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Home On The Course, premiere issue
Welcome to the premiere issue of Home On The Course. Whether you are looking for a retirement or vacation home or are one of the hundreds of real estate professionals I have met, I trust you will find something of value in each monthly issue. For those who have been planning to move to a golf community in a warm place, the glass could very well be half-full in terms of prices. Since the irrational exuberance that preceded 2005, prices have dropped by 25% and more in some high-quality communities. And sales in some of the communities are starting to pick up, so the bargains may not last too long. Do not expect hype or promotion in this or future issues of Home On The Course. If communities or golf courses I visit deserve praise, I’ll certainly give them their due. If criticism is in order, count on that as well. If you see something of interest here or at GolfCommunityReviews.com and want more information, please contact me. And if you agree that this is a good time to begin the process of looking for a home on the course, I will do the research for you, identify qualified professionals who can assist you and I will work my heart out to help you find your perfect vacation or retirement home. I will never charge you a fee or obligate you in any way, and any information you share will be treated in the strictest confidence. Contact me at editor@GolfCommunityReviews.com or by phone at (860) 675-1491. Enjoy this first issue of Home On The Course.
Larry Gavrich, founder and editor
Low Country Highlights
Hilton Head Island may have the notoriety for great golf communities in the Low Country of South Carolina, but off the island you will find a range of fine alternatives and terrific golf courses. Below is a small sample (see accompanying article).
Most of the homes along the Greg Norman course in Oldfield, near Beaufort, include separated garage areas, and many of those have offices or living quarters above them.
The best homes at Dataw Island have views of the marsh, the water and one of the two excellent golf courses -- one by Tom Fazio, one by Arthur Hills.
The 19th hole (clubhouse) at Colleton River in Bluffton has the best view of the Pete Dye layout and the river beyond. Another well-regarded 18, by Jack Nicklaus, is just next door.
One of the par 3s at Berkeley Hall in Bluffton is unmistakably Tom Fazio, whose name is on more courses in the area than any other architect (and on both of them at Berkeley Hall).
Belfair, also in Bluffton and also sporting two Fazio courses, features bunkering with indigenous sawgrass plantings and a casually upscale atmosphere.
The Callawassie Island Club's 27 holes by Tom Fazio have been reworked in recent years to restore them to their original glory. A combination of palmetto trees and pines frame some of the well bunkered greens.
Anyone critical of Arnold Palmer's sometimes overwrought designs, as I have been, might change his mind once around the Old Tabby Links on Spring Island. The course is in impeccable condition, as you might expect in a community of million dollar homes (and up).
If you would like to see a larger version of any of the photos above, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will be happy to email the photo back to you.
High on Low Country Communities
I spent an interesting week in March among the tidal marshes and alligators of the Low Country north of Savannah. I started the week in Bluffton, just off Hilton Head Island, and gradually moved north to the Beaufort area. I preferred Beaufort for its less developed ambience and considerably fewer automobiles. The volume of traffic entering and emerging from Hilton Head was stunning, even at 2 in the afternoon.
I played golf at Berkeley Hall and Belfair which, with the nearby Colleton River Plantation, are upscale in look and prices, with homes starting in the high six figures. Belfair and Berkeley can boast of two Tom Fazio layouts each; I only had time to play one of each, and I preferred Belfair. I regret I did not have the chance to play the Nicklaus or Dye courses at Colleton River; next time. Just off Hilton Head, Moss Creek Plantation, which is approaching its 40th birthday, has 36 holes of nice golf and more reasonably priced homes, albeit many in need of a little cosmetic touch here and there.
Oldfield and Dataw Within a half hour of Beaufort, a charming seacoast town, I visited four communities that each had something to recommend. Oldfield, whose Greg Norman golf course only lightly brushes up against the marsh, will suit especially couples who split their time between the links and the horse barn. The white fencing throughout added a sophisticated touch to the vistas from the challenging course.
Dataw Island’s Arthur Hills and Tom Fazio 18s provide an almost limitless variety of golf challenges to its residents, an active and friendly bunch. (I played the wonderful Hills course with one of them.) The long, live-oak-lined drive into the community is a warm and welcoming hint of things to come, and a state beach just six miles away is the easiest to get to from any golf community in the area. Because Dataw is at some remove from Beaufort, but still only 25 minutes, its properties were priced more reasonably than "the competition."
Callawassie and Spring Island Callawassie Island, which is a little closer to the main road than Spring Island, gives an impression of casual living, although its clubhouse buzzed with activity most of the day of my visit. The community’s 27 holes of Fazio golf –- 18 of which were recently restored to their original design and the nine others slated for the same treatment this summer –- are as classic as any the designer has produced. (I am an unabashed Fazio fan). Like Dataw, Callawassie’s real estate prices are mid-six-figure values, and if you look carefully -– and don’t mind committing to a bit of a touch up -- you could land a genuine bargain.
Callawassie shares a security gate with Spring Island, but all comparisons end there. Indeed, Spring Island is unlike other communities in the Low Country in its emphasis on privacy, sophisticated amenities and the best Arnold Palmer designed course I have played to date, Old Tabby Links. Extra touches here and there, such as the preserved plantation house ruins, a small nature museum and full-time naturalist, as well as golf course workers who hand pick offending blades of grass from some of the greens, all add up to a unique venue. You pay a price for this kind of sophistication and quality; most homes start above the $1 million mark.
If you are interested in more information about Low Country living, please email me at email@example.com or phone me at (860) 675-1491.
Avoiding the Traps when Shopping for a Golf Community Home
Shopping for a home in a golf community is not unlike playing the game we golfers love –- the key to any chance at a successful round is to avoid the hazards along the way. On some of the toughest courses, those hazards are hidden from sight; so too are the hazards that can turn an expensive real estate purchase into an expensive mistake. In this and future newsletters, we will discuss some of these “traps” and how savvy buyers can arm themselves with the equipment to avoid them. In this premiere issue of Home On The Course, we start with tips on avoiding bunker mentality.
Lots of choice: Developers don’t always show you all properties available
Developers with an inventory of unsold properties are desperate to move them. If you wander into their sales offices and ask what’s available, they may not tell you about lower priced resale listings, even though they can sell them to you. Their commission rate is lower on the re-sales and their developers are all over them to push the more expensive lots. In one North Carolina coastal community with a reputation for hiding re-sales, quarter-acre developer lots are listed at $225,000; on the same block, a resale lot of the same size is listed for $180,000.
Always check with a local real estate agent or the area’s MLS (multiple listing service) before negotiating with the developer’s agents.
Free golf membership is too good to be true
Many golf communities offer free golf club membership with the purchase of a lot or home. One club I have visited offers a $65,000 membership that includes play on its beautiful 27-hole marshland golf course, complimentary with the purchase of virtually any home in the community. That’s a great deal…if you don’t mind paying $15,000 in annual dues, about twice what the average private club assesses. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum, free golf and reasonable dues are often signals that the golf course is a cow pasture. If the golf course in your future community is important to you, make sure you play it before committing.
Connecticut Golf Guide Free for Asking
I placed my first big print ad recently in the 2009 Connecticut Golf Guide. The guide was distributed with the Hartford Courant to 100,000 subscribers. For any golfers who live in New England or plan to pass through Connecticut in the coming months, the guide is an excellent resource. I have a supply of extra copies and would be happy to share them with all who send me a note, with their mailing address. As always, I promise never to share your personal information with anyone. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(courtesy of Rob Kyff, the eminence behind the nationally syndicated “Word Watch” column)
“Golf Shot -- The ball lies on the fairway, in the bunker or in the rough. The golfer hits it onto the green, near the hole. I guarantee you that the sports commentator will never say, ‘That’s a great shot,’ but instead, ‘That’s a great golf shot.’ As opposed to a slap shot or a rifle shot or a pool shot? (Interestingly, the term [golf shot] is rarely used for a drive or putt.)”