OBJECTIVE, UNBIASED AND ALTOGETHER HELPFUL

Golf Community Reviews

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Golf community choices small but wide ranging in popular Chapel Hill

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The Davis Love design at The Preserve at Jordan Lake is tough, with many forced carries.

    Few southeastern cities with golfing communities can boast also of professional sports franchises and big-time collegiate athletics.  Miami, Atlanta and, to a lesser extent Charlotte, come to mind, but after that the pickings are slim –- until you look at the “triangle” of cities formed by Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.  Today, the area has something much bigger cities can only dream about, a world champ team in the Stanley Cup winner Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League. 
    The University of North Carolina and its 26,000 students are the focal points in Chapel Hill, although Duke and NC State are within 35 minutes, and all the culture that revolves around a major university make the town one of the most desirable places to live in America.  The area's international airport is within 35 minutes of most points in Chapel Hill, and healthcare, shopping and employment opportunities, especially in an area of so many universities and the famed Research Triangle Park, are plentiful.  The restaurants are good and varied as well (Carolina barbecue, anyone?).
    Chapel Hill golf communities are few in number but offer a range of options, real estate prices and golf courses.  The Preserve at Lake Jordan presents a community at the rural edge of the Chapel Hill area, with reasonably priced homes for their size and location, as well as a tough golf course.  Chapel Ridge, like The Preserve a member of the Bluegreen Corporation group, is just a little over a year old and will appeal to retirees as well as young families.  The Bill Moore and Fred Couples-designed course is easy on the eyes and the scorecard.  The Governor’s Club is the standard in the area by which all communities are measured.  Its undulating roadways, dramatic rock outcroppings, challenging Nicklaus Signature Course and involved members ensure stability and solid resale values. 
    As an alternative to the golfing communities, Old Chatham, which had the misfortune of opening two days before 9/11/01, offers a strong private club ethos and the closest thing in Chapel Hill to a pure golf experience.   No houses encroach on it.  In coming days, we will review them all, starting here with The Preserve.

Love is all you need…if you are a masochist

    The Preserve at Jordan Lake is more like The Preserve Near Jordan Lake; the lake is actually across the road from the entrance to the community.  Nevertheless, the community has grown quickly since properties were first sold in 2002, the same year its golf course opened.  More than 250 homes have been built and occupied on the community’s 516 lots, with scores currently under construction.  That is a lot of activity for a community that imposes no timetable to build.  Lots average ½ acre, although some top one acre, with prices in the $100,000 to $200,000 range.  Nice-sized homes of 3,000 square feet begin at just above $500,000.  The developers, the well-regarded Bluegreen Corporation, maintain a list of four “preferred” builders who account for more than 90% of the homes built to date.
    The Preserve is not gated and, for the time being, anyone can play the “semi-private” course by calling for a tee time.  The community, which has no townhouses or condos, has a neighborhood feel to it.  Landscaping throughout is well maintained by the residents who are an equal mix of young professionals and “empty nesters,” age 55 and older.  However, if you have done your job of raising kids and would like to be in the company of adults-only in your new community, The Preserve may not be your idea of laid-back retirement community.  The young adults have produced a significant number of offspring.
    All the customary amenities are available on the property.  The fitness center is modern but small; more than the current two tennis courts may be needed at full build out.  For water aficionados, Jordan Lake is close, but we did not have a peek at it as we made our way around the golf course.
    The Preserve, which seems out in the country, is 30 minutes from mall shopping and 15 minutes from a supermarket and pharmacy, but commerce is coming closer every day; a few miles down NC Highway 64, the big handyman chains Lowes and Home Depot have both opened stores.  The University of North Carolina Hospital is just 20 minutes away. 
    You’ll need to warm up on the irons-only practice range before you tackle the golf course.  The course is a stiff challenge, right from its opening hole.  A short par 5 at just 492 from the men’s tees (512 from the back), it is one of the toughest starters we have played, with a fairway that slopes severely left toward a creek and marsh area and then forces a second shot that must carry the same creek as it meanders across the fairway (and you better hit a power draw to position for a reasonable third shot).  The pin on the elevated green was rear right, behind a menacing trap.  We prefer our warm-up holes a tad less penal.
    Later, have a Power Bar or two at the turn, because you’ll need the energy on the par four 10th.  A dogleg right, it plays 438 from the men’s tees (470 from the back) over a stream, with a trap guarding the inside elbow at 222 yards out from the tee box.  If you are fortunate to have hit a 250-yard drive down the left side of the fairway, only 180 yards or so remains to carry the stream that guards the front of the long, deep green.  That is a big “if,” since the dog’s leg is narrowest where good drives should wind up.  We won’t easily forget number 14 either, a 500-yard par 5 that dares you to carry a long second shot (or short-iron third) to pin positions set beyond 30 feet of false front.  “False” is putting it mildly, since the front goes almost straight up.  We wondered if they throw a rope around the guy who cuts the green to keep him from tipping over.
    Players with handicaps of 13 or more shouldn’t go near the men’s tees (rating 72.7 and slope of 140), and many will suffer frustrations from the shorter tees (6,116 yards with a rating of 70.6 and slope of 128).  As for the tips at 7,100 yards (75.1 and 145), the scorecard recommends that routing for handicaps of 6 or less.   The 6-handicap may be a 10 after a few rounds at The Preserve.
    Web site:  http://www.thepreserve.ws/golf.

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Trouble front and back is typical at The Preserve.
   
    Coming tomorrow:  Chapel Ridge

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Larry Gavrich

This blog was conceived and is published by me, Larry Gavrich, a former corporate communications executive who founded HomeOnTheCourse, LLC, in 2005.  Our firm advises baby boomers and others seeking a lifestyle in which golf is a major component.  My wife Connie and I own a home in Connecticut (not on a golf course) and a condo at Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC, on a Jack Nicklaus layout.  We began our search for our home on the course more than 15 years ago, and the challenges of the search inspired me to research golf communities and write objective reviews of them.

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