Complete package: Daniel Island ultimate in one-stop living

    There are islands, and then there are islands.  Some are remote get-away-from-it-all places, like Daufuskie and Bald Head, with no automobiles permitted.  Then there are islands in name only, such as Daniel Island, which is an island the way, essentially, Manhattan is an island.  Sure, they are both surrounded by water, but because you can get virtually anything you want within a short drive, or in some cases, a short walk, there is nothing disconnected about Daniel Island.  And although a car may be optional to fetch groceries or your child from the local elementary school, you will need it for most other sojourns.
    The community of Daniel Island, about 20 minutes from the center of Charleston, SC, is a prime example of a movement called New Urbanism which emphasizes the "town center" concept in which people can live

within a short distance of where they work, shop and conduct much of the enterprise of their lives.  Some entrepreneurs have targeted Daniel Island as the perfect place to start businesses they can walk to.  One such couple runs the island's version of a fancy food store, a mini-version of Whole Foods.  New Urbanism harkens back to a time before the automobile or urban sprawl, when town life was centered on a core of businesses, houses of worship and parks.
    The Daniel Island community comprises every conceivable type of housing, from condominiums of less than 2,000 square feet, cheek by jowl with their neighbors, to Charleston-style town homes (two floors, very vertical looking) and still close to their neighbors, to million dollar homes in the Daniel Island Park section on pieces of property that give them breathing space one to the next.  The diversity of housing and residents add an atmosphere of eclecticism that one finds only in larger, more established urban communities.  If you are comfortable with the company of many types of people -- young and old, wealthy and middle class -- you could very well find yourself at home in Daniel Island.


The 3rd at Beresford Creek is a classic three-shotter that includes plenty of sand and a dollop of water.   


    Young families prefer the area of Smythe Park for its mid-six figure real estate and proximity to both shopping and the public school that is within walking distance of their homes.  Retired people and working professionals are attracted to the Daniel Island Park area with its quieter ambience and recreational amenities, including the two private golf courses.  As an accommodation to Park residents looking for a "quieter" lifestyle, the community's developers wisely separated by a few hundred yards the golf clubhouse, recently doubled in size, from the pool and tennis courts (a fitness center and exercise rooms are also located there).  In marketing speak, this provides more of a "pure golf experience," which is another way of saying no one likes to be halfway through a swing on the first tee or a critical putt on #18 and hear toddlers' squeals of delight coming from the nearby pool.
    The golf is both expensive and first rate.  Tom Fazio contributed the first course, Beresford Creek, which opened in 2000 and helped establish the Park area as the prime real estate on Daniel Island.  Rees Jones followed with the Ralston Creek layout that debuted to solid reviews in 2006.  Members are getting ready to host the Nationwide Tour Championship there in October and for the following two years.  (Note:  The on-site tennis stadium has hosted the pro women's Family Circle Cup since the community opened, and Blackbaud Stadium, named for the software company whose headquarters is on Daniel Island, is the site of occasional professional soccer matches.)  Club initiation fees for residents of Daniel Island Park are $80,000, a price tag that brings with it the two different style courses and all other amenities.  Residents from the other side of the community pay $60,000 for membership, but it is "callable" if membership rolls fill up.  (Note:  Off-islanders can become members for $125,000).


The approach to #12 emphasizes a right to left approach, but not too much lest you wind up in a large and nasty bunker that guards the left side of the green.


    Although I did not play the Jones course -- it was being aerated during my visit -- it is regarded by most as the tougher challenge of the two.  Golfweek's Bradley Klein, who has written about most of the best golf courses in America, had this to say in an article after the Ralston Creek course opened for play: "It's a traditional out-and-back routing, where you essentially start in the community, head out from a central corridor, and come back in.  It's a journey with a rhythm to it.  In that respect, it's kind of a Lowcountry version of St. Andrews."
    I did play the Fazio-designed Beresford Creek course, which Daniel Island realtor Rick Horger told me was designed to be "family friendly."  Certainly that is the case off the tees, with some of the widest fairways I have seen on a Fazio course (but without the customary "funnel" effects) and very few forced carries; although there are plenty of water hazards along the course, thedanielislandwalkinggolfer.jpg conservative player can bump his ball along without too much incident.  But the green complexes are anything but friendly, with huge undulating greens that may be easy to reach in regulation but difficult to read and putt.  Errant approach shots are punished severely, with large collection areas set well below the level of the green.  Members certainly need to master the bump-into-the-hill, trickle-onto-the-green-and-pray shot on the Beresford Creek course.
    All the other touches of a latter-day Fazio design are in strong evidence, including his signature cloverleaf bunkers from which few escape without paying some penalty.  The par 5s are a visual delight because of the vivid contrast between green fairways, white sand and blue water.  The 3rd hole, 555 yards from the tips (500 yards from the white tees I played), is an arcing dogleg left with a fairway bunker on the right that is in play from the tee box.  The lay-up shot must be well right of a huge bunker about 150 yards from the green; if executed properly, that leaves an approach with a short-iron to a green surrounded by trouble -- large lake along the entire left side, a group of three bunkers short and right, and a bunker directly behind.
    Fazio is particularly adept at designing high reward, high-risk short par 4s, and those 360 yards and shorter fit that mold at Beresford.  Number 5, for example, at just 310 yards from my tees, begged for a fairway wood drive, since most well struck full metals would reach a narrow neck of the slightly uphill fairway that is guarded by two menacing bunkers.  The appropriate play is to a wider spot about 115 yards from the green.  That leaves a wedge to a surface guarded by a big bunker at front left and a false front that must be flown.  A front pin position makes #5 anything but an easy par.  On the other short par 4s, the designer decreases the size of the greens but keeps the significant undulations.
    A golf course that doesn't challenge too much off the tee would normally find itself with a rating at or below 70 and a slope well underdanielisland15greenhomes.jpg 130.  From the white tees I played at Beresford Creek (total 6,348 yards), the rating was 70.6 and the slope 130.  The blue tees, at 6,849 yards, rated 72.9/137.  The fairways from that distance are no more difficult to hit, but longer approach shots to treacherous greens account for the numeric differences.  The greens were medium fast to fast, putting a premium on approach shot placement as well as confidently -- but not too confidently -- stroked putts.
    At 4,500 acres, Daniel Island, which opened in 2000, is a large community, with an anticipated 5,200 units at full build out in 10 years (assuming the economy returns to stability).  About half the total has been completed to date, although sales have slowed in the troubled economy and housing market.  In Daniel Island Park, 475 homes are occupied of the 900 or so planned; most of these are substantial single-family homes beginning at around 3,000 square feet (and a price of about $800,000).  Along one of the Fazio fairways, a string of impressive looking craftsmen style, no-maintenance Park Club Cottages (at 2,800 square feet) are priced from just below $1 million.  Although condominiums are not the dominant home style in the Park area, it is an option; they are priced from the $600s.  For those who prefer to design their own homes, a choice of Daniel Island Park home sites are available beginning in the $300s and running all the way to $1 million for properties with marsh views and a boat dock.  Count on about $200 a square foot to build a nicely outfitted home, or $600,000 additional for 3,000 square feet.


When the pin is on the left side of the green at the par 3 17th hole, the big tree at left can be annoying, if not in play.

    Home prices on the "south side" of the island, where lots are smaller but closer to shopping and the town center, begin in the mid $100s for condominiums in buildings as high as four stories, with some homes reaching seven figure prices.  Townhouses with front doors that open to their adjacent streets start around $300,000 and can run as much as $1 million for the best locations (which typically means a view of the marsh).  Entrepreneurs can buy or lease shop space and, potentially, the living space above it.  Some of Daniel Island's shop owners are less than a five-minute commute to their businesses -- on foot -- and a few live directly above their shops.
     About 90% of the community's residents are full-timers, which gives Daniel Island a strong neighborhood feel where friendships are not seasonal but rather year round.  This is decidedly not a resort, and indeed any owner who wants to rent his/her home is required to do so for a minimum of six months.   The community is not gated because it is within the city of Charleston, which provides all services such as road maintenance and police and fire.  The completion of an elementary school on property a few years ago had local families lining up to purchase property; the school is ranked near the top for quality in the Charleston area.
    One of Daniel Island's strong suits, besides its proximity to a great city and virtually every service imaginable -- including a large medical center and all shopping options within 10 minutes -- is that all promised amenities are in place.  All that remains is a $50 million marina from which Daniel Island's boat owners will have direct access to the Wando River and the Intra-coastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean beyond.  The open water is about the only thing that would tempt Daniel Island residents to set sail from a community with so much to offer.

Daniel Island, Charleston, SC. Homes from $100s to $1 million+.
Beresford Creek Golf Course:  Designer Tom Fazio.  Black tees, 7,202 yards, rating 74.7, slope 138.  Blue tees, 6,849, 72.9/137.  White tees, 6,348, 70.6, 130.  Yellow tees, 5,796, 67.7, 119.  Ladies tees, 5,796, 73.6, 132.
Ralston Creek Golf Course:  Designer Rees Jones.  Black tees, 7,446 yards, 76.5, 138.  Blue tees, 6,961, 73.8, 135.  White tees, 6,449, 71.0, 133.  Yellow tees, 5,768, 67.9, 121.  Ladies tees, 5,768, 74.4, 132.


If you are interested in more information about Daniel Island, please contact me and I will be happy to provide you with it and put you in touch with a Daniel Island expert.


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