The "back to school" edition of Home On The Course, our free monthly newsletter, has been distributed. This month's issue features our choices for the top five towns in the southeastern U.S. that combine excellent lifelong learning programs in the nearby universities with outstanding golf communities.
Below is a sneak preview, including our #4 and #5 choices. To read about #1, #2, and #3, simply fill out the box at the
Enjoy, and if you have a favorite college/golf town that is not on our list, please send me your choice and comments by using the Comment form at the end of this article. I will be happy to publish them.
#4 Asheville, NC
I think many raters would put Asheville at the top of their lists, and I understand why. The area features the most dramatic landscape of all the top university towns, nestled as it is in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and many fall in love with the place because of its laid back, arts and crafts nature and outdoor orientation. But besides its unique Center for Creative Retirement, the local branch of the University of North Carolina does not provide anywhere near the magnetism of Duke, UVA and the main campus of UNC at Chapel Hill (oops, hint at a couple of the top three in there). And after a few visits to Asheville, I am still fascinated, in a negative way, by the incomprehensible jumble of three Interstate roadways that ascend and descend on the city, which makes a commute both challenging and annoying.
The best choices of golf communities, unfortunately, are at some remove from Asheville, aside from the pricey Cliffs at Walnut Grove, just 10 miles from downtown. One of the most mature and stable, Champion Hills in Hendersonville, is a good 35 minutes from the city, although Hendersonville is large enough to provide most necessary services, and the Asheville airport is a convenient 15 minutes away. Champion Hills is the home course of its designer, Tom Fazio, who was raised in the area, and its members lavish it with much attention.
The publicly accessible Reems Creek golf course comes closest to the feel of a British style links course. No wonder; the designers, Hawtree & Son, are British born and bred. Combine the reasonably priced adjacent homes with the even more reasonable membership fees, and Reems Creek is an undeniable value play in the Asheville area.
The most unusual area community is north of the city. Mountain Air is a favorite of mostly well-heeled second-home owners who don't care for cold winters but appreciate the cool summers at some of the highest elevations in the mountains. The community attracts a fair share of retired pilots because a super-convenient (but scary) landing strip, as well as the golf course, cuts across the very top of its mountain. When I played there, I was tempted to try to hit a golf ball down the runway from one end of the mountain to the other. I'll bet a few members have tried.
The Arthur Hills designed course at Cedar Creek in Aiken, SC, is well trafficked and well regarded for its classic design notes.
#5 Aiken, SC
The horse country of South Carolina ekes out the fifth position from other strong contenders, including Williamsburg, VA, Charleston, SC, and Knoxville, TN, all of which are fine options. But Aiken offers most of the same choices as its rival larger cities without the hustle and bustle. These include an excellent Lifelong Learning program at the local branch of the University of South Carolina, as well as a small but select group of private golf communities that each offers multiple golf courses.
Mount Vintage Plantation makes an immediate impression, with its rolling landscape lined with bright white fences, some of them decorative and others designed to keep the horses from straying from a few of the larger properties. Tom Jackson's 27-hole layout is as easy on the eyes as are the surrounding hills and large plantation style homes. Woodside Plantation offers even more golf, with three courses and another one set to open, but you will need two separate memberships to play them all.
Cedar Creek is a little more downscale in pricing than the others and without a gated entrance or private club, but its residents are proud of their community and it shows in the landscaping and upkeep. Cedar Creek's Arthur Hills course gets a lot of play because the layout is both interesting and challenging (and members pay a mere pittance for all the golf they can play).
For those who dream of classic golf, you could try to wangle yourself an invitation to play and join the legendary Palmetto Club, whose first few holes were laid out in 1892. Over the last century, its full 18 holes have been massaged by the hand of such as Donald Ross, Alistair Mackenzie and, most recently, Tom Doak and Gil Hanse. The course is truly a southern gem.
FREE OFFER: A few years ago, I published a series of newsletters that featured all the communities mentioned here. I would be happy to email any or all of them to you. Just CLICK HERE and then indicate which area(s) you are interested in. If you would like more up-to-date information on real estate prices and golf club membership fees in these golf- and education-rich areas, I will be pleased to provide that as well.