Apologies for the tardiness of this month’s newsletter, but I am in South Carolina, and the heat and pace does something to my productivity (and golf game). But here is this month’s rendition; I hope you like it.
Pawleys Plantation, 17th hole Pawleys Island, SC
Best Case, Worst Case: Most retiree friendly state rankings depend on what you measure
This seems to be the season for best state/worst state lists. A few magazines and online sources have published theirs in recent months. As always they differ, substantially because they measure and emphasize different things. If a retired couple emphasizes the same categories, these can be somewhat worthwhile as guides. Otherwise, move on.
The rankings from Bankrate.com will hardly be worth the time of any retirees who have a warm weather climate as their top requirement. “Weather” is just one of seven categories that appear to be equally weighted. Only Florida (#5) and North Carolina (tied at 6th with Montana) are Southeast states that rank in Bankrate’s overall Top 10. Other Southeast Region states are ranked considerably lower, including Virginia (13), Georgia (37) and South Carolina (41).
Rankings within the categories that make up the Bankrate listings will be of greater value to baby boomers seeking a home in the South. Those categories include cost of living, crime, culture, health care quality, weather and well-being. The well being category includes information from a Gallup survey that judges how people feel about their lives.
In terms of cost of living, here’s to the state of Mississippi, which ranks first. However, if you enjoy the occasional museum or live theater experience, Mississippi ranks 48th in culture and 47th in well being. Arkansas, which ranks 2nd in cost of living, finishes dead last of all 50 states in both culture and health care quality. The moniker “God’s Waiting Room,” according to Bankrate, may be justified in Florida’s case as it ranks 36th in health care quality (yet 12th in well being). The Sunshine State’s weather and well being rankings are 2nd and 4th, respectively.
As for the other Southeastern states, Georgia ranks only 37th overall but gets fairly high marks for cost of living (15th) and weather (6th). The only bad number for North Carolina, ranked 6th overall, is for culture (40th), with cost of living (12th), taxes (11th) and weather (12th) propping up its overall ranking. South Carolina’s meager overall ranking of 41st is the result of shortcomings almost across the board, with weather (8th) saving the day. (Even South Carolina’s cost of living, which typically shows up as among the lowest in the nation, ranks only 23rd in that category.)
One cautionary note: Cost of living is as much determined by where you live within a state than by the entire state’s performance in the category. Property and other taxes can vary significantly from county to county.
For the Bankrate full rankings and accompanying explanations, click here.
If you are considering a search for a permanent or vacation home in a golf-oriented area, please contact me for a free, no-obligation consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org
Summer Reflections on Golf Courses, Golf Communities and a Few Other Things
I am spending a few summer days in the Low Country of South Carolina, which is to say the golf is super hot, literally, and my brain is on simmer. Whether it is the heat or the slow pace of Southern life during the dog days, I have trouble doing much that involves effort (except, of course, for golf). But, dear reader, I owe you a newsletter for July so here it comes, belatedly, with some random thoughts and observations rather than the typical one-note article.
What some people don’t know could kill them
I have a healthy respect for alligators, not because I’ve had a bad experience but because of TV movies in my youth that gave me nightmares. I pay attention when the locals in Pawleys Island, SC, talk about alligators. I have learned, for example, that if an alligator comes after you, run in a zigzag since alligators have no ability to turn. This turns out to be fairly useless advice since I have never seen an alligator wander more than five or 10 feet from the bank of a pond or lake (and, for the record, I have seen dozens of alligators in the area south of Myrtle Beach alone).
I recall a junior golf tournament one summer about 15 years ago at Caledonia Golf and Fish Club in Pawleys Island. In my 13-year-old son’s group was another youngster who hooked a shot to the left and below one green, about five feet from a pond—and about 10 feet from a resting alligator. The kid’s father had to physically restrain him from going down to play the ball. The boy had grown up in the area and figured that if you didn’t bother the alligator, he (or she) wouldn’t bother you, although that might not be the case when brandishing a pitching wedge near the face of a gator.
Okay, I blame that on youthful ignorance, but a recent incident at Pawleys Plantation Golf Club shows that adults can be even dumber. I was paired with three golfers visiting from South Africa—there is no word in Afrikaans for “alligator” but there is for crocodile—and, at the par 3 3rd hole, which features a long bunker about 50 yards short of the green, there was a mother alligator resting in the bunker with her baby. We hit our shots well over the gators and onto and beside the green, and before I proceeded forward in my cart, one of the South Africans was already out of his, cell phone in hand, walking toward the gators. He got within 10 feet of them at which point I shouted in a hoarse whisper, “Stop…and walk slowly backwards.” He waved me off, took the photo and returned to his cart. At the green, he asked me what the fuss was about. I told him to never mess with a gator, especially when one is guarding a young one, and I thought it instructive to tell him how a gator can drag a human into a pond and go into a death roll until its prey is either exhausted or drowned. Clearly, my South African partner had missed the alligator episode on Wild Kingdom.
Golf community costs are relative; you get what you pay for
I had an interesting discussion a couple of days ago with friends who live a few doors down from us in our condo building at Pawleys Plantation. We and our neighbors have been blessed for the 20 years that we have owned the condo that only one unit has been rented to vacationers, and then only over the course of a couple of years. The couple I was talking with lives next door to that previously rented unit, and they indicated the experience was not a good one—noise, cars parked randomly, that kind of thing. They indicated that if any of the rest of the owners in the adjacent condos were to sell to people who rented out their units on a short-term basis, then they would find another place to live.
Fair enough, but a second reason for them to consider departing was the HOA (Homeowner Association) fees. At Pawleys Plantation, condo owners pay quarterly dues not only for their condos but also an overall fee to the community’s HOA. The total of all HOA payments amounts to about $2,700 annually; in my experience, that is competitive with the dozens of other semi-private golf communities I have reviewed. Most of our HOA expense is for a guarded gate at the entrance off US Highway 17, and when I asked my friends if they’d be willing to give up the guarded gate to pay lower HOA fees, they quickly said, “Of course not. We like having the gate.”
Best Golf Community? The Play’s the Thing
I am often asked to name my favorite golf community, a question I always duck with a stock response: “It depends.” As indicated above, the fees where my wife and I have maintained a vacation home at Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC, for most of the last 20 years are reasonable, the golf course is never boring, and our condo safe, secure and looked after by kind neighbors for the many weeks we are not in residence.
The “best” golf communities are those that most closely match a couple’s top requirements. Some are a matter of choice but most of the top ones are a matter of necessity. For example, if you have a history of medical issues, you would be well advised to choose a community close to a highly ranked hospital and the excellent doctors it attracts. If you plan to host friends and family at your new golf community home, or expect to do a significant amount of traveling in retirement (or you still have a few years of work-related travel), an efficient airport within, say, an hour will be important.
But you are, after all, going to live in a golf community, and the quality of golf will also be a strong determining factor in your choice. For those who plan to play golf a few times a week, the quality of the course inside the gates will be the most important consideration. If you appreciate diversity in your golf experiences, then a community with more than one golf course—or multiple options nearby—should be high on your list. When you visit golf communities in one area, make sure to play as many of the most well reviewed golf courses, both inside and outside the gates, as possible. For those who prefer a single golf course that is challenging enough to hold your interest through multiple plays, make sure you do just that—play the course a few times. That’s all it should take to learn whether the layout and conditions will keep you at attention through day after day if you are a golf glutton.
Larry Gavrich Founder & Editor Home On The Course, LLC