Connecticut resident Mark Twain once said, "If you don't like the weather in New England now, wait a few minutes." As I write this, the temperature has risen in my town of Avon to 55 degrees. It has begun to rain and will do so pretty much for the next 24 hours, with high winds that have compelled the local energy company to warn us of impending power outages. Tomorrow morning, temperatures will reach 61 degrees and then steadily drop to 25 overnight. The only good news is that the snow, after turning to slush, will disappear -- until Twain's prophecy about the weather in these parts comes true again, and the cycle repeats itself.
Yet, there will be golf in March, even earlier for a few hardy souls; and there will be a 2021 for all of us much better than the year just passed. To you and yours, have a wonderful holiday season and, above all, stay safe now and in the new year.
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The end of the year is typically when magazines and web sites unload their lists of the "bests" of the year. The categories are way too broad -- best cities, best states, best golf commiunities -- and the criteria often subjective, if not deceptive. (Too many such lists include mostly advertisers in the magazine, and one is left wondering if the "editors" even visited any of the communities they chose.) My choices are subjective as well, but based on visits; and no community has ever paid me a dime for promoting it.
In the coming days, I will continue to summarize those communities that are best at one particular criterion.
Carolina Colours, New Bern, NC
In my new book, Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home, I reference the occasional question from my clients: “How will we know if people will like us in the community we choose?” My impertinent response is typically, “Well, how likable are you?” I then go on to explain that I have never encountered an unfriendly atmosphere in any of the more than 150 communities I have visited. Residents encourage new blood in their communities because it stabilizes the real estate market and pumps up the values of their own homes. They also recall how their fellow residents made them feel, literally, at home in their early days in the community.
In short, you should have no worries about your neighbors being unfriendly in the golf community you choose. (Note: You might occasionally find an unfriendly next-door neighbor; if worried about that, ring their doorbell before you make an offer on the house next door.)
The friendliest community I have found in my 15-years of visits was Carolina Colours in New Bern, NC, after developer Ken Kirkman invited me to dinner with about 60 of his fellow residents. In pre-pandemic days, on most Fridays, the chef in the clubhouse at Carolina Colours prepared a buffet dinner at which residents could share a meal, talk about whatever was on their minds, and arrange for whatever social activities were of interest. I sat at a table with four couples and instantly felt comfortable as the conversation shuttled between volunteer activities in the community, the different geographies they hailed from and their excitement at the prospect of the new pool at the clubhouse being finished that week.
My experience is a good lesson for any couple contemplating a move to a golf community. Make sure your real estate agent arranges either for a discovery package – stay on site, be treated like a member, meet with other couples – or for you to at least play golf and/or share a meal with a couple who was in your position years earlier. If you are likable, they’ll definitely like you.
Carolina Colours, New Bern, NC
Single-family homes for sale from $325,000 to $630,000; lots from $55,000
Golf: 18 holes by Bill Love (semi-private)
Golf communities nearby: Greenbrier (Emerald Golf Course), Fairfield Harbour, Riverbend, Taberna and New Bern CC (Trent Woods)
Notes: Carolina Colours developer Ken Kirkman tells me that the clubhouse is providing Friday night takeaway dinners, but the traditional buffet sit-down will re-commence once it is safe to do so.
I am pleased to announced that the electronic (ePub) version of Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home is now available at the Amazon, Barnes&Noble and Apple Books online stores. The paperback version has been available since early November.
The "Back Nine" is a tongue-in-cheek expression those of us of a certain age who play golf use to describe the last halves of our lives. For dedicated golfers, it is a more meaningful expression than the traditional "Golden Years." Glorious Back Nine is a step-by-step guide to finding a golf community that matches your requirements and helps you avoid those those "traps" that can slow your progress just as, on a golf course, it can impede your score. The book is the only one on the market written specifically about golf communities.
Glorious Back Nine is available for Amazon's Kindle reader, whose app is free for download to your electronic device, and for the Barnes&Noble Nook reader and Apple eBooks. The electronic version is priced at $5.99 and the paperback version at $9.99. Both versions include a list of more than 125 golf communities, most of which I have visited and can recommend.
Anyone who has followed me over the last 15 years knows how little regard I have for rankings of best places to live, whether it be cities, towns or golf communities. It is a fool’s exercise to identify “best” when everyone’s definition is different. It is even more foolish to follow such guidance. However, I don’t see anything wrong with identifying those singular characteristics that my clients and readers might find important in the search for a golf home. With that in mind, and in lieu of year-end “awards,” I offer here and over coming days a few communities that are well rounded but could be known especially for one big thing.
Closest Golf Community to an Interesting City
Tie: The Landings, Savannah, GA, and Landfall, Wilmington, NC
I would have preferred to name just one community in this category, but The Landings and Landfall each, in their own ways, deserve top status. Both are just 20 minutes from the center of an interesting city, although most would find Savannah a more magnetic city. The Landings, whose official name includes "on Skidaway Island," might have been the sole winner but for one small flaw that is a big deal to some -- its distance from a beach. At 35 minutes by car to Tybee Island, the nearest ocean beach, The Landings won’t appeal quite as much to sand- and sun-worshippers as will Landfall. But The Landings' six excellent golf courses nip Landfall’s own outstanding 45 holes of Dye and Nicklaus layouts. And you won’t find more conveniently placed sand and surf than Wrightsville Beach, less than 10 minutes out the back gate of Landfall.
In terms of real estate, both communities offer a wide range, with the older homes in The Landings priced beginning in the $300s but many in need of a cosmetic update. After all, the community has passed its 45th birthday, making it about 15 years Landfall’s senior. Wilmington may lack Savannah's size and legendary atmosphere, but it manages to blend the services and entertainments of modern life with the classic charm of a moss-draped Southern city.
The Arthur Hills Palmetto course at The Landings on Skidaway Island, Savannah, GA
The Landings, Savannah, GA
Single-family homes from $316,000 to $3 million
Golf: Six courses (private) by Arnold Palmer, Tom Fazio, Arthur Hills and Willard Byrd
Other golf communities nearby: Ford Plantation (Richmond), Savannah Quarters (Pooler) and Southbridge (Savannah)
Landfall, Wilmington, NC
Single-family homes from $550,000 to $5.5 million
Golf: 45 holes (private), 18 by Pete Dye, 27 by Jack Nicklaus
Other golf communities nearby: Porters Neck, Brunswick Forest (Leland), Compass Pointe (Leland), Magnolia Greens (Leland), Castle Bay (Hampstead).
Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home, mentions both these communities. My new book, available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, will make a great holiday gift for the retiree in your family considering a golf community home.
You might have resented being told, “Go play with someone your own age” when you were young. Well, what goes round comes round, and past the age of 50, playing with folks your own age can be pretty good advice. In the December issue of Home On The Course, my free newsletter, I report on the Senior Golfers of America, a group that plays all over the world. Membership is surprisingly affordable.
As I have done every four years since 2008, I take a look a Presidential election voting patterns in Southeastern counties that are home to popular golf communities. All precincts are reporting, and this year’s results seem to follow the pattern of past cycles, with a few surprising exceptions. Also, I include a warning to those who may equate no state income taxes with a low cost of living. A handy chart compares the overall cost of living in states North and South, with a few surprising results that may cause a few wannabe Floridians some taxing moments.
If you like surprises, the December newsletter is for you. Subscribe now and you will receive it in your inbox tomorrow (Friday). If you miss the launch, just contact me and I will sign you up and forward you the December edition.
Tom Ward writes about golf for the Sports Page Weekly, which is followed by more than 150,000 sports fans in the Dallas/Forth Worth area. Tom, who like me, is a member of the Golf Writers Association of American, asked me for a review copy on my new book, Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home. He liked it enough to post a review of it in the most recent edition of the online magazine. If the type is too small below, you can read it here. Glorious Back Nine is now on sale at Amazon.com in a paperback version. An eBook is coming later this month.
I am pleased to report that one of the best sources of information for retired persons has posted an article I wrote about the elements of a successful search for a golf home, all of which I detail in my new book, Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home. I visit TopRetirements.com often to not only check on real retirees comments about where they live, and where they want to live, but also to participate in some of those lively discussions myself.
My article, which was posted at the site last Sunday evening, identifies five of the most critical decisions a couple must make on the path to their dream golf home. They are: deciding first on general location and whether it will be near or far from a city (or somewhere in between); what to do if the couple can’t initially agree on location (divorce is not an option); why so many non-golfers choose a golf community; the importance to not take rankings (e.g. best places to live) seriously; and to focus on cost of living and not state income tax.
Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home is currently available in paperback for about the cost of a sleeve of Titleist ProVIs ($9.99) at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. The eBook version will be available later this month. Glorious Back Nine is the only book on the market for those interested in finding a golf community home and the lifestyle that is possible there. For anyone who lets me know they have purchased the book, I will be pleased to send an autographed label you can affix to the inside of Glorious Back Nine.
The following is an excerpt from my new book, Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home. The paperback is available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com for $9.99 and will be published in digital format in early December. Buy it here.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars may be wrapped into the purchase of a golf home, but the search process is deceptively easy. It starts with a simple consideration that many of us of a certain age studied in grade school and junior high school in the 1950s and ‘60s —geography, or more specifically, topography, the “arrangement of the natural and artificial physical features of an area.” Topography in the Sunbelt drives climate, and climate is the top reason that retired persons in the North seek the comfort of southern winters. (Cost of living and lifestyle round out the top three reasons, and not necessarily in that order.)
Once a couple decides whether the mountains, the coast or a lakeside community inland is their preferred choice for climate and topography, the process of finding a home can move quickly, and without controversy, even if one half of the couple plays golf and the other does not. The next step is to decide what issues in your lifestyle and health profiles, if any, demand access to specific services. If one or both of you suffer from some pre-existing health condition, or if you are perfectly healthy and active and require proximity to many entertainment options, such as a large university for continuing education courses, or a big airport to make travel home and to far-flung locations easier, then a golf community near an urban area will match your preferences. If you are looking for a quieter, more contemplative location, you can find plenty of remotely located communities to satisfy that lifestyle. In general, far-flung communities are also considerably less expensive than their near-urban counterparts in terms of real estate and such carrying costs as taxes, homeowner association dues and other costs of living.
Imagination and flexibility are key ingredients of a successful search for the perfect golf home. Therefore, you won’t find much advice in these pages about what not to do. However, I cannot say this strongly enough: Do not start your search by looking for a specific house that suits you. Couples looking for the perfect house on the Internet before they reconcile the issues of geography, lifestyle and health considerations are courting trouble and are doomed to a long and unproductive search.
Everything in its proper order, in life and in the search for a golf home.
You can order the 156-page Glorious Back Nine from Amazon by clicking here.
I am pleased to announce that my first book, Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home, is available for purchase at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com as of today. The book is the culmination of 15 years of assisting couples in their search for a golf community home, as well as hundreds of conversations with developers, golf professionals, real estate agents, golf community board members and, most of all, the clients I have worked with who have taught me so much.
Glorious Back Nine, which is how many retirees refer to what are often called “the Golden Years,” describes the step-by-step search for a golf community home, from that first all-important “kitchen table” discussion to the moment when you open the front door to your dream golf home. In between, I detail how climate and geography affect a couple’s ultimate choice; lifestyle options; how to select a qualified real estate buyer’s agent; the various types of country club memberships; cost-of-living variables; homeowner association costs; how to plan inspection visits and the most effective questions to ask; and much more. The book also provides notes on dozens of golf communities I have visited and reviewed over the years.
Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home is the only book written about golf communities in the last 10 years. It is available in a printed (paperback) version for $9.99 at the Amazon and Barnes & Noble online sites. An eBook version will follow in early December.
If you have any questions about the book, please contact me.
I spent most of my corporate communication career focused on employee communication, where the return on investment was often larger than for marketing or public relations. How so, you ask? The answer is that the most credible, knowledgeable and enthusiastic spokespersons for your company are your employees (of course, assuming you treat them right).
One golf community in South Carolina understands this. Keowee Key is a mature golf community beside a clean lake that has gone under the radar for years, much of that owing to a rather quiet approach to marketing. Even a few years into my work with couples searching for a golf community home, I had never heard of Keowee Key. It was only during a search in behalf of a couple looking for a Carolina lake home that a search with the keyword “Keowee” surfaced Keowee Key. I did some research, later paid a visit, and was impressed especially at the extremely reasonable prices for real estate. That was more than 10 years ago and, even today, you can purchase a waterfront lot at Keowee Key for as little as $60,000. You won’t find many of those in the Southeast.
What Keowee Key lacks in advertising breadth it makes up for in smart, targeted messaging. Homeowners’ Associations are particularly conservative when it comes to spending, especially spending on marketing. Christine deVlaming has led the marketing effort at Keowee Key since 2015, and because she reports to the community’s Homeowners’ Association, she has to make some convincing arguments when it comes to budget. Indeed, when I consider the process of budgeting at any golf community, I am reminded of what a colleague once told me about fighting for money at the university where I worked after my corporate career: “The battles are so fierce because the stakes are so small.”
deVlaming is too much of a professional to even hint that is the case at Keowee Key. But from the evidence, the community’s marketing has done a lot with a little. Take, for example, the email I received recently from Keowee Key, inviting me to take advantage of their “discovery package.” It accompanied a video titled “Indian Summer Golf at Keowee Key.” The discovery package, priced at $349 for 3 days and 2 nights of lodging on site, two rounds of golf and a complimentary dinner in the clubhouse, was enticing and, always trying to put myself in the shoes of my clients looking for a golf community, I thought, “Maybe I should look at the video.” Most of these videos from golf communities make me groan with their unremitting references to “paradise,” “championship golf” and “the best people anywhere.”
The four-minute clip is hosted by Rion Groomes, director of golf, and while much of what comes out of his mouth – “no place like Keowee Key,” “people here are great” – is marketing hyperbole, he cites his experience elsewhere which makes the rest of what he says a little more credible than typical golf community website palaver. He also shares some key information (no pun intended) about course conditions, the effects of the pandemic and some of the changes they have made to accommodate Covid. (Note: Normal number of rounds in August is 3,000; this past August it was 4,500.)
deVlaming told me that she has developed an internal communications plan for Keowee Key this fall, she has sent out one of these email blasts per week for the last four weeks and has already covered boating (after all the docks in the community were refreshed), golf and the clubhouse. She says the fitness center for the community is on deck for a video blast.
Mindful that her audience is not just potential residents but also those who can influence them, deVlaming shares all the email blasts with local Realtors (and me). This is even more important now since Covid keeps local real estate agents and their clients in separate cars during drive throughs. Having explanations on video of the community’s amenities makes it easier for the agents to describe Keowee Key’s attractions.
Customers are beating a path to Keowee Key lately, producing multiple bids on homes for sale, some selling for higher than asking price. The historical “normal” inventory level of homes for sale is 100; in recent weeks, the level has been just three to five.
“September was absolutely on fire here,” deVlaming says of traffic to the community and the number of home sales, adding “maybe it was the [upcoming] election.” (There are rules at Keowee Key against signage of any kind on properties, and that includes political, as well as for-sale signs.)
Quiet. Pollution free. No political controversies. Employees who take their jobs seriously. And marketing that spends homeowners’ money wisely. Not many better messages than that.