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Monday, February 11, 2008

Great golf course doesn't mean great golf home investment

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    Sometimes the interests of golf course owners and local governing bodies come into conflict.  When that happens, it almost doesn't matter if the golf course has been praised by everyone who plays it and by top national and regional golf magazines.  That is largely the story of the Ravines Club and Lodge in Middleburg, FL, about 40 minutes outside Jacksonville.   
    From the time it was built in 1979, the original Mark McCumber designed course had been granted 4 stars by Golf Digest, rated among Florida's best courses, and in the top 5 of courses in the northeastern section of a state crowded with excellent layouts.  
    Last month, the 252-acre property, including the course, a lodge and villas owned by full-time residents and

Stories like The Ravines' should compel us to do much more homework, ask more questions and consider attending a club board meeting or two.  You might even want to have a look at the club's books before you purchase your home on the course.

second-home owners, failed to generate a bid at auction of more than the $4.1 million minimum.  The course had closed abruptly in 2006 after its owners' attempts to develop some of the adjacent 55 acres were turned down by the Clay County Planning Commission.  Last year, the owners filed for bankruptcy protection.  Whoever buys the property will need to plow -- pun intended -- an estimated $500,000 to $2 million back into the layout to restore it to its former glory.  
    The course's closing not only left the resort's homeowners without their golf course but also with an overgrown 150 acres in the middle of their community (see before closure and after photos below).  Most important of all, the resulting loss of market value for their homes puts residents in a bind, and a foul mood.  Local court appearances and zoning commission meetings have been loud affairs, and the controversy has turned a few passive letter writers into serious bloggers, some railing against the owners' greed and stupidity, and others taking the zoning commissioners to task for what is seen as narrow-minded protectionism in a rural county ripe for development.  It is a messy situation all around, a lose-lose-lose proposition for residents, the property's owners and the local officials.
    Coldwell Banker's National Golf Sales division lists the course for sale at $2.8 million and the entire 252-acre property, including the course, villas, lodge, and the controversial 55 acres, for $6.5 million, a curiosity given that the highest bid at the auction was just $3.7 million.  If no white knight appears in the next few weeks, the property is slated for a foreclosure hearing in March.
    The moral of The Ravines' story is that a well-designed, highly respected golf course is not a guarantee of stability.  Bad things can happen to popular courses, including bad management and intractable local zoning laws.  The oncoming recession will only make golf course ownership a more financially tenuous proposition and force course owners to seek related sources of income, prime among them residential development. 

    If you are considering an investment in a golf course community, do much more than talk with the salespeople and play the golf course.  Stories like The Ravines' should compel us to do more homework, ask more questions and consider attending a club board meeting or two.  You might even want to have a look at the club's books before you purchase your home on the course.  And as always, if you can afford to rent for a few months, do it before you buy.  You will pick up important information no long weekend trip will ever reveal.        

    Note:  A Ravines resident has written a compelling short history of the community and its club.  You can find it at TheRavinesOnline.com



The pictures tell the sad story of the once well-regarded Ravines Golf Club. Photos by Debi Buehn for the MyClaySun newspaper.


Read 9383 times Last modified on Friday, 27 September 2013 11:29
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Larry Gavrich

This blog was conceived and is published by me, Larry Gavrich, a former corporate communications executive who founded HomeOnTheCourse, LLC, in 2005.  Our firm advises baby boomers and others seeking a lifestyle in which golf is a major component.  My wife Connie and I own a home in Connecticut (not on a golf course) and a condo at Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC, on a Jack Nicklaus layout.  We began our search for our home on the course more than 15 years ago, and the challenges of the search inspired me to research golf communities and write objective reviews of them.


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