July 2022

The market for high-quality golf community homes has dried up and, with it, prices have risen significantly the last few years.  Those of us still hell bent on retirement in some warm weather location may have to compromise financially – and one way is to forgo the initiation fees and dues of a private golf course inside the gates and, instead, turn to a local municipal golf course nearby at less than $100 per round, in many cases much less.  We show you how this month.  Also, those same price rises have given retirees the idea that they can sell high, pocket their gains and rent a nice place.  We show that’s easier said than done.

America’s Top Muni Courses Under $100: Who Needs a Private Club?

There are lots of good reasons to join a private golf club, but cost is rarely at the top of the list.  Plunk down a few thousand (or more) for initiation fees and, in most cases, poof, that money is gone, even if you resign the club a few years later.  And then there are the dues which run anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousand.

On the other hand, in almost all cases, the condition of your private course will be equal to or better – sometimes much better – than the mostly highly rated public courses nearby.  But the private course layout may not be.

GolfPass, a property of NBC Sports, recently published a list of the Top 100 courses that you can play for under $100. (Full disclosure:  My son Tim is a co-author of the article.)  I have played enough of the courses on the list to assume the Top 100 are well chosen and a fine alternative to some of the private clubs nearby.

IMG 1525City of Charleston (SC) municipal course

I live in Connecticut all but two months a year. I had belonged to a fine local private club for 25 years, but when my son went away to college, my wife and I found that our limited use of the club’s facilities did not justify the cost.  (Tim had been playing golf there a few times a week through his teenage years.) We resigned our membership 15 years ago. Since then, I have been playing public courses in the Hartford, CT, area; after the city’s municipal course in Keney Park was totally rehabbed seven years ago, it became my go-to place for a local round.

Keney Park recently made GolfPass’ list of the top 100 public courses you can play for under $100.  I don’t know of a public golf course that is more fun, fair and challenging all in one package; but if there are 99 others that come close, I want to play them.  By the way, if you are a walker, Keney Park very well could be number one with a bullet on a list of top courses under $50.  For a senior non-resident (over the age of 65), I pay just $37 when I walk, and just over $50 with an electric cart (a good one, too, with a fully functioning GPS).

The top 100 list includes courses proximate to golf communities in the Southeast Region, as well as the northern tier of the country where many snowbirds hunker down during the summer.  In South Carolina, for example, Aiken is a magnet for many New England and Midwest snowbirds.  Woodside Plantation offers the most comprehensive private club experience in the Aiken area with four courses, for a few thousand dollars in initiation fees and hundreds in monthly dues.  But Aiken Golf Club, whose green fee with a cart on weekdays is just $34, a measly $22 if you walk, is an extreme bargain.  Woodside Plantation club dues are reportedly $350 a month which means you could play 10 rounds – with a cart – at the local public course for what you pay in dues. (And you’ll pay extra to rent a cart at Woodside.)

If you are a snowbird and live in a southern community only half the year, you pay dues for months you don’t use the golf club facilities.  If you also belong to a club up north for the summer months, your combined monthly dues and associated costs (e.g. food minimum) for the two clubs could reach $2,000.  If you live in my area of Connecticut, according to GolfPass, you are especially lucky with the aforementioned Keney Park and Wintonbury Hills in Bloomfield within just 20 minutes of each other.  The other day I paid just $57 as a senior, with cart, for a round at the Pete Dye designed Wintonbury Hills. If you invest 70 minutes in a drive from Hartford to just over the state line in New York, you will find Copake Country Club, another Top 100 course, which sits above Copake Lake and may be the best course you’ve never heard of.  Weekday special rate for seniors over 65 is $25 walking, $45 with cart.  And I don’t know of a better country club food facility than the one at Copake.

The winery at Viniterra, New Kent, VAThe winery at Viniterra, New Kent, VA

Private clubs provide a higher quality of service than do most public facilities, and there is certainly something to be said for the staff greeting you by name.  And your private club is likely to have open tee times on the very morning you want to play, unlike popular public clubs where you might have to plan your date and time of play a week in advance.  But if you are only playing a day or two per week at your private winter home course and are looking to conserve funds for other activities, such as travel, a reasonably priced top public facility could represent a generous gift to yourself.  And if you are fortunate to afford membership in a private club, you can certainly afford occasionally to play one of the great public layouts that might lie just down the road.

 

The Quandary of Selling to Rent

My wife and I currently own two properties we use; our primary house in Connecticut and a vacation condo in a golf community in South Carolina.  Our daughter and her family live in northern Vermont, a four-hour drive from our primary home; our son and his family live in Florida, a good eight-hour drive from the condo.  We see them and our grandkids almost every day – via FaceTime.  It isn’t enough; we would like to see them in person more often.

Annual carrying costs for our two homes, including taxes, homeowner fees and other costs of ownership run to more than $60,000 per year. I consider that number and think, “We could sell our two homes, bank the proceeds, rent two decent apartments for $5,000 a month and be closer to the kids.” I am long past the worry that rental fees are dollars flushed down the drain. Well into the third quarter of my life, obsessing over a buildup of equity seems silly.

On the other hand, the enormity of getting rid of the accumulation of more than 40 years of marriage and leaving a house full of memories is a daunting challenge.  For example, for the last few days, I have been going through a couple hundred vinyl LPs, 30 of which I will mail out shortly to a dealer in Tennessee. I am selling them to him for $2 apiece.  Those are 30 I have no emotional connection to; the other 150 or so I bought during my college days and in the years immediately after.  A few of them, rare promotional discs sent to me when I reviewed records for my college newspaper, are worth a few hundred dollars each; many of the rest are worth more to me in terms of memories of a misspent youth playing air guitar and flailing drumstick-empty hands in the air.  I know, it sounds silly – but it wasn’t at the time.

From what I have read lately, finding an apartment or house to rent, let alone two, will be a major challenge in the current environment.  The incredible increase in the sale prices of single-family homes has sent a lot of us into the rental market at the same time.  High demand and limited supply; you don’t need a degree in economics to figure out what that is doing to rent prices (and inventory).  Plus, some real estate entrepreneurs are buying up single-family homes for the express reason to rent them.  As the supply of homes for sale dries up, that puts even more pressure on rental availability and pricing.  Baby Boomers have to live somewhere, and there are just two choices – owning or renting – beside the nursing home.

Since my wife and I have spent time in a condo, we know what it is like to have neighbors.  For the 20 years we have owned it, dog owners have lived next door.  Both couples are friends and the occasional barking has been of little consequence over the years, except maybe once when I was in the middle of a nap I really needed.  But we cannot complain; we have a dog as well, and when the maintenance staff comes in with their leaf blowers and weed whackers, all hell breaks loose for a few minutes.  It is nice at those times to have neighbors who can’t complain.

This may seem like obvious advice – like “Don’t quit your job until you have found another one” – but it is worth repeating anyway.  Don’t sell your house and then look for a rental.  People are paying record prices for homes, and if a realtor comes knocking on your door with the promise of immediate riches, tell them to come back in a couple of weeks and, in the meantime, check out rental availability and prices in a place you want to live.  Otherwise you could wind up living at a Holiday Inn for the foreseeable future. 

 

Larry Gavrich
Founder & Editor
Home On The Course, LLC

 

Best of Both Worlds

For those who live in golf communities, some public golf options are virtually at their doorsteps.  Here are a few daily fee golf courses located inside the boundaries of popular golf communities. 

Pawleys Plantation, Pawleys Island, SC

The Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course explodes out onto the marsh on the back nine, a mere 1/2 mile as the sea gull flies from the Atlantic Ocean.  Sea breezes can bedevil many shots, especially on the signature 13th, a short par three whose tiny green is almost totally surrounded by marsh.  The community is a harmonious mix of single-family homes and nicely landscaped condominiums.

Viniterra, New Kent, VA

Viniterra is one of those golf communities that seems “out there” but, in fact, is within 20 minutes of a thriving city, in this case Richmond, VA.  The course by Rees Jones is a pleasant mix of varying elevations, customary Jones bunkering and splendidly conditioned turf. The community’s entrance features an award-winning working winery.

Cypress Landing, Chocowinity, NC

Located on an inland extension of the Albemarle Sound, the water comes into view, if not into play, on a few of the holes on the Bill Lee layout.  The paper company Weyerhauser developed the community originally, and their respect for trees is obvious in the overall layout and landscaping.  Cypress Landing is just 20 minutes from Greenville, the North Carolina one, home to East Carolina University and a large medical center. 

Savannah Lakes Village (Tara and Monticello courses), McCormick, SC

Savannah Lakes offers one of the lowest cost membership plans of any 36-hole community in America.  Even at $66 per round, cart included, you will make out better as a member if you plan to play two to three rounds a week.  But if you are an occasional golfer who wants to live in a reasonably priced golf community, it’s nice to know you have close access to two excellent layouts open to all – one a bit hilly, the other bumping up against Lake Thurmond.

Links at Stoney Point, Greenwood, SC

The surrounding community is small, but many of its homes have views of Lake Greenwood; others look out onto the Tom Jackson designed golf course, whose quality surprises many who play it for the first time (as it did me).  The golf course is not overly difficult -– in keeping with Jackson’s customary design principles -- but it offers enough chances to get into trouble, and the greens seemed a bit fast to me for a public facility.


Links at Stoney Point, Greenwood, SC
Links at Stoney Point, Greenwood, SC

Rivertowne Country Club, Mt. Pleasant, SC

Advertised as the area’s only Arnold Palmer design, Rivertowne could not be better situated for a golf course and community.  The layout plays along the Wando River, and the community of modern homes lies just over the Ravenel Bridge from historic Charleston.  Mt. Pleasant has exploded in popularity in recent years, and prices have risen in tandem.  Those looking to live there may have to compromise by eschewing a private membership for public golf, even with weekday green fees of around $100. 

Grande Dunes, Myrtle Beach

Grande Dunes features 36 holes of golf, but 18 are open to the public and the other 18 are strictly private.  Located pretty much in the middle of golf rich Myrtle Beach, there are numerous fine golfing options within a half hour of Grande Dunes.  Those who choose one of the community’s Florida style terracotta roofed homes may find that the Grande Dunes “resort” course is enough. 

Copake Country Club, Copake Lake, NY
Copake Country Club, Copake Lake, NY