Searching high and low (and in between) for a golf home on the coast
If you are thinking of combining a vacation at the beach this summer with a little prospecting for a future golf home, here are some areas not far from the ocean that you might consider. We’ve grouped local golf communities at the high, middle and more reasonable ends of the price spectra. Prices reflect current homes for sale listed at each community’s web site or courtesy of the local MLS.
Ford Plantation, Richmond Hill, GA Homes from $495K to $3 million Lots from $95K to $1.2 million Golf by Pete Dye; 18 holes
The Landings, Skidaway Island, GA Homes from $165K to $2.7 million Lots from $45K to $1.2 million Golf by Fazio, Palmer, Byrd, Hills; 108 holes
Savannah Quarters, Pooler, GA Homes from $140s to $600s Lots from $60K to $200k Golf by Greg Norman, 18 holes
Spring Island, Okatie, SC Homes from $200K to $625K Lots from $10K to $649K Golf by Palmer Design; 18 holes
Dataw Island, St. Helena, SC Homes from $180K to $1.6 million Lots from $3K to $549K Golf by T. Fazio, A. Hills; 36 holes
Callawassie Island, Okatie, SC Homes from $150K to $945 Lots from $1k to $649K Golf by T. Fazio; 27 holes
Charleston, SC (Mt. Pleasant area)
Daniel Island, SC Homes from $369K to $4.9 million Lots from $195K to $910K Golf by T. Fazio and Rees Jones; 36 holes
Rivertowne CC, Mt. Pleasant, SC Homes from $359K to $1.5 million Lots from $89K to $438K Golf by A. Palmer, 18 holes
Snee Farm, Mt. Pleasant, SC Homes from $138K to $1.25 million Lots for sale – None Golf by G. Cobb, 18 holes
Myrtle Beach, SC (South Strand)
DeBordieu Colony, Georgetown, SC Homes from $469K to $2.7 million Lots from $113K to $2.6 million Golf by Pete & P.B. Dye, 18 holes
Reserve at Litchfield, Litchfield, SC Homes from $420K to $1.3 million Lots from $139K to $900K Golf by Greg Norman, 18 holes
Wachesaw Plantation, Murrells Inlet, SC Homes from $169K to $839K Lots from $79K to $200K Golf by T. Fazio, 18 holes
Bald Head Island, NC Homes from $239K to $2.9 million Lots from $38K to $3.3 million Golf by G. Cobb/T. Cate, 18 holes
St. James Plantation, Southport, NC Homes from $200K to $1.1 million Lots from $27K to $499K Golf by Nicklaus Design, T. Cate, P.B. Dye, H. Irwin; 72 holes
Winding River Plantation, Bolivia, NC Homes from $270K to $950K Lots from $20K to $425K Golf by F. Couples, 27 holes
Landfall, Wilmington, NC Homes from $340K to $4 million Lots from $110K to $2.6 million Golf by P. Dye, J. Nicklaus, 45 holes
Porters Neck, Wilmington, NC Homes from $275K to $3 million Lots from $69K to $1.6 million Golf by T. Fazio, 18 holes
Brunswick Forest, Leland, NC Homes from $204K to $599K Lots from $69K to $139K Golf by T. Cate, 18 holes
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Visiting Hours: Make the most of your golf community discovery trips
You can learn a lot about a golf community from its web site, including details about the golf course, the prices of specific golf homes for sale, the roster of amenities available, and how far the community is from important services, like a good airport, supermarket, restaurants and shopping mall. Then when you visit for a day or weekend, you learn more, like whether the golf course suits your game, details on membership and homeowner association fees, and whether that five-mile trip to the supermarket is clogged with enough traffic to make it a 30-minute round trip investment. But the one thing that is particularly difficult to learn in a day or two visit, and what many customers ask me, is, “Will we like the people who live in the community?” For that you really have to spend quality time in the community – not necessarily a long time, but enough to give you a chance to interact with your future neighbors and fellow club members and to ask some tough questions about life inside the gates. Of course, the best way to confirm your future neighbors will also be your friends is to stay on site for at least a couple of weeks, making a point of playing golf and dining with a range of residents; or, if possible, rent a home in the community for six months or more (six months is typically the minimum many communities permit, if the community offers any rentals at all) to get a full picture. But that scenario involves putting your furniture in storage, living in someone else’s idea of a house, and a number of other niggling hassles. Few people opt for that commitment. A one-day visit to Carolina Colours in New Bern, NC, recently convinced me it is possible to get to know the residents in a community over a one- or two-day visit, if you pick your timing correctly and insist on exposure to a diverse sampling of your future neighbors. Don’t worry about being pushy; the developer (or real estate agency) wants to sell you a home and will bend over backward to accommodate you. Here are some ways for you to make the most of your visit to your future golf community, using my own couple of days at Carolina Colours as an example.
Get it straight from the horse’s mouth
Ken Kirkman developed Carolina Colours and he lives on site. Residents frequently seek him out in the clubhouse or on the grounds to ask him questions about progress with amenities and other issues. He will meet with anyone seriously considering a home at Carolina Colours. That’s the way it should be with any developer who is as proud as Kirkman is of the community he built. He might even show you around the golf course, as he did me, hole by hole, and share the substance of the conversations he had with Bill Love, the designer, about making it both a player friendly and challenging layout. No matter what golf community you are considering, insist on meeting the developer if he is still involved, or at least with the president of the homeowners association. If they decline or are too busy, seriously consider choosing another community to visit.
Play the golf course -– twice if possible
If you are going to play golf at least one day a week in your new community, do not make a visit without playing the golf course -– twice if possible, especially if the layout includes blind shots or otherwise tricky plays. Arrange for the real estate office to match you up with one or two people from the men’s or women’s golf association -– most golf communities have them and they play twice a week, typically. Ask the golfers you play with direct questions about the range of handicaps in the groups and how new members are paired up during their initial rounds. Ladies, unless you hit the ball as far as Annika Sorenstam, pay particular attention to “forced carries” over lakes and marsh. The ladies I met at Carolina Colours raved about the golf course because, with one small exception, there are no forced carries from the ladies tees or on approaches to greens (if you are judicious about placing your second or third shots). If the course that interests you is semi-private, ask tough questions about member privileges, especially how far in advance you can make a tee time compared with members of the public.
That’s what future friends are for
One quick way to gauge the friendliness of residents of a golf community is to watch and listen to how they act when they are together. (And to gauge how many show up for community events.) Carolina Colours hosts a gathering for residents every Friday evening. I attended a recent Friday which was preceded by a presentation by former ESPN producer Chris Martens about the Fab Five of golf –- Snead, Hogan, Nicklaus, Palmer and Player. A group of about 50 attended the presentation and then the dinner, and you could sense how glad they were to be there and how animated they were in each other’s company (the decibel level was pretty high). I sat with a group that included three related couples –- the men married three sisters –- who visited Carolina Colours together two years ago and all purchased properties there. (One bought a home where the other two couples are living as their own homes are built.) They have been on site for months and are fully integrated into the flow of the community. Three other couples I spoke with were early purchasers five years ago and intend to stay for years to come. The lesson here is to pick a time to visit when there will be an event on site and where you can not only assess how residents get along, but you can buttonhole them with questions about life in the community.
If you want to live with nice people, look for “good” people
Of course, you want to live surrounded by “nice” people, but how can you size up whether people are nice on a one- or two-day visit, or whether they are just pumping sunshine your way in the hopes of stabilizing their real estate values with another sale in their community? The answer is to look for the “good” people, those who have decided to stay active in retirement by sharing their energy and expertise for the betterment of the golf community and the larger local community. Good people are almost exclusively nice people. One resident I sat next to at dinner, Ed, didn’t wait long after arriving at Carolina Colours a year ago to use his energy and talents for the betterment of New Bern. In just the last year, he has helped the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity build two homes for local citizens, and every few days he drives local military veterans to doctor’s appointments. He is also one of the first to be called when there are cleanup or other projects on the golf course and around the clubhouse. “The Habitat projects have actually helped me to understand the construction process,” says Ed, who is one of those brothers building a new home at Carolina Colours.
Dine in the clubhouse, a few times
The quality of local restaurants will be an important factor in most couples’ decisions on a golf community, but if you intend to be a member of the club, the food in the clubhouse will be of greater consequence (especially if the club assesses a food “minimum”). I recall visiting friends at Governor’s Club in Chapel Hill some years ago, and they suggested running up to the clubhouse for some “takeout” we could eat on the deck at their home. The food was superbly prepared, the equal of many fine, high-end restaurants. Food minimums essentially force you to dine in the clubhouse a couple of times per month. If you are going to spend more than $1,000 on club food annually and want a restaurant to show off to your friends and family, make sure you dine a couple of times in the clubhouse restaurant during your “discovery” visit. Carolina Colours does not have dinner service (or food minimums) but it does offer, one night per week, the aforementioned buffet on Friday night. What a deal it is, both in quality and price. Recently, I joined about 50 Carolina Colours residents and dined on big, meaty pork ribs, tender bourbon sauced brisket, corn and lima beans, a severely “loaded” baked potato, a salad with homemade dressings, fresh baked breads and, for dessert, two different kinds of fancy cupcakes that could have been on a Food Network competition show. Chef Katherine, who runs the golf shop snack bar and caters parties for residents who can’t get enough of her food, conjured up a bunch of sugarless cream puffs made special for developer Ken Kirkman’s birthday. Actually, before dinner, our foursome had a taste of Katherine’s talents after the 9th hole. I ordered a hamburger so good that I wasn’t angry having to finish it quickly at the 10th tee box and then making my worst swing of the day. When you visit a community, make sure to have a couple of meals, even if one of them is merely a hamburger. It may give you a taste of what lies in store.
If you are in the early stages of searching for a golf home, or just thinking about where you might want to relocate in the next few years, please contact me and I will be happy to answer your questions and provide some initial ideas of which golf communities best match your requirements. Better yet: Fill out our online questionnaire; once we receive your information -- always in confidence and never shared without your permission -- we can start the process to find you your dream home on the course. Click here for access to our Golf Home Survey.