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Here are some remotely located golf communities to consider if you want to live like landed gentry in retirement. We have cut down our usual windy prose descriptions into short highlights for each community. We define “remote” as located more than 45 minutes from a town of at least 100,000 people. But towns with far less population can offer an almost full range of services (although possibly only one or two very good restaurants). For more information on any of these communities, please contact me at Editor@golfcommunityreviews.com
River Landing, Wallace, NC
Developed 20 years ago by a local farm family to attract top employees to their firm with fairly priced homes and excellent golf…located directly off Interstate 40 between Raleigh (80 minutes) and Wilmington (50 minutes)…Big, beautiful arts and crafts style clubhouse with top “master” chef at the helm…Two 18-hole golf courses ranked top 50 in North Carolina…River House is magnet for residents’ barbecues and celebrations…Walmart and other shopping three minutes outside the front gate…Homes from $266,000, lots from $7,900. ***Note: We are planning a special couples event at River Landing scheduled for Fall 2016. For advanced details, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Savannah Lakes Village, McCormick, SC
Located on large, man-made Lake Thurmond…two top-rated 18-hole golf courses of totally different character (one classic, one with significant altitude changes)…fairest amenity fees we have encountered, with $106 per month HOA dues that provide access to all amenities (pay per play golf)…for golf nuts, just $3,000 in annual dues for all the golf you can manage…Supermarket just eight minutes away but for all other stuff, Greenwood is a 35-minute drive…Homes from $130,000, lots from $57,000.
Grand Harbor, Ninety Six, SC
Golf course in ruins, since Davis Love III placed Revolutionary War fort ruins beside and behind some of the greens at Grand Harbor…lakeside community struggled at first but coming into its own now…lots of modern housing at fair prices…just 15 minutes from Greenwood, a college town with more than ample services…Homes from $260,000 (new construction), lots from $15,000.
Stoney Point, Greenwood, SC
On lake, about as close as you get to in-town living…husband and wife run, semi-private golf club good enough to lure players from Greenville, one hour away…no initiation fee, less than $350 per month dues…less a golf community than a neighborhood with a golf course…Shopping mall within 10 minutes…Homes from low $200s, lots from $40,000.
Keowee Key, Salem, SC
The well-established community offers homes on the lake that are priced, in some cases, below $100 per square foot…located on Lake Keowee, with mix of condos and single-family homes…20 minutes to Clemson, SC, and its famed university…Duke Power nuclear plant three miles away tamps down prices in community…condos from $60,000, waterfront condos from $85,000…single-family homes from $114,000…waterfront homes from $339,000.
Country Club of South Carolina, Florence, SC
Well-rated Ellis Maples designed 18-hole golf course in mid-state location, about 90 minutes from Myrtle Beach…full roster of amenities, including lighted tennis, with reasonable fees…street names of famous golfers (Hogan, Sarazen, etc.)…single-family homes from $229,000 (at less than $100 per square foot).
Fairfield Glade, Fairfield Glade, TN
Located on the “cool” Cumberland Plateau between Nashville and Knoxville…Five golf courses in excellent condition and of varying challenge…bent grass greens on Joe Lee’s Stonehenge layout, arguably the best of a very good collection…huge, sprawling community with plenty to do besides golf…flexible memberships provide pay as you go or annual membership fees for golf every day…lots from $1,000, condos from $80,000, single-family homes from $100,000.
Currahee Club, Toccoa, GA
Set in the mountains of northern Georgia, not far from South Carolina state line and along Lake Hartwell…golf course a significant challenge by George Fazio, characterized by elevated greens and swirling fairways…community less than 10 years old and featuring modern, indigenous mountain designs…single-family homes only from $439,000, lots from $105,000.
Sapelo Hammock Club, Shellman Bluff, GA
Abutted by two communities, Sutherland Bluff and Cooper’s Point…about as remote as it gets in a coastal location 90 minutes from Jacksonville and an hour from Savannah…for boaters, easy access to waterway and ocean…golf course is links-like and fun to play, with a friendly group of locals forming the membership core…just a few hundred yards from fishing village and 40 minutes from I-95…opened in 2002, sales have been slow, but a perfect place for those who literally want to get away from it all…golf course lots from $20,000, homes from $349,000 (just a few for sale).
Old North State Club, Uwharrie Point, NC
The developer of this Badin Lake community refused to talk with me after I wrote that Uwharrie Point was “remotely located” (a full 25 minutes from the burg of Albemarle, NC, population 16,000, and an hour from Charlotte)…the lake is the setting for the Old North State Club, designed by Tom Fazio and one of a dozen courses in the McConnell Golf Group portfolio; ranked #3 by the state’s golf rating panel…homes from $340,000, lots from $20,000.
Eyes Wide Open: With or Without a Plan, Couple Adapts to Rural Life
I made the mistake of starting my phone conversation with married couple David Staniford and Lucia Getsi by asking about the challenges of living in such a “remote” golf community as Savannah Lakes Village.
“It is not remote,” countered David, emphatically, as if he had defended his McCormick, SC, golf community from the charge of being “out there” many times before. For the record, Savannah Lakes Village is 35 minutes from the town of Greenwood and 40 minutes from Augusta, with not much in between. But one man’s remote is another man’s paradise, and in this case paradise for David is a steady retirement gig as the community’s tennis pro, a healthy body that only once in 10 years has required medical care outside the community (more about that later) and the close-enough location of a Food Lion supermarket eight miles from Savannah Lakes.
Sea Change by the Lake
Lucia (pronounced Lew-sha), on the other hand, requires more in terms of shopping options and access to other activities she once took for granted as a university professor in a town of 100,000 people, Bloomington, IL. But a life in the liberal arts and an upbringing in a small Tennessee town provided strong lessons in adaptability.
“It’s a sea change,” says Lucia about going from active pre-retirement status to a retirement community. “Your environment around you changes and you must adapt, although many don’t do it successfully.”
Lucky that the former professor of comparative literature, poetics, and poetry and published author was used to long-distance driving during her career to teach at writer’s conferences, tuck away in quiet artists' colonies to write, and as a visiting lecturer. An enthusiastic gourmet cook, Lucia thinks nothing of making the 40-minute drive to Augusta once a week to shop at Whole Foods or a recently opened Publix market in Greenwood, only slightly closer.
“I know Augusta and Greenwood very well [after 10 years],” she says.
David, on the other hand, would be content to never leave the Savannah Lakes campus and to maintain his routine every day. That routine consists of morning tennis lessons and other responsibilities on the community’s lighted clay and composition courts, and a meet-up with a regular playing partner on one of Savannah Lakes’ two golf courses on a few mid-afternoons every week.
“We sometimes have the course to ourselves,” says David, “and we can zip around in time for me to be back home for drinks and dinner with Lucia.”
“Should Have Married a Chiropractor”
Although when they moved to Savannah Lakes 10 years ago, Lucia was an active and proficient golfer, a fall she took ended her playing days.
“I should have married a chiropractor,” she says, referencing one of the four specialists she sees regularly in Greenwood and Augusta. Self-deprecating humor plays a big part in neutralizing the sting of 90-mile round-trips to see doctors.
As mentioned, David is a healthy soon-to-be 70, but he learned how inconvenient distance from doctors can be when he suffered a detached retina last year that caused additional complications. Although he and Lucia disagree on how many trips he made to Augusta eye doctors — she says 50, he says “much fewer” — the round trips were clearly a major disturbance in their busy lives.
Busy Bodies Help
Keeping busy, of course, is an excellent formula for success in a remote — sorry David — community. Lucia, unlike David, didn’t have a “game plan” for how she would continue her profession outside an academic environment that gave it obvious purpose. In the first year at Savannah Lakes, she didn’t really need a plan; beyond golf and gardening and her love of swimming and dancing, she became a full-time caregiver to her father while superintending the building of the couple's home she had designed and built on the lake.
Five Ways to Thrive in a Rural Golf Community
If you are considering taking advantage of the extreme bargains in home prices in golf communities located at some distance from their nearest towns, here is some guidance:
Embrace change — retirement is not a rerun of the previous 40 years, no matter where you choose to live.
Own a comfortable car — preferably one with satellite radio. Books on tape help, too.
Stay busy — even if you have to force yourself, join as many clubs and activities as you can handle.
Plan ahead — shop for a week of meals, schedule handymen for repairs well in advance.
Get out of Dodge occasionally — your golf community may seem like paradise, but a change of scenery can recharge the batteries. And what you save in real estate costs and taxes will help fund your travel.
For Lucia, golf was scratched after she took an untimely tumble onto some unforgiving rocks while inspecting her own construction site. But the main reason she had chosen Savannah Lakes originally was for the junior Olympic indoor pool. And after her golf career ended, and missing the 41 years of teaching and her former professional community, she turned lemons into lemonade by schooling herself in aquatic fitness training to become a Master Trainer. Today, not only does Lucia provide lessons to dozens of Savannah Lakes residents, but she also is in demand nationwide as more and more baby boomers have learned to appreciate such high-resistance, low-impact exercise.
“Between a month-long trip to Europe every year or two,” says Lucia, “and the travel to teach aquatic instructor certification events or during vacations in Jamaica and Mexico, I am probably away from Savannah Lakes for two months a year.” She acknowledges that the travel probably ameliorates the less urbane aspects of life in McCormick, SC. David, on the other hand, spends an average three weeks away each year, teaching tennis for two weeks annually at a resort on the island of Jamaica and another week teaching tennis or competing at USTA events at different U.S. locations.
“That’s more than enough time away for me,” he says.
Like Pre-Retirement, Only Busier
Both David and Lucia agree that they are as busy in retirement as they were during their busy careers — maybe more so.
“When you live in a place like Savannah Lakes,” says Lucia, “you have to spend a lot of time organizing your lives. There aren’t enough people available on short notice to work around your house, in the yards or inside for repairs, so you spend a lot of time scheduling things to be done.” As people in the community have aged, the couple agrees, they can’t keep up with many of the responsibilities of home ownership; the largest homes in Savannah Lakes have been coming up for sale the last few years as those reaching 80 and older downsize or leave for assisted living accommodations. (Note to those considering a golf community by a beautiful lake: Plenty of bargains available at Savannah Lakes Village. Contact me for more information.)
I was most curious about how a couple so used to university life in cities like Bloomington, IL, for Lucia, and Milwaukee for Dave, where he was tennis coach at Marquette University, came to choose a Savannah Lakes for their retirement. Lucia, it turns out, grew up in McMinnville, TN, and felt comfortable with small-town living, although she admits McCormick does not much remind her of McMinnville. And David was drawn to the two excellent golf courses and then-nascent tennis program he played a large role in building at Savannah Lakes. But the transition is not without its challenges, according to the couple, especially for women.
“When couples first move to a location like Savannah Lakes,” says David, “men have enough with the golf and one or two other activities. Women want more things to do.”
Lucia, who didn’t disagree with the gender distinction, had this bit of advice for those contemplating a move to a community at some distance from a town with ample services and cultural activities: “You not only have to prepare for change, you also actually have to look forward to it. No matter where you move to, retiring from something you have done for years, and leaving the community and environment in which you've done it, is going to mean change.”
“Wherever you go, there you are”
Her prescription is to get involved with activities as she has at Savannah Lakes — with her aquatics fitness sessions, participation on the community’s strategic planning committee, gardening, continuing to write (she has another book coming out this year), and participating and helping support the community’s many art, history, and musical activities.
“If women band together in tennis groups, golf, quilting, book and card groups, exercise classes, and get involved in activities that help them build communities they love,” she adds, “they can have a sense of continuum from their past lives.
“It’s an immersion,” she adds, “and pretty much a baptism into a new world, which can feel scary and empty or entirely too full and scattered. A sense of community and shared purpose is critical.”
And so too is maintaining a commitment to things that made for a happy pre-retirement life. After all, as Lucia is fond of saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.”
Larry Gavrich Founder & Editor Home On The Course, LLC