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June 2010

Don't overplay your shots when search for a golf home



    June 2010 


 June temperatures
in some of our favorite 
golf communities 

   [All temperatures in degrees F]


Woodside Plantation
Cedar Creek Plantation
Aiken, SC

Average hi….89
Average low….65.

Briar’s Creek
Johns Island, SC (Charleston)

Average hi….87
Average low….68

The Landings
Skidaway Island, GA

Average hi….87
Average low….72

Governors Club
Chapel Hill, NC

Average hi….85
Average low….63

Glenmore Country Club
Keswick, VA

Average hi….82
Average low….62

The Governors Land
Williamsburg, VA

Average hi….83
Average low….60

Amelia Island Plantation
Fernandina Beach, FL

Average hi….88
Average low….69

Champion Hills
Hendersonville, NC

Average hi….79
Average low….57

Mountain Air
Weaverville, NC

Average hi….79
Average low….57
(Note:  Temps cited are at base of mtn.)

Wachesaw Plantation
Murrells Inlet, SC

Average hi…84
Average low…67

Thornblade Club
Greer, SC

Average hi…84
Average low…63

The Hills of Lakeway
Austin, TX

Average hi….90
Average low….71

Callaway Gardens
Pine Mountain, GA

Average hi….89
Average low….68

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  --  Larry Gavrich, Editor


Don’t overplay your shots
when searching for a golf home

   I hit what, for me, was a near perfect drive last week, down the left side of the fairway.  From there, I had about 165 yards into a green whose only obstacle was a bunker short and right.  I had a choice on the approach:  Play safely at the left half of the green and leave myself a routine two-putt par; or play at the pin and bring the bunker into play, but with a chance at birdie.  To paraphrase “Dirty” Harry Callahan, “A good player’s got to know his limitations.”  I didn’t take Harry’s advice; I played for the pin, over-swung and came off the shot, leaving it short and right in the gnarly rough surrounding the bunker.  I made bogey on the hole.
    The process of searching for a home in a golf community, or any home for that matter, is analogous to a round of golf.  If you can avoid the hazards, and avoid being your own worst enemy when it comes to your “approach,” you will score well.  It is only when you impose too many conditions on your search and complicate the approach that you bring potential hazards into play.  You need to manage the process as you would the golf course.
   Over the course of the last five years, I have noticed that many couples looking for golf homes tend to overweigh some criteria and cross off their lists communities that suit them well except for one small (emphasis on “small”) detail.  The following are some of the most common hazards that couples bring into play.

The Airport

    In retirement, many of us will have grown children and grandchildren living hundreds of miles away, if not farther.   We will want to fly a few times a year to see the kids or make it easy for them to come visit us.  A good airport within easy reach is important, but must it provide frequent non-stop service to everywhere?  In the southeast, that essentially leaves Atlanta and Charlotte as the only options.

The time difference between non-stop and a change of planes a couple of times a year is not worth worrying about.

   Take, for example, a couple that fall in love with a community near Greenville, SC, but worry that their two trips a year to see the kids outside New York City will be burdened by the change of planes.  In reality, flights from Greenville to LaGuardia Airport total 3 hours and 19 minutes with a change of planes in Charlotte.  Non-stop flights from Charlotte are 1 hour and 43 minutes, a difference each way, compared with Greenville, of about an hour and a half.  Traffic in the Charlotte area is much more inconsistent than in Greenville, which makes the door-to-door time differences even smaller.  But the question here is whether the one-hour or so difference in flight times over a few trips a year should even be a consideration in deciding the best place to live.  I vote no.

The Taxes

    I recall a discussion with a couple from Minnesota who wanted to purchase a property to build on when they retired in about 15 years.  They insisted that it had to be in Tennessee.  “Do you have family there?” I asked.  No, they said, “Tennessee does not have a state income tax, and we don’t want our pension payments taxed.”  (Florida and Alabama also do not have state income taxes, and states like Pennsylvania do not tax retirement income.)

Look at the total state tax burden,
if not total cost of living, rather than just the state
income tax.

   Zero state income tax is a little like a sucker pin position; you go for the pin only to find out later that too good to be true was indeed that.  In looking at taxes, look at the entire tax burden, including sales tax and especially property taxes.  When Kiplinger magazine dug deeper into Pennsylvania’s seemingly generous treatment of retirement income, they found that property taxes in Harrisburg, the state capital, actually produced the greatest overall tax burden on retirees in all 50 U.S. state capitals and Washington, D.C.  “For retirees who are really retired -- that is, who haven't taken on jobs in retirement,” Kiplinger concluded, “income taxes are often the least of their worries.”  Focus on overall taxes and, indeed, total cost of living, which includes taxes and everything else for which you will spend your disposable income.

The Remote Button

Briar's Creek, Johns Island, SC
Briar's Creek, Johns Island, SC

    Après golf, most of us require the stimulation of activities outside the gates of our community, even if that means just a few good restaurants, one theater showing second-run films and, of course, a supermarket.  The ideal situation is a community that seems as if it is off by itself but is actually within a short drive of a thriving city.  The Landings at Skidaway Island is a prime example, tucked on a huge piece of property surrounded by marsh, yet only 15 minutes from downtown Savannah.  Briar’s Creek on John’s Island also seems as if it is way out there, yet you can be in downtown Charleston, SC, in less than 20 minutes.  Some Carolina mountain communities are close enough to cities like Asheville that it takes as long to get from the top of the mountain to the front gate as it does to get to center city.
    Proximities can be deceiving if you only look at one measure.  In calculating how far a community is from the nearest metropolis, ignore the brochure copy about miles and focus on drive time.  I recall a visit to the Apple Valley Golf Course in Lake Lure, in a beautiful setting less than 35 miles from Asheville.  Anyone looking at that mileage would think they could be in the city in under 45 minutes when, in reality, the drive is over an hour because of the winding mountain roads.  Get stuck behind cars whose drivers are taking in the beautiful mountain scenery and it could be much longer.  Also, consider what that trip would be like after a big dinner and a couple of glasses of wine at one of Asheville’s fine restaurants.

We’re all in this together

   Not many communities measure up to The Landings in terms of proximity to a big city.  But some who would find the proximity to Savannah appealing might otherwise find the scale of The Landings daunting (4,000+ acres, 1,500 members at its six golf clubs).  Others would find the much smaller (900 acres) Briar’s Creek perhaps a little too small. 
   Most couples I work with put the social aspects of a golf community near or at the top of their list of desirables.  Their intention is to make the community and its clubhouse the center of their social lives in retirement, and their top concern is whether current members of the club are welcoming to newcomers.  But many couples, especially those who have lived near urban environments for the past few decades, are also looking to replicate outside the gates of their retirement home the services they enjoyed in their primary homes.

Residents become an even tighter knit group the farther they are from "civilization."

   Finding the perfect balance is a challenge.  It is only natural that many entertainment options outside the gates can actually keep residents from the kind of bonding that occurs in more remote locations where everyone tends to depend on the clubhouse and organized activities for most of their entertainment.  Some communities seem to strike that delicate balance, including Champion Hills in Hendersonville, NC, which has one of the most involved memberships I’ve encountered, or Governor’s Club in Chapel Hill, which is similar in its level of residential camaraderie.  Hendersonville, which provides decent healthcare and other key services, is less than 45 minutes from the more urbane Asheville.  And in 15 minutes, Governor’s Club residents can be enjoying sports events or lectures on the campuses of Duke University or the University of North Carolina, but to get to big city Raleigh is a good 45-minute drive.  In short, residents at these locations have reconciled that the nearby towns offer them virtually all they need except for their city fix, which is still within an hour or so.
   Although not a hard and fast rule, the farther an established community is from a city, the more likely the residents are to be a tight-knit group.  The guidance here is if you intend to focus your social lives inside the gates, don’t over-worry about what’s not outside the gates.

Not if, but weather…

Daniel Island, SC
Daniel Island, SC

   During Christmas week in Pawleys Island, SC, I have played golf in shorts one year and in a ski jacket and two gloves the next.  I’d settle for long pants and a light sweater, guaranteed, every year, but nothing is guaranteed about the weather, no matter where you settle.  Heck, it even rains in San Diego, just not that often.
    It is a safe bet that most people looking for retirement or vacation golf homes in the southern U.S. start with the dream of warm weather virtually year round, or close to it.  But be careful:  Temperatures are not the only factor we should consider; if they were, we’d all live in Miami or Santo Domingo.  Rain and, in some higher elevations, snow should factor into our considerations if we plan to play golf a few times a week year round.

If temperature were the only climate factor, we'd all live in Miami or Santo Domingo.

    In terms of rain in the southeastern U.S., we have good and bad news.  First the bad:  In most places, it rains at least somewhat on more than 110 days annually.  In Asheville, NC, it rains 126 days a year; Charleston, 105; Columbia, SC, 110; Greenville, SC, 118; Orlando, 116; Savannah, 111; and Wilmington, 117.  If you intend to play golf every day, then you can pick up an extra three weeks of uninterrupted play by living in Charleston rather than Asheville, but you still have about a 33% chance of some rain in Charleston on any given day.
    The good news in the southeast is that no one location is dramatically different in terms of rainfall and, therefore, you can pick your ideal place to live based on criteria other than the odds of having to unfurl your umbrella.  Nothing approaches, say, San Diego, with just 42 days of rain or, best of all, Phoenix, with only 36 rainy days.  But the Carolinas and the rest of the southeast offer other distinct advantages.
   When considering climate in the southeast, fix on the average temperature in January, the coldest month (and for those who have a problem with heat, average July temperatures).  In the above-mentioned cities, average January temperatures range from 36 degrees F in Asheville to 59 in Orlando (see accompanying sidebar for more hi and low temperatures).  Of course, there is much more that distinguish Orlando and Asheville from each other than simply how many sweaters to keep -- or not -- in your closet.

The Internet:  Friend and Enemy

   As someone who built his business entirely on an Internet foundation, I am pained to say that the torrent of information on the World Wide Web has made searching for a golf community home more complicated than it needs to be.  The Web offers lots of good information but, unfortunately, it hides under a pile of bad information.

Some web sites continue promoting even after their community clients have gone bankrupt.

    My advice is to focus only on the undeniably objective information on the web.  That means that when you visit a golf community’s home page, accept as fact the number of acres the community encompasses, who designed their golf course and the price ranges on properties; but ignore all other promotional broadcasts, including testimonials by residents and the copywriters about what a wonderful community it is and what a privilege it is to live there.  The copywriters are paid to do this and the residents have a vested financial interest (the values of their homes) in new blood coming to the community.
   Approach also with caution those web sites that are paid a fee to tout specific communities.  Some of these sites may appear to be providing information only, but they are unapologetically positive, making all the communities they promote seem like paradise.  Some of the information may also be dated; these Web sites don't always remove quickly those clients that have closed operations, especially if the promotional fees were pre-paid. 
   Understand also that once you request information from a specific community, you are entered into their data base until such time as you stop taking their phone calls or otherwise indicate a terminal lack of interest.  I still get calls from communities years after reviewing them; they can’t seem to understand that my interest was professional, and that I am not in the market for a home there.
   If you are considering a search for a golf home, I am happy to provide a free consultation.  I will take you through a series of questions on the phone, or via email if you prefer, to determine your criteria for a vacation or retirement home.  From that conversation, we will consider which part of the southern U.S. will best fit your requirements, and then I will go to work matching your interests with specific golf communities in those areas.  My services are always free; if you purchase a property with my help, I am paid a referral fee by the community in which you buy or from the real estate agent who represents you.  However, you are under no obligation whatsoever. 

   You can email me by clicking here or phone 860-675-1491 (office) or 860-205-0464 (cell).



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