Developer Ken Kirkman and golf architect Bill Love focused on how the golf course layout fit harmoniously into the wooded environment at Carolina Colours.

by Kenneth Kirkman

        Ken Kirkman for years was a leading coastal environmental lawyer with clients throughout coastal North Carolina. He transitioned into management of large coastal communities, including Beacon’s Reach in Pine Knoll Shores, Bald Head island off of Southport, Landfall in Wilmington, before personally developing the Carolina Colours community in New Bern, where he currently resides. In his career he has also provided consulting services to a number of developments and has acted as legal counsel to municipal governments, land developers large and small, and more than 100 community associations.

        As the original developer of Carolina Colours, a 1,500-acre planned community in New Bern, NC, I had the opportunity to work closely with Bill Love, our golf course architect, in determining what we wanted to accomplish by constructing a golf course in the heart of our community. While New Bern is well known as a great place to live and retire, it is not a golf destination so we knew we would have many residents of retirement age with handicaps all over the place.
        Working with Love, we established several design criteria: Make it friendly for high handicap golfers, including young, old, male and female; limit forced carries from the shorter tees, but make it challenging for the long hitters; allow for multiple teeing grounds with large tee boxes so the players that play multiple times a week can vary their experience; have a good blend of shot making, with 4 par threes of varying length, 4 par fives with differing characteristics, and with the par 4’s being equally divided between short, medium and long. A player will use all the clubs in his or her bag.
        We also are blessed with a wooded site, natural wetlands, abundant vegetation and varying elevations, so another objective, in addition to our design criteria, was to maintain a natural setting. We did not want a course with condos and small-lot homes crowding the fairways, so our limited number of multi-family structures are not situated adjacent to the course. Love, a long-time chair of the environment committee of the Association of Golf Architects, embraced all objectives and our players agree that our goals were met. The course has been consistently ranked by the NC Golf Panel, one of the few objective rating groups in our region, as the best course one can play in our central coastal region of North Carolina.
        Love is a land planner as well as a golf course designer. We engaged Bill not only to design the course but to do the land planning for all of the residential areas of our large community as well. This allowed him to design residences around the golf course layout, with flexibility to use the natural features in the golf design as he deemed appropriate. Unlike some other communities where the golf course is force-fit to accommodate real estate sales, Carolina Colours is just the opposite. We required significant set-backs from adjacent housing, with a goal of forever having a natural feel to the play of the course. Many holes will never have housing on one side of the fairway.
CarolinaColourscartpathinwoodsPlenty of flora and fauna to contemplate during a round at Carolina Colours.
        The Golf Club was then structured to encourage equity membership at a reasonable price, while offering associate (annual) memberships at higher dues. In order to keep dues in our target range, public access with more restrictive tee-time reservation opportunities was allowed. We made it clear from the beginning that Carolina Colours was not to be a formal country club community but, rather, a great place to live with an excellent golf course.
        We also maintain bent grass greens. We recognize that in the heat of the summer they sometimes get stressed, but the fact that we have both a spring and a fall growing season allows us to keep them playable and naturally green year-round. Our superintendent shares our belief that our greens are one of the best features of our course, and we have found that many of our retiree members who have migrated from the north love to continue play on our bent grass putting surfaces.
        We have a very active LGA and MGA, plus frequent couples’ events. Our community has a very active social life, and the property owner’s association shares our nice activity center with our golf members and players. All residential property owners pay a small fee into the association as part of their property owner dues to support the club, whether member or not, recognizing that maintaining the course is key to maintaining residential property values.
        We have recently added The Carolina Colours School of Golf with instructor Terri Magliacci, a well-recognized teacher who formerly worked as a teaching professional at Westchester Country Club, among others. She has a unique teaching style that focuses on results rather than form, and those players, both young and old, who are utilizing her clinics and individual teaching rave about their improvement. Our nice practice is a great setting to take advantage of her services.
        New Bern was just recognized by Southern Living as one of the best small towns in the Southeast. Blessed with a five-star hospital and outstanding medical specialists, an airport, a number of historical sites, a great downtown with shops and restaurants, an active artistic group and welcoming residents, no small town can offer more. With two large rivers converging downtown, water activities are unlimited. As a bonus, the Atlantic Ocean and public beach access is close (but not too close). We adjoin one of the largest National Parks in North Carolina, which stretches about 30 miles, almost to the ocean.
Within Carolina Colours, our commercial area is anchored by a large Harris Teeter grocery, banks, pharmacies, physical therapy and other services, with more coming all the time. An age-restricted independent living and assisted living complex has just gone under construction.
        Carolina Colours is a decade in the making and is still growing and evolving, as is New Bern and our surrounding region. Many of those that visit decide to call it home.
        If Carolina Colours sounds like your kind of "forever home," please contact the editor for more information and an introduction.
CCClubhouseCarolina Colours' finishing hole and clubhouse . Photos courtesy of Carolina Colours

Photos courtesy of Champion Hills

I have not been able to revisit many of the golf communities I first encountered more than 10 years ago. Therefore, from time to time, I will invite those who are familiar with some of the best golf communities in the Southeast to provide updates here. This first one is courtesy of Shane Sharp, who lives in Greenville, SC, and has written about golf for more than 20 years. He is the owner of Southbound 4, a marketing and PR firm. Champion Hills and the Rumbling Bald Resort are among his clients. [Editor.]

        Western North Carolina does not get the attention as a golf destination that Myrtle Beach and Pinehurst do. But word has spread over the years that it is a wonderful place for golfers to retire, semi-retire or simply relocate to enjoy the good life. At elevations of more than a half mile and with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop, the area is home to dozens of private golf communities and several of the country’s top-ranked courses.
        Champion Hills in Hendersonville, N.C. is a prime example. Conveniently located between Greenville, S.C. and Asheville, N.C., the community is less than an hour from each. Having recently celebrated its 33rd anniversary, Champion Hills is taking advantage of the real estate market upswell brought on by the exodus from America’s urban areas.
        Golf Community Reviews reported on Champion Hills eight years ago as the community was enjoying its 25th anniversary and launching into a number of new membership programs and initiatives. Since then, Champion Hills members selected the Troon Company to manage the member-owned club, undertook a major renovation of the clubhouse dining facilities, expanded the Wellness Center and updated Tom Fazio’s distinctive mountain layout, which has aged gracefully over more than three decades.

The Golf Course
        For golfers used to flat-land courses, Fazio’s circa-1987 layout offers a dramatic change of pace – and scenery. The designer’s routing pitches and rolls through heavily forested hills, deep ravines and mountain streams. Fazio and his all-star team of shapers deftly pulled ridges into valleys and filled hollows to create “playing platforms” that provide golfers with level lies despite the 350-feet of elevation changes. As a result, only six holes feature uphill routings while 14 holes are predominantly level or downhill.
        Fazio and his wife moved to Hendersonville at about the time he commenced work on Champion Hills. He chose the town as a place to raise his family and host his business, opening an office in downtown Hendersonville. Today, he spends winters in Jupiter, Fla., but he returns to the western Carolina mountains in the summer.
        Golfweek magazine recently elevated Champion Hills from 70th to 64th on its list of the Top 200 Residential Golf Courses in the U.S. In recent years the community has typically finished in the Top 10 in other golf rankings, including Golf Digest’s “Best in State.”

Champion Hills ClubhouseChampion Hills Clubhouse

The Community
        Inventories of homes for sale are near a two-decade low in many southeast golf communities, but Champion Hills currently offers an array of residential options –- estate homes, low-maintenance cottages, lock-and-leave villas and a few remaining building lots. Lots for sale are priced from $50,000 to $300,000 and sized from one-half to 1 ½ acres. Move-in ready homes range from $500,000 to $3 million featuring golf course, mountain and wooded views.
        In addition to the community, the surrounding area is a big draw for those who those in search of a mild, four-season climate and vibrant downtown. In 2020, Hendersonville was rated the No. 1 place to retire in North Carolina by the financial technology company SmartAsset. A few years prior, it was ranked the No. 1 “Great Unknown Place to Retire” USA Today. Suffice it to say, the word has gotten out.

Membership Options Expanded
        Champion Hills offers full-equity and 12-month trial memberships. Both include full access to golf, dining, a wellness center, pool, spa and tennis courts. Most residents are either golf or social members. Full-golf members can enroll in the Troon Privé program which grants them access to 600 of the nation’s top private, resort and daily fee courses in the Troon network.
        “Our members are well-traveled, and they appreciate being able to visit other parts of the country and play at other world-class facilities,” says General Manager Dana Schultz. “For our members who have homes elsewhere, Troon has a wide-variety of courses they can experience, often in proximity to their other seasonal residence.”
        The big news coming out of the Champion Hills club this spring was the announcement of the “Equity 55” Membership, a full-golf membership designed for those age 55 and under. With Equity 55, Champion Hills’ $40,000 initiation fee is divided into four equal payments spread over four years and dues and replacement reserve fund contributions have been reduced by 50%.
        “Equity 55 meets the upswell in demand by a younger demographic in search of both a club and community to call home,” says Schultz.
        Whether your winter residence is in a place like Florida and you want to cool off in the summer, or if you are looking for a full-time residence in a mountain location, Champion Hills can elevate your golfing lifestyle.
        For more information or an introduction to Champion Hills, contact the editor.

Champion Hills luxury homeOne of the luxury homes at Champion Hills