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February 2014

 
    February 2014

Close-to-Perfection
Golf Communities
Missing Just One Ingredient


   Rare is the golf community where you can have it all.  But some come very close, and below is our list of those that would offer the perfect recipes if they each weren’t lacking one ingredient (we recommend them, nevertheless):

Reynolds Plantation,
Greensboro, GA,

What it has:  Just about everything, including six world-class golf courses, a beautiful lake, a Ritz Carlton resort, university lecturers, wine tastings, residents from all over.

What it hasn’t:  A town of any size or definition, restaurants beyond a local saloon (good but crowded, understandably). Big supermarket, though, just outside gates, and a hospital on the way.

The Landings, Savannah, GA
What it has:  Six well-tended golf courses, proximity (20 minutes) to Savannah and all its attractions, three clubhouses with excellent food, 8,000 residents engaged in many activities.

What it hasn’t:  Proximity to a beach (Tybee Island is 40 minutes, but a Landings boat captain will run you out to a secluded island about 15 minutes away).  At peak times, facilities can be crowded, but you will never think 8,000 folks live on the 4,800 acres.

Wachesaw Plantation,
Murrells Inlet, SC

 What it has:  A classic Tom Fazio private course that is cheap to join; some of the best $ per square foot prices on single-family homes in the Carolina Low Country; 10-minute access to one of the best beaches in SC; five minutes to shopping and a row of seafood restaurants.

What it hasn’t:  Culture nearby (except for Cineplex).  Myrtle Beach area known more for boardwalk attractions than museums (there’s one art museum).  Two-mile drive in from Highway 17 is not the most attractive.

Daniel Island, Charleston, SC
What it has:  The “town center” concept, with a walk from some homes to shopping, restaurants and professional tennis stadium.  Golf club is impeccably run, and Fazio and Rees Jones golf courses are good enough to host pro tournaments.  Any community within 15 minutes of Charleston is a winner.

What it hasn’t:  Reasonable club joining fees, which are around $80,000.  But fine public golf courses are nearby.

Brunswick Forest, Leland, NC
What it has:  Financial stability, large and active fitness complex, sharply priced real estate, and one of the best “new” golf courses on the east coast in the last 10 years.  10 minutes to active city of Wilmington.

What it hasn’t:  Privacy.  You’ll share Cape Fear National with the public and vacationers, and some homes are close enough to almost shake hands with your neighbor.

The Reserve at Lake Keowee,
Sunset, SC

What it has:  An organized approach to development, giving it a rustic and un-crowded personality beside a breathtaking lake.  Nicklaus golf is outstanding and host to Web.com tour event.  Brains behind original development still live on site.

What it hasn’t:  Proximity.  Clemson is closest town, and it’s 25 minutes away and not exactly brimming with top restaurants, despite the world-class university.

Wintergreen Resort,
Nellysford, VA

What it has:  Year-round activities with golf in summer (45 excellent holes) and skiing in winter. And new owner, Jim Justice of Greenbrier fame, is pumping in millions to upgrade infrastructure.  On a few January days, you can ski in the a.m. and play golf in the afternoon.

What it hasn’t:  Harmony.  A mix of full-time residents and resort guests and the switch from one season to another generate a slightly frenetic feel.  And it’s remote, almost an hour from the wonderful university town of Charlottesville.


   I have established close working relationships with real estate professionals in these communities and many others across the South.  If you would like more information about what helps these and other golf communities in the region approach perfection and how they might be right for you, please contact me at editor@homeonthecourse.com.

The Art of Compromise:
Can you have it all in your dream golf home?

   I am currently working in behalf of a customer from Maryland looking for a $200,000 golf community condo, preferably furnished, on one of the coasts of Florida.  He wants to rent out the unit on a part-time basis to help with his monthly payments.  That’s easy; there are literally thousands of such units on the east and Gulf coasts of the Sunshine State.  But my customer’s search criteria also include a distance of two miles or less from his condo to the beach, and that reduces his options dramatically; the number of golf communities that close to the ocean are limited and, frankly, the best ones will be priced out of his range.  
   In talking with a real estate agent in the Fort Pierce area, she pointed to one community with ocean-view condos but only a nine-hole golf course.  Second choice is a community with an 18-hole Arthur Hills designed course and condos well under my customer’s $200k limit, but it is five miles from the ocean.
   I’m going to keep searching, and I am confident we will find a unit that fits all his criteria, but the challenge to find the perfect golf home reminds me of the Rolling Stones classic, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” at least not everything you want.
   A couple that finds a golf community that checks every single box is fortunate indeed.  Virtually all the excellent communities we know are missing one or more important ingredients. (See sidebar). If you are willing to compromise on one of those ingredients, you will still be quite happy with your final choice.

   
The fair choice is the best choice

    This is especially the case with couples in which one plays golf and one does not.  Golfers want courses they can play happily at least a few times per week, one that suits their eye and sense of challenge.  These preferred courses, though, aren’t always located where the non-playing spouse has enough to occupy his or her time.  Fairness should rule in this case:  There are great golf course choices virtually everywhere, but spouses stuck in remote areas of the mountains, say, will get awfully tired of the view if mountain gazing is most of what is supposed to sustain them.  Therefore, in the case of a husband who prefers mountain courses, let’s say, and a wife who likes the beach, they could very well be happy in the Low Country of the Carolinas, in a community with a fine golf course (or two) and a beach nearby.  Okay, so it’s not the ideal golf course for him, but someone will be happy.


Plenty to do…inside the gates

   There is a reason why some golf communities load up with lush amenities and go to the expense of providing meals virtually every night of the week in their clubhouses.  That is because there is not much available just outside the gates.  The Cliffs Communities around Lake Keowee and The Reserve at Lake Keowee, for example, are beautiful places, upscale in every good sense of the word, but the nearest town of consequence is Clemson, home to the university of the same name, a pleasant enough burg but lacking in a choice of fine restaurants or other entertainment options (and forget trying for a reservation during a football weekend).  Greensboro, GA, home to Reynolds Plantation, another sprawling community with plenty of on-site action, including a Ritz Carlton resort hotel, isn’t exactly brimming with restaurants and entertainment options.  Therefore, the compromise when you opt for a golf community like Reynolds and the others with plenty to do inside the gates is that you may have to travel an hour or more to a Greenville or Atlanta for a concert, fine dining or, in some cases, a hospital.


Near or far:  Getting to the kids, and vice versa

    One of the toughest decisions a retired couple makes is moving many miles away from their children and grandkids.  I’ve met some couples that would not think of moving more than a short car drive from their grandchildren; they see their major retirement activity as babysitting.  But the vast majority, who love their kids and grandkids every bit as much, are happy to be a half-day’s drive away, which they see as close enough to react to an emergency back home but far enough to remove the temptation to co-opt themselves into being a constant presence.  But eight hours or so away from your children may be too close to take advantage of the warmer climates of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida, distances farther than your predetermined radius.
    But there is a way to satisfy the desire for a warmer climate and the ability to get most places within, say, eight hours, and that is by moving to a golf community not too far from a good regional airport or major airline hub, like Charlotte, Raleigh, Tampa, and Atlanta.  Even regional airports like Charleston, for example, offer enough daily flights to major northern cities to put a couple within a half-day return home.  (For example, Charleston International Airport provides eight daily non-stop flights to the New York City area and three to Chicago.)  That also increases the likelihood the kids will visit you in the summer.


Where the kids are not all right

    While we are on the subject of young children, there are some couples who spent many years raising their kids and want some “alone” time in retirement, in the company of retired folks only.  Some of them believe, mistakenly, that an age-restricted community, typically 55 and older, is the only way to escape the school buses and screeching toddlers at the pool.  Actually, there are many communities that are not age-restricted; however, given their locations, they could very well be.  These tend to be in remote locations where, if there are any schools, they are in rural areas not exactly magnets for young, upwardly mobile families.  In those cases where a family -– let’s say mom and/or dad are doctors working in the local hospital –- are looking for a place to live, they are unlikely to choose a golf community where the average age is 60 and the number of school-age children is nil.  They too want to be with “their own kind” (i.e. other families with young children).
    There are many fine, upscale communities populated almost entirely by retirees that become much younger in the summers, when residents invite their children and grandchildren to join them for a week or more cavorting on the adjacent lake, in the mountains or on the local beach.  Even age-restricted communities permit a couple of weeks visit for the grandchildren of residents.  A couple that wants to be away from young children will, one way or another, have to compromise.


Yin and yang of golf and real estate

    It is good to have a not-to-exceed price in mind for the house you will buy and the club you will join, but it is equally good to keep those numbers fungible.  By that I mean you should consider one total number for both.  For example, a couple pinpointing, say, The Landings near Savannah for their golf home may consider they have $500,000 to spend on a home and $10,000 to join the golf club.  Strictly adhering to those numbers would mean that The Landings is out of play for the couple because the joining fees are $30,000.  But if I worked with the couple to find a nice home at, say, $450,000 –- there are some wonderful values available at that price and lower -- the club joining fees would keep them under their total limit.
    Dues and fees –- the costs of ownership in a golf community, along with taxes -– are another area where the sum of the parts is the important number, not the components themselves.  In some golf communities, club dues may seem high but homeowner association fees may come in well under a buyer’s expectations.  Taken together, the two components may amount to less than the total carrying costs a couple had in mind.

Augusta Golf Alive and Well,
and not Just the First Week in April 

       Quick.  When I say "Augusta," you know you immediately think of that perennial first weekend in April, the blooming azaleas, the carpet-like green grass.  Now let me reverse the equation and say "Golf Communities."  Do you ever think about Augusta, arguably America's home of classy golf?  Probably not, but perhaps you should.
       Claire Stone, one of the Augusta area's top Realtors, took me on a tour recently of five of the area's most popular golf neighborhoods, and they include a course named for one Jones and designed by another (Jones Creek), and the only 27-hole private layout, Champions Retreat, designed by golfing greats and former Masters winners Nicklaus, Player and Palmer (nine holes each).  It rained all day, ruining any chance I might have had to put the courses through their paces, but I will return; all the neighborhoods were nicely landscaped, the sturdy, mostly brick homes on the large side and situated attractively in the peaks and valleys of the rolling terrain.
       As we drove through one of the communities, Claire pointed at a particular large and well-sited home overlooking the golf course and told me the owner has it rented for Masters Week -- at $37,000.  Apparently there are many winners in the Augusta area the first week in April, besides the guy who winds up with the green jacket.

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