More Amenities for Golf Course Communities
A successful luxury golf course community these days really isn’t about the golf, explained Fred Layman.
Instead, the General Manager of Blythewood Country Club said the golf communities that thrive are those that deliver opportunities for strong social connections — times for members to mingle over a glass of wine, share a laugh over a good dinner, stretch during a group session of yoga at the clubhouse or meet up for early-morning tennis.
Layman isn’t alone in widening the focus of his golf-oriented community. Across the Carolinas, developers and golf operators are pouring money into new clubhouses, enhanced recreational opportunities and new restaurants.
The surprising upshot is, even in a weak environment for golf, many luxury communities around golf courses are doing just fine.
At Blythewood Country Club, for instance, Layman is pushing to get an additional 200 residential lots ready for sale as quickly as possible. About 400 lots in the community already have been prepared for the market at prices generally in the $50,000 to $100,000 range.
Driving the market is a flood of buyers from the Northeast, many of them looking to get away from the high taxes.
Unlike relocating buyers in the past, who sometimes bought a lot and then waited a couple of years before building a home, today’s buyers from the north want to get moving right now.
“There’s a degree of urgency that we haven’t had in this market before,” Layman said.
North Augusta Management Group, meanwhile, has watched the decline in golf’s popularity and downshifted the importance of golf-related projects at its former Pinery community.
When Fred Layman created its original master plan for North Augusta Golf and Country Club in 2007, golf courses were key elements of the community.
But times have changed, said Fred Layman, the president of North Augusta Management Group.
“Over the past few decades, the popularity of golf courses has been on the decline,” he said. “Generally speaking, golf’s decline started during the recession of 2008, creating a five- to 10-year window where younger players were not being introduced to the game. Now we are seeing the result of that. Players who were in their 40s then are now playing less.”
Across the United States, about 24.2 million people played golf in 2018, according to the National Golf Foundation. While the numbers appear to be stabilizing, participation still is about 20 percent below its levels in 2003. Many Carolina courses, many of which draw heavy business from tourists, haven’t felt the worst of the decline. Even so, a handful of course closures — such as The Club at Jones Creek, and Crickentree— have vexed neighbors who worry about plans to redevelop the land once devoted to golf.
The weakness in the sport is reflected in the history of golf-related development.
With the exception of Cobblestone Park, which opened in 2015, most of the courses in the Columbia, SC community were built in the 1980s when development of golf courses and related residential communities was at its peak.
Even though golf has lost some of its popularity, golf-course communities remain popular among buyers who like the aesthetics of living near the green open space of a course, said Layman.
Historically, Layman said, homes in golf-course communities have proven to be better financial investments than other luxury homes.
Researchers at Florida Atlantic University concluded a couple of years ago that the value of homes near golf courses runs 8 to 12 percent higher than similar homes elsewhere. But that comes with a risk. Industry consultants say home values typically fall by about 25 percent if the nearby course closes.
Along with the economic issues created by declines in golf participation, Layman said water, and utility related political issues will discourage development of new golf developments. As community leaders face tightening water supplies, and bureaucracies continue to tax the property that golf courses utilize at unfair rates new golf courses are likely to be a low priority.
“I don’t see any more golf communities being developed here for a long time to come,” he said.
For owners of existing homes near golf courses, that may be good news over the longer term. Layman notes that little new development will put a cap on new supplies of golf-course residences, helping support values of existing homes.