The Big Golf Community Compromise: Sometimes it Takes a Beach

        My wife and I arrived in Pawleys Island, SC, at dinnertime last night (Sunday), and settled into our condo beside Jack Nicklaus’ Pawleys Plantation golf course. And what was the first thing, after breakfast, that I did the next morning in sunny 65-degree weather? You got it: I went for a walk on the beach with my wife.
        When it comes to choosing a golf community, compromise can certainly be a beach. That is how it was when Connie and I chose Pawleys Plantation 15 years ago. I loved the two diverse nine holes on the golf course, the first nine more of a parkland layout with muscular holes and lots of sand in play. The second nine explodes onto the marsh that separates our community from the Atlantic Ocean, its dramatic views and shot requirements typified by the signature 13th hole, just 120 yards long but with an island green smaller than the famed tiny disc at Pete Dye’s Sawgrass at Ponte Vedra south of Jacksonville, FL. (Nicklaus cut his design teeth in the 1980s in the Dye architecture shop.)
        Connie believed that seven minutes by car from the condo to one of the best beaches on the Carolinas coasts was close enough. Our choice of a vacation home had something for everyone, which is the essence of compromise. (I actually enjoy the strolls on the beach, although not quite as much as the golf.)
        We didn’t have the beach to ourselves on this first day of February, but it was quiet enough, save for the burbling of the waves at middle tide and the occasional caws of the seagulls. It gave me pause to consider what other golf communities in the Carolinas are within about 10 minutes of beaches. Here are a few good ones.  (Please contact me if you would like more information on any golf community.)

 

DeBordieu Colony, Georgetown, SC
        Although your ears and nose tell you how close the ocean is when you play the private Pete-Dye-designed DeBordieu Colony golf course, the original developers had a few million (dollar) reasons for giving the oceanfront area over to the homebuilders. From nowhere on the course is the ocean in sight. All beaches in South Carolina are nominally public, but DeBordieu’s three-mile long stretch lies beyond the community’s guarded gate and, for that reason, members of the public need to row in to use the DeBordieu beach. For those lucky enough to live inside the gates, all it takes is a bicycle or two good legs to get to the beach from home. Single-family house prices start around $500,000 at DeBordieu.
DeBordieutreeinbunkerYou may not be able to see the ocean at DeBordieu Colony's Pete Dye course, but there are plenty of other sights to please the eye.

 

The Surf Club, North Myrtle Beach, SC
        Farther north, in North Myrtle Beach, the Surf Club is just a couple of blocks from the ocean but, again, no holes play along the seawater. It is a classic golf course, one of the early ones built in Myrtle Beach. Designed by George Cobb in 1960 and renovated by John LaFoy in the 1990s, the Surf Club pre-dates the explosion of golf communities. Built just as a golf course, a community has since grown up around it, but the country club offers just about everything you would expect from a purposely developed golf community (pool, tennis, dining), and for reasonable membership fees. The Surf Club is also one of the rare courses on the coast south of North Carolina that features bent-grass greens. Condos located between the Surf Club and the ocean are priced from the $300s.


Dunes Golf & Beach Club, Myrtle Beach, SC

        The Dunes Golf & Beach Club, whose first nine holes opened in 1949, is another of those nominally private golf clubs in the Myrtle Beach area; but if you are a member of the Dunes Club, one of the best golf courses of the 100-plus in the area, you will share your fairways with players staying at a few local hotels for which The Dunes provides privileges. But those relatively few interlopers are not enough to dull the joy of playing a fine Robert Trent Jones layout that barely bumps up against the beach, although those living in Dunes Estates and the other surrounding neighborhoods will have to take the long way around the 18 holes to get to the sand. Single-family homes adjacent to the Dunes Club are offered beginning in the mid $300s.


St. James Plantation, Southport, NC

        St. James Plantation is separated from the ocean by the Intracoastal Waterway and about a half dozen roads packed with beach houses. Conveniently, the community, which is located 15 minutes from Southport, NC, maintains a private beach club for its residents just 10 minutes out the back gate. When not on the beach, St. James golf club members can enjoy 81 holes of excellent golf designed by architects with names like Dye, Nicklaus and Tim Cate, a local designer whose coastal layouts have received rave reviews over the last two decades. St. James homes start in the $120s for condos and $270,000 for single-family homes.

Landfall, Wilmington, NC
        You won’t find a better combination of 45 golf holes near the ocean than you will at Landfall, which is snuggled between the vibrant city of Wilmington and the popular Wrightsville Beach, just 10 minutes out the back gate. Landfall features 27 challenging holes by Jack Nicklaus and another 18 by Pete Dye, as well as a wide range of homes to fit most budgets and lifestyles, although the golf community is inarguably the most upscale in the Wilmington area. Fewer than a half-dozen townhouses are currently listed, starting at $422,000. Single-family homes are listed from $360,000.

Bald Head Island, NC
        If the idea of living, beach-going and playing golf in splendid isolation appeals to you, with the only four-wheel vehicles permitted in your island paradise non-polluting electric golf carts, two locations off the Carolinas coast should get your attention. First is Bald Head Island, a ferry ride from Southport, NC, and heavily beach oriented, but with a fun links-style golf course at its heart. The layout, designed by George Cobb in 1974 and renovated a few years ago by Tim Cate, plays among the dunes and above the ocean waters and, of course, is subject to fickle winds that can change the degree of difficulty from day to day, and sometimes from hour to hour. The golf course is open to the public, but the public must ride a ferry to get there and either stay on the island or endure a long day of golf and ferry-riding. Add to that green fee rates as high as $125 in peak season, and members do not have to worry about the hoi polloi overrunning their club. Golf memberships are a bit pricey too, with a full-golf initiation fee at $34,000 and annual dues of around $5,800, but lovers of links golf and sandy beaches should find it worth the price. One way to go at Bald Head is fractional ownership in which you “own” (by deed) one week of vacation per season, four weeks a year. The lowest price we see for a fraction of a home is $27,000 and includes a golf club membership.


Haig Point, Daufuskie Island, SC

        In most cases, you won’t pay an initiation fee for a full golf membership at Haig Point on Daufuskie Island, SC, because membership is attached to virtually every home. No personally owned cars are permitted on the island, just a few maintenance vehicles. The ferry, which is maintained by residents and paid for by their club dues and HOA fees, runs frequently to and from Hilton Head Island, and Haig Point employees are always available at both ends to help residents load and unload groceries and other packages. There isn’t much to do on the island other than golf on the 27-hole Rees Jones layout or sunning at the beach club, but isn’t that the point of island living? A half-dozen lots at Haig Point are currently listed for sale at $1 –- that’s not a typo -– but more typical are home sites that are priced from the $30,000s, some with water views. (Note: Since materials and labor must be shipped in to the island, home construction costs are higher than on the mainland.) Although dues are high because of the cost of maintaining the ferry schedules, home prices are appreciably lower than on the mainland for similar properties. A few condos are currently available from the low $100s; single-family homes begin around $250,000.