With three golf courses within its gates and a mall just outside, Woodside Plantation offers the most "rounded" living experience of the Aiken golf communities. The golf courses carry prestige names - Bob Cupp, Rees Jones and Nicklaus Design. However, the first two courses are owned by ClubCorp and the newer Reserve course by the developers; two separate initiation fees and dues payments are required if you want membership privileges at the three courses.
On our visit, The Reserve seemed to be in the best shape of the three, and its clean, unfussy design made up for a lack of drama. Caveat emptor: If you are thinking Jack Nicklaus is behind a Nicklaus Design course, be advised that son Steve designed this one. The Golden Bear takes primary responsibility for courses with the word "Signature" after his name.
The Woodside community comprises 2,300 acres of rolling land that includes 100 acres of lakes and 20 acres carved out as a nature preserve. It is the only community of the three visited that provides 24-hour security at the front gate. Its other distinctions are a croquet lawn where members and friends from surrounding clubs engage in weekly matches. As its rival communities do, Woodside offers miles of walking trails, both along the golf course and through the woods. Full golf membership in The Reserve Club, after payment of a $1,000 "social initiation fee," was $26,500 (refundable under certain conditions) or $13,250 (non-refundable) a few months ago. Monthly dues for residents were $283, and $155 for non-residents. Membership confers full golf privileges as well as tennis, croquet, swimming and use of the clubhouse. An "activities membership" at half the full golf initiation fee provides use of the golf course two times per month (no greens fees) and lower dues rates. This will appeal to those who purchase a home site and defer construction.
The other Woodside Plantation courses carried an initiation fee of $18,000 for the two together a few months ago. Full privileges -- tennis, swimming, social -- came with $278 per month in dues (non-golfers can buy tennis and/or social privileges for lower rates).
Woodside offers the entire range of housing options, from low-maintenance villas to large brick homes on substantial lots. The Reserve section provides especially nice golf views, as well as a few choice lake views. Woodside's Glen Haven is an "adults only" community for owners 55 and over. Prices in general throughout Woodside seem to fit in the middle range of the three communities reviewed, with home site prices starting well into the $100's and with the average house in the $500,000 category. Annual property association dues are just $577 per year (about half if you own a lot only).
For those seeking the most convenient shopping in the area, the 45-store Aiken Mall, with anchors Dillards, Belk, J.C. Penney and Sears, as well as a supermarket, lies about a five-wood distance outside the community's rear gate. Retail in Aiken is still in the emergent phase, and for those who'd prefer short trips to the store, Woodside's proximity to shopping is a big plus.
At Woodside Plantation, three golf courses are a tease, given that two sets of membership fees and dues are necessary. The community has an "established" feel to it, with the vast majority of the lots built upon. Woodside offers a wide variety of home site and housing options, and the manned gate will appeal to the security conscious. And you can virtually walk to the mall. Woodside's web site details a nice discovery package for those interested in visiting. Depending on your choice of accommodations - from the local Hampton Inn to the famed Wilcox Inn in Aiken - the package for two runs from $154 to $300 for two nights of lodging, a dinner and round of golf at The Reserve course. Web site: www.woodsideplantation.com