Savannah Lakes Village, McCormick, SC
Cypress Landing, Chocowinity, NC
Keowee Key, Salem, SC

        I have written often about these three communities as examples of extreme values in terms of real estate prices and cost of living. Their “bargain” nature has eroded significantly during the pandemic as thousands of retirees beat a hasty retreat to locations they perceive as safer and where they can safely engage in outdoor recreation like golf – namely rural golf communities. But still, these three are relative bargains since virtually all other quality golf communities in the Southeast are also showing 10% price increases and more this year. 
        All three communities feature an adjacent significant body of water; in the case of Savannah Lakes and Keowee Key, the large manmade lakes, Thurmond and Keowee, respectively, offer a wide range of aquatic activities, and some impressive views from their golf courses. Cypress Landing sits beside the western extension of the Pamlico River, which eventually flows to the Atlantic Ocean just below Ocracoke, NC. Keowee Key and Cypress Landing feature nicely designed 18-hole golf courses with extremely reasonable member fees. Savannah Lakes offers 36 holes of excellent golf and charges just $110 per month in homeowner association fees, which provide access to all amenities, including golf and, unusually, a bowling alley.
Savannah Lakes Tara CourseSavannah Lakes, Tara Course
        For its ultra-reasonable fees, Savannah Lakes would rule this category alone but, to paraphrase a line from the Book of Job, “one thing is given, and one is taken away.” The community and its nearest town, McCormick, are located a good 30 minutes from the small town of Greenwood and more than an hour from the more cosmopolitan Greenville. Shopping and entertainment options in McCormick are limited, with just one supermarket, a Food Lion, eight miles from the community. Greenwood does have a small college, Lander, with 3,000 undergraduates, and a couple of surprising restaurants. (Years ago, I dined at Pascal’s, owned by an experienced and French-restaurant trained chef, and the food was as good as I have found in larger cities.) The town is also host to a pair of restaurants you might expect only in a large city -- an Indian/Pakistani restaurant and one called The Venezuelan, which describes its menu. If you are looking for the total absence of noise and air pollution and don’t mind planning shopping trips, Savannah Lakes is a great choice.
Keowee Key doglegKeowee Kee, a South Carolina course that exhibits the feel of New England.
        Keowee Key is only marginally more connected to services than is Savannah Lakes. At 25 minutes, the major-university town of Clemson offers the kinds of services you would expect of a community that swells by more than 23,000 during the school year – which is to say a few decent restaurants, boutique-type shopping and an ample supply of convenience stores. And for those who cannot be satisfied by just one golf course, the Walker Course at Clemson is open to the public and is a sporting layout, and reasonably priced between $50 and $65, depending on time of year. 
        Keowee Key is reporting some intense action on its few properties for sale, including bidding wars, understandable in one of the few golf communities on a lake in the Southeast in which homes can still be found in the $300,000s – but perhaps not for long. Compared with its typical inventory of homes for sale of 100, the 20 currently on the market is generating plenty of competition, especially at the under $400,000 price point.
        Cypress Landing is a half-hour drive to Greenville, NC -- not to be confused with the larger city of the same name in South Carolina -- that is not only home to a major University, East Carolina, but also to a medical center that seems sized to be more appropriate for a much larger local population. (Vidant Medical Center is the primary teaching hospital for East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine and the only Level 1 trauma center east of Raleigh and the hub of medical care for a rural region of over two million people. The medical center is also the largest employer in eastern North Carolina.). For those who think a remote style of living is inconsistent with access to a large professional medical center, Cypress Landing may bear consideration. 
        So too will its real estate pricing, with single-family homes for sale starting at $280,000 (for a 3- bedroom, 3-bath home) and at $44,500 for a lot with a view of a small lake and the golf course.
CypressLanding blue chairsThe living is easy overlooking the golf course at Cypress Landing.
        It appears that the word got out about Cypress Landing in 2020 when local real estate agents sold more homes – a total of 69 – than they had in the last six years; the 19 homesites sold in 2020 were the second most over that same six year period. Sales are just as robust at Savannah Lakes and Keowee Key where the only complaints I hear from real estate professionals is enough homes available to sell.

Savannah Lakes Village, McCormick, SC
Single-family homes from $175,000 to $850,000
Golf: 36 holes by Tom Clark.
Note: Hickory State Park and 18 holes of golf are located across from the community. It is an inexpensive, rustic place to stay while visiting the remote Savannah Lakes. (I enjoyed it.)

Cypress Landing, Chocowinity, NC
Single-family homes from $280,000 to $900,000
Golf: 18 holes by Bill Love
Note: Its proximity to Greenville, NC, and its large medical center and university make Cypress Landing feel less remote than it is.

Keowee Key, Salem, SC
Single-family homes from $375,000 to $2 million
Golf: 18 holes by George Cobb, re-designed by Richard Mandell.
Note: Home sales have definitely benefited from the pandemic. In the last week, only three homes in the $300s were listed for sale against a typical inventory of dozens.

I mention all of these fine golf communities, and many others, in my latest book, Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home, available in both paperback and ePub versions at Amazon.com and other online booksellers. 

Reynolds Lake Oconee, Greensboro, GA

       ReynoldsCreekClubpanoramaThe wild and wonderful Creek Club at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, GA

        By sheer numbers, the winner here should be The Pinehurst Resort, with its nine outstanding layouts. But only the first five – Pinehurst courses are numbered 1 through 9 – are clustered together. Initiation fee for membership in so many courses was reasonable the last time I looked, about $40,000, and monthly dues were not bad either. But Pinehurst is a resort, and a popular one at that, and a daily-golfing member will have to organize tee times or rely on the single “member-only” course each day, lest some traveling group of buddies take a preferred slot. One other consideration: Pinehurst’s course may be nominally public, but membership is only for those who live beside one of the resort’s nine golf courses.
        Reynolds initiation fees may be a bit higher than Pinehurst on a per-golf-course basis, but it is almost exclusively private, except for some traffic from the on-site Ritz Carlton Hotel and a handful of nicely appointed cottages the Club offers to prospective members. Reynolds offers a number of tiered membership plans, starting with two courses for a $25,000 initiation fee. Membership in the full complement of six courses, including the Jim Engh masterpiece at The Creek Club, is priced at $50,000. If you love the innovative designs of Mike Strantz, you will go gaga over Engh’s layout. Creek Club is the sole member-only course on the property, which means that Ritz Carlton guests probably cannot even beg their way on. Dues for each membership plan rise relative to the initiation fees, but the plans are flexible enough to accommodate a second, lower-tier dues level for those who are part-timers.
        I have played some of the courses at Reynolds, and all were in impeccable shape and operated by friendly and well-trained staff. That is not surprising for a community owned and guided by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, the white knight who rode into the small town after the original developers, Mercer and Jamie Reynolds, were whipsawed by the recession and aggressive spending.

Reynolds Lake Oconee, Greensboro, GA
        Single-family homes from $725,000 to $5.5 million
        Lots from $90,000, golf lots from $200,000 and lake lots from $700,000
        Golf: Six courses by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Jim Engh, Rees Jones, Bob Cupp
        Notes: Home prices at Reynolds have spiked in the last six months; the lowest priced house in April was around $420,000. Today, it is $629,000 (a couple lower priced are “under contract.”) Greensboro is about a 75-minute drive from Atlanta international airport, from where you can get to virtually anywhere in the U.S. on a nonstop flight.
        Other golf communities nearby: Harbor Club and Cuscowilla (Eatonton).

Reynolds Lake Oconee is included in my new book, Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home, available in paperback and ePub at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.