One way to create your own "destination" club

    For nearly a decade, I have been a member of HomeLink International, a service that facilitates the exchange of homes on a short-term basis, typically a week or two.  There are a number of firms that provide similar services.  Every year, I have searched the scores of international listings at HomeLink looking at listings by folks in Greece, Scotland, France and other dreamy sounding places who indicated they were interested in staying in South Carolina, where we have a vacation home.  Partly from fear of having "strangers" stay in our home, we never took the leap.  But our condo is a
We will drop our names in the ballot box at the Old Course a few times and take our chances.

depreciating asset that sits idle all but six weeks or so a year.  Why not take a shot at an exchange?
    Late last year, we received a note from a couple in Scotland asking if we would like to exchange homes.  The timing was perfect as my son and I were planning a trip to the Old Sod and I was obsessing about the costs, given the international currency fluctuations.  After the exchange of a handful of emails, the Scottish couple and I arranged for a "non-simultaneous" exchange of our place in Pawleys Island, SC, for theirs in Crail, Scotland.  Although most such exchanges coincide with each other - you stay at their place at the same time they stay at yours - we are fortunate to have a second home and to have found a couple in Scotland in a similar situation (they live in Glasgow but have a cottage in Crail, just nine miles from St. Andrews).  It made the arrangements much easier than if we were in different countires during the exchanges.
    In April, our new friends from Scotland stayed in Pawleys Island for 12 days, had a great time, and left the place cleaner than they found it (and left behind some paperback novels I look forward to reading).  This weekend, we head to Scotland and, after a few days in Edinburgh, are off to Crail where we will meet our hosts in person for the first time (they are going to help us get settled in their home).  Crail, a charming small fishing village with two famed seaside links courses in town, will be our home base for a week of golfing throughout the county of Fife.  On our rotation are the links at Elie, Lundin and Crail, as well as Kingsbarn and the New Course (circa 1895) at St. Andrews.  We will drop our names in the ballot box at the Old Course a few times and take our chances.
    I calculate we are saving more than $1,500 on the lodging for the week in Scotland (less the modest $90 annual charge to list your home at HomeLink).  More importantly, with a successful swap behind us, my wife and I will now join the growing legion of home exchangers who have created their own little destination clubs.  The ability to swap our vacation home for someone else's adds some welcome value to our condo, a little extra leverage that anyone with a vacation property might want to consider.  If this idea appeals to those currently looking for a vacation or retirement place, consider that Europeans are drawn to the east coast of the U.S. and especially Florida.
    Although Internet service will be a little spotty in and around Crail, I intend to file stories in mid June from some of the oldest golf "communities" in the world.  If you have played the courses on our list above, I would welcome any advice or comments in advance.

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