For couples split between golf and beach activities, the following are a few suggestions that just might make for a happy life for all. Understand that beach is just a placeholder for many other requirements in a golf home search. Please contact me and I will be pleased to put together some recommendations that match up best with all your own criteria.
Landfall Wilmington, NC
The golfer in the family will never tire of the 45 holes of golf, 27 by Jack Nicklaus and 18 by Pete Dye. The beach-loving spouse will love the nearby access to Wrightsville Beach, less than 10 minutes out the back gate of Landfall. And both will love a city that doesn't take itself too seriously, except for its excellent restaurants, major medical facilities and shopping. And for those looking to feed their minds, the large local branch of the University of North Carolina and its Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offer many courses in a range of disciplines to keep the minds of those over 50 as sharp as a college student's.
Grande Dunes Myrtle Beach, SC
Myrtle Beach, which is much beloved by golfers and beach goers alike, won't appeal to those allergic to neon and honky tonk bars, but within the party-town atmosphere are oases of calm and taste. Grande Dunes, whose real estate was savaged by the recession, is strongly rebounding and offers the serious golfer two options –- a "resort" layout by Roger Rulewich that runs along the Inter-Coastal Waterway, and a private Members Club attributed in part to longtime PGA tour player Nick Price. For the non-golfer, the beach beckons, private for Grande Dunes residents and resort guests on one of the most expansive stretches of sand in the South. Shopping, including huge outlet malls, and most other services are within a few minutes.
Pawleys Plantation Pawleys Island, SC
My wife Connie and I love the time we spend at Pawleys Plantation, where we have owned a condo for 15 years. I never tire of the golf course, and Connie and my daughter Jen, when she is with us, can easily access one of the nicest public beaches on the east coast after just a seven-minute ride. When I occasionally feel I need a break from the Jack Nicklaus, marsh-surrounded layout at Pawleys Plantation, plenty of other golf courses are nearby, including the heralded Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and True Blue Plantation, both a mere five minutes away. Since food is a central part of our lives, Connie and I especially appreciate the wide range of good restaurants within minutes of the front gate of Pawleys Plantation and are agog at the fact that in March, with the opening of a new Publix supermarket a mile up the road, we now will have five major supermarkets within four miles of our condo.
Amelia Island Fernandina Beach, FL
You may have to share some of the fairways at Amelia with traveling golfers, but the 54 holes of golf connected with the Resort there are varied and interesting. And if the interlopers become annoying, there is always the Tom Fazio designed Long Point course, which is almost private (a few resort guests are permitted to play). The non-golfer won't have to go far -– perhaps just a golf cart ride -– to get to Amelia's wide and clean beaches; and for lunch and other pleasant distractions, the charming town of Fernandina Beach is a short car drive away. The urban oriented can always get their fix in nearby Jacksonville which, after all, is big enough to host a National Football League team (although the city waits patiently for even an inkling of success in that regard).
Longboat Key Sarasota, FL
On the opposite side of Florida from Amelia Island lies some of the keys to a happy beach experience, and one of them is Longboat Key, which offers 36 holes of golf along the Gulf and just enough of a mix between single-family homes and condos to put living there within the reach of most couples. (The Links of Longboat course features water on all 18 holes.) If you choose Longboat Key as your year-round home, you may be a little lonely in summer, as much of the community comprises "snowbirds" who flee the cold North in winter and then do an about face in summer. What you won't find on Longboat Key are billboards, neon signs or shopping malls, but Sarasota and Bradenton can provide plenty of those. The Ringling Museum in Sarasota may just be the most interesting home for the arts in the entire Sunshine State.
Close to Perfect: Some Golf Communities Hit Highest Notes, But None Are Perfectly Attuned
I suppose that if the word "husband" were easy to rhyme, there would be a feminine corollary to the saying "Happy Wife, Happy Life." But for the purposes of our theme this month, let's hang on to what we've got and consider golf communities that have the most potential to make each spouse especially happy, whether both play golf or not. No single golf community is perfect, but some will provide plenty to do for both members of the family.
The golf communities with the most potential to satisfy both parties are those that are large in size and population, with more than one golf course; are close to cities of cultural significance (centers of higher education included); are located on or near a beach; and offer activities from Antiquing to Zoo visits. (Okay, the zoo visits are a stretch, but you try coming up with a hobby whose name begins with Z.) This makes it much easier for the golf playing spouse to go off for a 4 ½-hour round –- longer if drinks and lunch are involved -– without the guilt associated with leaving your mate behind with little to do. Golf is tough enough mentally without playing through a case of the nagging guilts.
In Golf Communities, Size Does Matter
In working toward finding the perfect golf community for spouses of somewhat divergent interests, size matters. The more residents of a community, the better the chances you will find others with common interests. (Note: For single people, the largest communities, naturally, tend to be the most single-friendly.) The more the merrier works with golf communities, and the best chances for making merry lives are in communities with a couple thousand residents or more.
The Landings at Skidaway Island in Georgia fits this definition, with 8,000 total residents spread across its 4,000 acres, most of them full-timers. The community's television station scrolls through the Landings clubs' meeting schedules, which includes groups geared to the states from which residents moved. (We understand there are quite a few rivalries during college football season.) Greensboro, GA's Reynolds Plantation spans more than 8,000 acres beside Lake Oconee, twice the size of The Landings, and offers more activities and social clubs than any couple could have time for, including college-style lectures on subjects as diverse as Medieval history and wine appreciation. Reynolds has 3,600 property owners, and 60% of the community's residents live there year-round. Daniel Island, a self-contained community surrounded by rivers and marsh near the coast of South Carolina, is home to more than 10,000 residents and operates on the "new urban" concept, with shopping and offices all within a walk or short drive of home. (Tom Fazio and Rees Jones golf courses are on the island as well.) On the Daniel Island events calendar for just one week in February are a class called "Walk With Me" (held every Monday), another for Total Body Fitness (twice per week), a lecture on the area's Pirate History, a monthly meeting of the fishing club, a course on Great Ideas of Western Civilization, an Indian Cooking class and "Pork & Pearls," a weekend pig and oyster roast.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of large golf communities –- we are mindful of Lakewood Ranch in Bradenton, FL, for example, and others -– but The Landings, Reynolds Plantation and Daniel Island are ones we know well and can recommend.
So Close (to a city) and Yet So Far (from the beach)
Golf communities within easy driving distance of a vibrant city also offer plenty to do for the non-golfing spouse, as well as the golfer who is interested in other activities, especially if that city includes a major university that draws entertainment, sponsors ongoing cultural exhibits, provides continuous learning opportunities to retired folks and features a major athletics program. Of the large communities mentioned above, only Reynolds Plantation is not close to a major city. Athens, home to the University of Georgia, is 50 minutes away and Atlanta 90 minutes. Both The Landings and Daniel Island are about 20 minutes from two of the most popular and interesting cities in the South, Savannah and Charleston, respectively. But the catch is that neither is very close to a beach, with The Landings a full 45 minutes from Tybee Island and Daniel Island about 20 minutes to Isle of Palms, if the traffic is moving.
In short, these are terrific communities offering a wide range of distractions for the golfer and non-golfer alike, but none of them are perfect. What is a couple to do if paradise is unreachable?
The Art of Compromise
The answer, of course, is obvious, as it often is, and the advice here is to draw up a list of the things that are most important to each of you -– assuming you are a couple -– and rank order them (two lists, not one, and don't peek before you compare). The golfer, of course, is certain to have "high-quality golf" on the top of his/her list, perhaps multiple golf courses, and in many cases, the other spouse may indeed have golf at the top as well. But man and/or woman cannot live by golf alone, and considerations below the #1 spot on each spouse's list could be just as important as #1 in terms of family harmony.
My wife Connie and I went through this exercise. She doesn't play golf and it was nowhere on her list of top five. It was, of course, at the top of my list, followed by 2) restaurants; 3) food shopping; 4) entertainment (movies, sports); and 5) culture and history. Connie's list included 1) access to good healthcare; 2) beach; 3) culture, especially local-history related; 4) close to good convenience shopping, especially food; and 5) near airports for family access.
We have owned a condo south of Myrtle Beach, in Pawleys Island, SC, for 15 years, and in most regards, it checks the boxes for us both. I get to play a wonderful, top-rated Jack Nicklaus course whose first tee is a two-minute walk from the condo, and Connie gets easy access –- just seven minutes over the marsh –- to one of the best beaches in the southern U.S. We will never complain about the food shopping -– our fifth supermarket within a few miles is about to open -– and we are both fascinated and captivated by local Low Country history and terrain. When we need an extra jolt of culture, we head for Brookgreen Gardens, just 10 minutes away, a spectacular revelation of flora, fauna and hundreds of sculptures spread along the marsh and Waccamaw River that was donated to the state by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, an industrialist and prominent early 20th Century sculptress, respectively. But, frankly, the area doesn't offer much more in the way of culture, with no museums within a half hour and Coastal Carolina University a full 45 minutes away. And even more important, health care ratings for the area's hospitals are only fair, although we have zero complaints about our visits to local emergency rooms and doctors' offices over the last 15 years.
Peeling the Onion to Find the Most Relevant Golf Community
We are pretty settled in Pawleys Island, but if we were starting from scratch to look for a golf community in the South with our two lists in hand, our target area would not likely be just south of Myrtle Beach. Golf is the easy part of the search, as there are dozens of outstanding golf courses inside the gates of golf communities along the coast. The focus for us would be on healthcare and beaches, the items on the top of Connie's list. For the best coastal cities for healthcare, I looked at two online sources, including a U.S. News and World Report magazine ranking of best hospitals in the Southeast. The only coastal hospitals on the two surveys are located in Charleston, SC –- Medical University of South Carolina and Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital.
That was easy. The only beaches in the Charleston area are on Isle of Palms, home of the Wild Dunes Resort and about a seven-minute ride from the growing town of Mt. Pleasant, just east of Charleston; and another resort area, the barrier islands of Kiawah and Seabrook, beside each other and about 40 minutes from the city. Much as we love Kiawah, where we vacationed annually with our pre-school kids 20 years ago, neither Connie nor I would want us to be 40 minutes from a hospital in case of a medical emergency; therefore, our search brings us to the Mt. Pleasant area where we would most likely look at the golf communities of Rivertowne and Snee Farm which, together, have the area's only combined golf membership; and Daniel Island, about eight minutes from Mt. Pleasant and offering the widest range of housing styles and prices (although prices there start around $400,000). I would have the golf and Connie the beach and the secure feeling that comes with top-rated hospitals nearby. Everyone would be happy.
In the left column of this newsletter, I offer a few ideas of golf communities that will suit a couple with one spouse whose #1 interest is in golf and the other whose chart topper is a nice beach nearby. There are many more items of interest to a couple searching for a golf community than simply a good beach nearby; where one spouse's must-haves intersect with the other's nice-to-haves, the potential for a happy retirement life is highest.
If you would like to share your own lists with me, I'd be pleased to conduct a search in your behalf for the perfect retirement golf communities. Please contact me at email@example.com or via my cell phone at 860-205-0464.
Wired for Sound Safety Practices
I spent a wonderful day recently at the Dataw Island golf community south of Beaufort, SC, and played the club's Tom Fazio golf course with golf pro Dave Britton, general manager Ted Bartlett and resident John Schafer. I'll be writing about the golf, which includes a second course by Arthur Hills, and the community at some length at GolfCommunityReviews.com, but I did want to share a feature at Dataw that is unique in my experience. Alcoa, the corporation known for aluminum production, originally developed the property beginning in the mid 1980s in an attempt to enhance shareowner value. Alcoa, according to Ted Bartlett, required that every home built in Dataw include a direct electronic link to the community's guardhouse, which is manned round the clock every day of the year. Although there is no crime problem at all at the secluded and well guarded Dataw, there is always the chance, especially as people age, that accidents will happen, and the community "panic button" (my name for it) guarantees that help will be on the way quickly, especially since a Dataw security person is almost always patrolling the community's 870 acres in a vehicle. For those concerned about personal safety in their homes, we can't think of a better place than Dataw.