January 2022

How did a glorious week in New York City make me rethink the parameters of retirement living?  Read this January issue of Home On The Course to find out. Also, I digest the notion of food as a consideration on where to live in retirement.  And I look forward to this May when I finally travel internationally to play golf…maybe.  Thanks for your continuing interest in Home On The Course.

Crail (Scotland) Golfing Society

Week In New York Re-Orients Retirement Thinking

It did not have to be New York; it could have been Paris, Montreal or the Island of Corfu in Greece.  But an early December week in The Big Apple has me thinking about alternatives to keeping a home in the Sunbelt and one in the Northeast.  Call it wanderlust or just plain curiosity but exploring a different city each year is an attractive alternative to returning to the same place for months, year after year. (I am thinking positively about an end to pandemic travel anxieties.)

Note that we have spent a couple of months a year on average in Pawleys Island, SC, since purchasing our “winter” home there 20 years ago.  The community is wonderful, with a fine Jack Nicklaus golf course – our condo sits on a pond beside the 15th tee and a short walk to the clubhouse – five supermarkets within five miles and a world-class Atlantic Ocean beach just six minutes away.  The restaurants in the immediate area are very good, and the serviceable Myrtle Beach airport is about 40 minutes away.

But that is about it.  There is no movie theater or museum within a half hour, although the vast sculpture garden that is Brookgreen Gardens is a place of delight just 20 minutes from the condo.  But any other culture or entertainment requires a one-hour drive to Charleston.

Pawleys Island provides plenty of relaxation, but if we were to stay there for four or five months at a time – we have never done that, not even close – I know this city born boy would go stir crazy.  Golf two or three times a week is more than enough for me.  In the two decades we have owned our place in Pawleys, we have averaged a little over eight weeks a year there, less since the pandemic began.  We now have two new grandchildren – one in northern Vermont, one in Vero Beach, FL – as well as two in New Jersey. That will make using the condo in the next few years an even bigger challenge.

During our week in New York City, we went to the theater – an entertaining “Girl from the North Country” which featured 20 songs written by Bob Dylan and sung by actors with terrific voices (sorry, Bob) – and the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.  It brought back memories; my wife and I recalled going there separately when we were little kids, she with her mother and me with my grandmother.  We visited the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side and stood in an apartment circa 1880 and imagined what it was like to live without electricity or running water in an apartment no bigger than our sunroom in Connecticut.  We stopped at the famous Katz’s Deli on Delancey Street where we struggled to finish our enormous pastrami and corned beef sandwiches.  We walked an average of six miles a day (largely to burn off the calories) and reunited with the subways we rode as kids and during the first two years of our marriage when we lived and worked in the city. 

All in all, we had a great time and will repeat the week again in the coming years.  But it renewed our interest in more international travel as well. One week in New York was fine because we know the city well after having lived there.  A week in a city that is not as familiar to us will simply not be enough time to get the sense of the place; a month or two is more like it. Frankly, though, the only way to fund such an annual adventure is to be free from the burdens of a second home.

This is a discussion my wife and I will have in the coming months. 

Food Can Be First Ingredient For A Golf Home Search

The critical first decision in the search for a golf home is location.  Couples who scour the Internet for golf communities that match perfectly all their requirements and preferences are in for a long and fruitless search.  There are plenty of communities with similar amenities, types of homes and price points, as well as golf courses you would be pleased to play every day.  But one community might be within a half hour of a good-sized city (say, Charleston, SC, for example) and one might be an hour or more away. If you need the frequent stimulation of entertainment and good restaurants and the security of major medical centers, you will certainly want to target the former.  If your requirement is to avoid traffic and pollution and to live an almost exclusively outdoor existence, you will probably target the latter.

Geography in its broadest definition is “the study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.”  In retirement, your “relationships” with things like supermarkets, outdoor activities beyond golf, and medical needs will be far more important than whether you are near mountains, ocean or lake.  (Of course, there are fine mountain, ocean and lake communities that offer plenty for foodies, outdoorspeople, and those with health issues.)

Gourmet cooks, for example, or for that matter those who live to eat, will not be satisfied with a half-hour round trip to a Food Lion in a small market, as is the case in McCormick, SC, home to the well-organized, multi-golf course and reasonably priced Savannah Lakes Village.  Conversely, in the Pawleys Island, SC, area, both The Reserve at Litchfield and Pawleys Plantation are within seven miles of five supermarkets, including Whole Foods’ competitor Fresh Market; all gourmands should be quite satisfied. 

For those who would rather let someone else do the cooking – and the dishes – there is typically a tradeoff.  In McCormick, you will never run into a traffic jam on your way to a restaurant, but you also will face a Hobson’s choice of mostly pizza places and drive-ins; Trip Advisor lists Huddle House and Burger King among the Top 10 restaurants in the area.  For better choices, Augusta, GA, is an hour away, and Greenville’s excellent selection of eateries a good 1 hour 45 minutes.  If you go out to eat often in remote areas, your gas consumption will be a surtax on your meals (and more than a glass of wine may provoke an unsafe ride home).

Pawleys Island, which is an hour from one of the best food towns on the east coast, Charleston, can hold its own with major city suburbs when it comes to restaurant choices.  Frank’s in Pawleys Island attracts diners from as far as two hours away, and reservations can be near impossible during peak times.  Other restaurants span the globe, in terms of cuisine, and run the gamut from ultra-casual to dress-up casual, with price points from near-expensive to dirt cheap (think Hog Heaven’s $10 all you can eat buffet with about the best fried chicken you will ever dig into and many fix ins to go with).  On a recent visit, my wife and I had a splendid meal at the local Bistro 217.

For any couple embarking on a search for a home in a new environment, listen to your stomachs.  If food is a big deal to you, think about places with some population density and at least a couple of supermarkets, plus a good selection of well-reviewed restaurants within a few miles.  If you eat to live and prefer less traffic and more uncrowded outdoor activities, consider a remotely located golf community.  Just make sure to buy a good-sized food freezer.

Scotland…Finally…Maybe

I like to think of myself as a glass-half-full kind of retiree.  I saw the height of the pandemic, when we didn’t go out much, as an opportunity to hunker down and compress into one book everything I had learned about golf communities and real estate over the prior 15 years. In less than a year, I produced one and a half books – Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home – which I published in November 2020, and Playing through Your Golden Years: A Senior’s Golfing Guide which I co-authored with Brad Chambers early in 2021.

While practicing caution, I am trying not to give in to the pandemic.  I have had my three shots, the latest a booster in November, and I wear a mask everywhere a sign says I must do so and in about half the places it is optional (mostly because I forget to bring one).  I flew on an airplane to South Carolina a few months ago to play in a golf event, and my wife and I spent a week in New York City (see main feature) and a couple of hours at Radio City Music Hall in early December with two thousand strangers elbow to elbow.  (Proof of vaccination was required.)  The city was teeming with visitors and locals, at least in midtown where hawkers of all kinds of merchandise gobbled up half the sidewalks.  Also, the city has given permission to restaurants to build temporary dining spaces on the edges of many of the already crowded roadways, making for awful traffic jams, even by New York City standards, and extra noise pollution. (I jumped a few times during the week when a cabbie leaned on his horn.)

Unless the United Kingdom shuts down to visitors in May, I plan to spend nine days with a friend at my favorite spot on earth, Crail, Scotland, a picture-book fishing village on the North Sea that is home to two of the finest golf courses in the world.  When I first visited in 2009 with my son, I was smitten.  One of the golfing “society’s” two clubs is the 12th oldest in the world; the other was designed by Gil Hanse, the architect of the Rio Olympics course.   His Craghead course was an instant classic when it opened in 1998, and Hanse’s routing around and over ancient brick walls and links land beaten and reshaped by winds off the sea is both fun and a bigtime challenge.  Every one of the 36 holes on the Balcomie and Craighead layouts features at least one peek of the ocean, unique among the world’s two-course layouts. 

For the last half dozen years, I have been an overseas member of the Society, a great bargain at just £250 annually, or less than $400. (For that, I can play eight rounds annually on each course, and host guests for the measly sum of £20.)  But since 2019, I have not been able to visit because of travel restrictions and my own disinclination to take an international flight.  For nine days this May, I have reserved one of the few lodgings within walking distance of the golf courses.  My golfing friend and I may even put in for the daily lottery at St. Andrews.  If our trip comes to pass, I will know things are pretty much back to normal. Or at least they will seem that way.