Colleton River: Two of the best golf courses inside the gates of any community

        I had the great opportunity earlier this week to play two golf courses at Colleton River Plantation that rival any combination of courses inside a gated golf community.  For those baby boomers and others who are serious about their golf games and willing and able to pay a little extra in dues for the finest examples of Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye designs anywhere, Colleton River is worth a serious look.  Best of all, there are bargains to be had in terms of real estate, a consequence of a recession that left a few non-resident members reeling financially and willing to virtually give away their home sites in order to get out from under homeowner and club fees.

        The first impression of Colleton River as you pass through its manned

The greens on the Nicklaus course make you feel as coddled as a pro golfer.

gate is that it could win a long-drive contest; that is, the drive into the community, under a canopy of live oaks, is one of the longest I’ve encountered over 150 visits to golf communities –- about 3 ½ miles.  Once you emerge from that stretch of uninhabited marshland, the residential neighborhoods you pass are uniformly neat as a pin.  And although a mere one-third of the community is built out, the “raw dirt,” as developers like to refer to home sites, is as nicely landscaped and natural as the front and backyards of the mostly large homes.

        The reason that Colleton River offers “extreme” real estate bargains is its policy of mandatory club membership for all property owners.  Back in the early years of last decade, Colleton River was a magnet, as was its Bluffton, SC, neighbors Belfair and Berkeley Hall, for discretionary money out of Atlanta and Charlotte, especially from executives looking for second homes and baby boomers planning retirement in a half dozen years or so.  The recession changed habits and IRA accounts and made Colleton River’s combined $15,000 in annual homeowner and club fees tougher to swallow.  Many of those property owners put their lots up for sale in order to get out from under the dues payments; the mini-glut, of course, caused prices to drop, sometimes ridiculously so. (Recently, we wrote about a nicely wooded lot at Colleton River that was listed for just $1; more typical are lots for under $50,000, in some cases 80% off their original selling prices.  Golf homes for sale are also way off their selling prices of just five years ago.)


A few of the finishing holes on Colleton River's Nicklaus course, like the par 3 17th, play along the Colleton River.


        Although the $15,000 in annual dues (plus a $2,500 annual assessment which ends in 2017) may intimidate some, the initiation fee for the two golf clubs plus the other world-class amenities at Colleton River is just $15,000, way less than what golf courses, clubhouses and staff services of this stripe would normally cost. (Think $150,000 at some upscale Florida clubs.)   Combine the low cost of a lot and the low buy-in price for club membership, and the $1,400 or so per month doesn’t seem quite as high, especially when you consider the high-level of the golf courses.

        The Dye and Nicklaus courses are utterly different in character, but when you ask members which they prefer, there is no clear winner.  The Dye plays out near the ocean, especially its back nine, and its links-like layout is deeply affected by prevailing winds. I noted a three-club difference on many shots on the back nine, and with firm and fast greens -– the stimpmeter, we were told, read 12 -– it was impossible to go directly at many of the pin placements.  Greens are large and, typical of Dye, mounded if not quite “moguled.”  An early spring still had not quite promoted all the new grass growth on the over-seeded greens, but they were cut and rolled and so fast that those prevailing winds added an extra element to consider when lining up a putt.

        Whereas Dye is more links land and, therefore, purposefully a little rough here and there, the Nicklaus, opened in 1991, is an impeccably groomed parkland layout -– but with plenty of sand dunes -- that explodes onto the shores of the Colleton River on the back nine. It features the best greens I have played in years.  Greens often look faster than they are; these greens looked fast and actually were faster than they looked, with a stimpmeter reading, according to the superintendent, of 13.1.  That is U.S. Open and Masters territory, and the Nicklaus course at Colleton River makes you feel as coddled as a professional.  Thankfully, the greens are much flatter than the Dye greens, but when you wind up off the putting surface on the wrong side, count on three to get in.  Overall, the course plays tougher than its various ratings indicate (the greens were firm as well as lightning fast).  Yet when you screw up at the other course, you might utter an oath about Pete Dye, when you do that at the Nicklaus course, you kick yourself.  And with greens that perfect -– the best I have played in years, and getting better over the next few weeks –- you have only yourself to blame.

        Currently at GolfHomesListed, Gateway Realty agent Tom Jackson has 10 homes listed for sale at Colleton River, ranging in price from $395,000 to $1.2 million.  He will be pleased to share the details on other homes and dozens of lots for sale in the community. Just click on one of his golf properties for sale at GolfHomesListed, provide your name and email address –- we never share your personal information with anyone without your permission –- and you will not only receive the details on that property, but you can also contact Tom with any questions about Colleton River.   Or, if you have any questions about Colleton River or any other golf community, feel free to contact me.


Colleton River is a LowCountry Jack Nicklaus layout; ergo, it must have sand, and plenty of it.


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