or in Orlando, and why a number of Floridians are packing it in and bouncing back to the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia. We loathe the idea of spending our retirement years or vacation weeks at a stop and go pace.
And it isn't just Florida, either. We've seen problems brewing in places like Charlottesville, VA, and Wilmington, NC; these issues are partially the result of geography, since many of the most desirable areas are almost surrounded by water, as is Wilmington, and partially the result of bad planning. Mark Twain might have put it this way: "Everyone talks about the traffic, but no one does anything about it."
Apparently officials in Jasper County, South Carolina are doing something about it before it is an issue. Jasper, the county immediately to the west of Hilton Head and Beaufort, SC, is one of the few remaining "low country" areas of the east coast that hasn't been overrun with development. County officials are not anti-development, but they seem intent on making sure growth is reasonable and that the inherent nature of the area is preserved. According to a story in today's New York Times (Real Estate section, page 7), developers in the county have to meet certain restrictions, and make certain investments, that ensure high-quality communities that respect the land.
Jasper County is bisected by I-95 and is a convenient drive to Savannah. Although the county doesn't run to the coast, it is within easy reach of the beaches and the buffet of golf courses on and around Hilton Head. Toll Brothers is developing a community called Hampton Pointe , about seven miles from the interstate, that will feature a Nicklaus Design course as well as a fitness center and spa and all other amenities typical of communities that encompass more than 1,000 homes. Prices start in the mid-$300s.
The New York Times article can be found currently by clicking here.
We missed the announcement of the formation of Phil Mickelson Design. Perhaps it was the same day that Tiger announced he would be designing his first course (in Dubai); once again, Tiger beats Phil. We learned about Phil's new venture in an advertisement for a new community, River Rock, near Cashiers, NC, way up in the mountains.
What especially caught our eye in the double-page ad was the photo of a smiling Phil, rising like a god above the mountain landscape, his head literally in the clouds. He looks like a giant billboard. On his head is the ubiquitous golf cap bearing the unfortunately horsey Bearing Point logo, and on the left breast area of his shirt the Callaway Golf logo. Near his right sleeve is the River Rock logo, larger than the others but almost a half page below Bearing Point, which is the first thing you see on the page. Bearing Point's lawyers must have done a great job of the fine print when they signed Phil to the contract.
River Rock is Mickelson's first project since announcing formation of his design company in January. His only other golf course design was for Whisper Rock in Scottsdale, AZ, which opened in 2001. Mickelson Design also has other projects on the drawing board in Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean. No scheduled opening date for the course at River Rock is listed. We've visited the area and know that the landscape is breathtaking. River Rock will be composed of five separate villages within a short drive of each other and near Lake Glenville, the most elevated lake east of the Mississippi River. The planned $100 million in amenities will rival the Cliffs Communities which are about an hour away. Home sites are offered at prices up to $1.5 million.
One final note: The logo for Phil Mickelson Design is clever and cute. Between the words Phil and Mickelson is a graphic icon of a golfer, arms raised with putter extended from one of them, feet slightly off the ground. Anyone who watched the end of the Masters tournament three years ago will recognize it as Phil's magical levitation after his clutch winning putt at the 18th.
I wish I had a dime for every time I have seen the following overheated words and phrases (or their relatives) in advertisements for golf course communities:
"Setting a new standard..." When multiple developers claim they have set a new standard, it becomes standard but not new.
"Small town charm..." This is code for no grocery stores or health care facilities within a half hour.
"Distinction" One of those claims that lack distinction.
"[Anytown's] premier private community..." Every community in town will claim this.
"A special place..." How special can it be if you have to say it?
"Unique..." In the Hall of Fame for advertising banalities.
"The perfect place [for you]..." Marketing professionals are mindreaders too.
"Timeless..." Brainless. Even in the event of nuclear devastation, a place is still timeless.
"Start a new life at [name of community]..." Insulting. What was wrong with my prior life, especially if I can afford to buy a place in your community.
"A vacation every day..." Except when it rains, snows or is 100 degrees and humid outside.
"Close...but world's away..." and its partner, "So near yet so far..." Translation: Remote; close to nature but not to the mall.
"The allure of [name of community] will last forever, the oportunity to live here will not." My favorite: It is as if they are selling the Roach Motel ("Roaches check in but they don't check out!"). Have they not heard of resales?
Caveat emptor. We admire the restraint some developers -- and their marketing firms -- show in being straightforward. They list the amenities, the course designer and the communities' points of distinction, without saying they are distinctive. They respect the fact that if we are in the market to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a place to live, we probably know what we are looking for, and that we aren't looking for inflated language.
In the coming days, we'll share a few examples that seem to get it right. In the meantime, if you have any questions about a specific community, let us know. If we aren't familiar with it, we'll do the research and report back.
We have an informal list of areas and golf course communities to visit in upcoming months for our newsletter, HomeOnTheCourse, as well as for articles at this site. These include the Gulf Coast areas of Mobile and Biloxi, the Texas Hill Country between Austin and San Antonio, the high elevation areas of Boone, Brevard and Cashiers in North Carolina, Reynolds Plantation in Georgia and developing areas in New Mexico.
One community we definitely intend to visit is Uwharrie Point in central North Carolina. Although Uwharrie is secluded, with an adjacent 50,000 acre national forest, it is within easy drives of two major airports in Charlotte and Raleigh. Its Tom Fazio-designed Old North State Club is one of the best private courses in a golf-rich state, and with three finishing holes along Badin Lake (see photo below), the layout is eye-appealing as well as challenging. The community offers a nice range of townhomes as well as single-family homes. It adds all the amenities you would expect to find in a high-end community (Har-Tru tennis courts, a large clubhouse with views of the lake, many swimming pools, and miles of walking trails). A full-service marina is available for boaters.
Cottage-style patio homes begin around $300K. The largest single-family homes with prime views range into the millions, but there appear to be quite a few nice selections in between. Home sites with views of the lake begin in the mid $100s, and those with views of the golf course are still available at less than $100K.
For more information, see the community's web site at www.uwharriepoint.com . Who knows, maybe we will see you there.
Our next issue of the HomeOnTheCourse advisory newsletter will feature the communities north of Jacksonville, FL, including those at the Amelia Island Plantation resort. During our recent visit, we played three of the four courses at the resort, including the Pete Dye Oak Marsh, the Dye/Bobby Weed Ocean Links and Tom Fazio's sleek Long Point. (We passed on Royal Amelia, a Tom Jackson layout, because it will be undergoing renovation soon.)
Despite some thinly grassed putting surfaces on the Oak Marsh course, too many unrepaired fairway and green divot marks on Oak Marsh and the Ocean Links, services at the bag drop that left something to be desired and a practice area no better than Joe's Driving Range, we enjoyed the courses, especially the eight holes along the Plantation's 31/2 mile stretch of beach. We will have much more to say in HomeOnTheCourse, which will be available in two weeks. In the meantime, if you are considering a stay at the resort to explore real estate options, or just for a vacation, you would do well to read the latest offering from our friends at Golf Vacation Insider with their hints about the best options for lodging. Click here for the article.
As always, if you have a question about Amelia Island or any of the places we have visited, please drop us a line and we will be happy to answer promptly. And if you are considering a visit to look for property, please let us know and we will connect you with a qualified broker/agent in the area, at no obligation whatsoever to you.
Eyes right: Ocean winds bouncing off the homes and seven-story buildings across the fairways from the Atlantic at Amelia Island Plantation can play havoc with ball flight, but beauty outweighs the occasionally beastly conditions.
I have heard it time and again in the last year. People who have retired to Florida and other warm climates have decided they can't stand the heat. These bounce backs, or half backs as they are known because they started north, went all the way south and now are bouncing halfway back, say they have just tired of year-round heat. "We want a four-season climate," most say, typically adding "but not severe winters."
It can't just be the weather; average summer temperatures in Florida are just a few degrees higher than in interior Virginia. Probe a little and you find that the driving forces behind the moves north are a little more complicated. In many cases, the stifling traffic in Florida got to them, making them virtual prisoners in their gated communities, unwilling to fight the traffic to get to dinner or a show. For others, especially those along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean coasts, insurance rates - if they can get insurance after Katrina - have driven them north.
Another reason, perhaps the most compelling and one you hear from people you meet on Virigina and North Carolina golf courses, is that they chose areas where their family and friends can get to in an easy day's drive. For those we met in the Williamsburg, VA, area this past week, being a few hours from their former homes in Washington, D.C., and a less than day's trip from the New York metro area were strong considerations in their decision on a place to call their retirement home.
It is no wonder that areas like Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill and Charlotte in North Carolina are among the strongest housing markets in the southeast. They are home to airport hubs, with non-stop flights to most major cities in the nation and to many smaller markets up and down the east coast (e.g. Hartford, CT). With a little planning, some flights won't cost much more than the costs of gasoline, tolls and wear and tear on both auto and body for a six-hour car drive. That is something to consider when contemplating your big move.
Average temperatures in cities like Charlottesville, VA, range from 43 degrees Fahrenheit in January to 79 in August, only three degrees less than the same month average in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Courses in communities like Glenmore, just east of Charlottesville, are open for play year round.
The New York Times' web site has posted an interesting article about the global demand for designer golf courses. The upshot of the article is that the US, UK and other golf rich nations are essentially tapped out as far as new courses go, and that the growth is in places like China, South Korea and eastern Europe. Designers like Jack Nicklaus, whom the article calls a "grandfather of the design business" (What does that make Pete Dye, who helped train Jack, and Robert Trent Jones?), are receiving design fees of up to $2.5 million from some developers.
We have to wonder about a couple things: How much better will their courses in, say, South Korea, be than their US designs, and how much of the costs of building the courses will be reflected in housing prices? At the risk of sounding like an arrogant American, our European readers should first look to golf course communities in the U.S. when contemplating purchase of a second- or retirement home.
The U.S. offers every type of housing at all price points with adjacent golf courses that bear the names of Nicklaus, Norman, Palmer, Player, Dye and Jones on their scorecards. And may we be so bold as to argue that restaurant and cultural choices in, say, Charleston, South Carolina, USA, might be as plentiful as in Kiev?
We are not currency experts, but with such favorable exchange rates for most European currencies compared with the dollar, our European readers would do best to look westward first. Keep in mind that flights from many European cities are non-stop to Raleigh/Durham, Charlotte and other eastern U.S. cities with excellent golf communities nearby. GolfCommunityReviews.com is developing a network of real estate agents in the U.S. who know the golf course communities in their areas, and we will be happy to put you in touch with any of them as a courtesy for being a registered user of our site (always free). And where we don't have a contact, we will do the research and find the person must qualified to provide an overview of the golf course communities in your area of interest. And that goes, of course, for our American readers.
For access to the Times article, please click here.
Many excellent golf course communities are within an hour of an international airport, like Chapel Ridge in the major university town of Chapel Hill, NC. Chapel Ridge's golf course is a sleek Fred Couples design.
After a week of playing some nice golf courses in Williamsburg, VA, and scoping out a range of excellent communities, we predict the area will be a hot destination for those who want to live the golf lifestyle (hot except for the sweater weather a few months a year). The area's charms would seem to be a magnet for corporate headquarters but, except for aerospace giant Northrup-Grumman, an Anheuser Busch brewery, Busch Gardens, a number of military bases, and some smaller ventures, we were surprised at the lack of big employers in the area.
Apparently that is not for want of trying. Today's Wall Street Journal carries a quarter-page ad touting the City of Williamsburg as a place to "innovate" and "imagine." We can imagine that more businesses would mean more crowded roads, but we were impressed by how good and plentiful the roads in the area are, as if anticipating future growth. Forbes.com ranked the state of Virginia #1 for business last year, and we have to believe that Williamsburg is a potentially number-one place for business in Virginia. For those looking to ease into retirement with, perhaps, a part-time job in a vibrant community that is on the move, Williamsburg will be a place to look in the coming years.