April 2019

Richmond could very well be the best city you have never considered for a golfing retirement.  We hope a little information on Richmond goes a long way in this issue.  Plus, we run the numbers that compare the costs of a resale home and a brand new home.
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April 2019 
 Federal Club, Glen Allen, VA

Buy or Build Equation:  
Dreams Have Their Price


Many couples preparing for retirement face a nettlesome dilemma; buy an existing home, a “resale” as it is commonly known, or buy a lot and build their dream home.  Certainly, if we could snap our fingers and move into that dream home, without the headaches that come with construction or the costs of all those brand new materials, we would do it.

Cost is often the ultimate discriminator between taking the leap into construction or playing it safe with a resale home.  In general, the cost of unimproved properties has remained relatively flat over recent years while the costs of resale homes in prime quality golf communities have risen.  But all things being equal, new is generally more expensive than used, as in cars, but how much more expensive?

To understand how big the differences can be, I decided to do an apples to apples comparison in a golf community I know well, Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC.  I found a resale home on a ¼ acre lot and an unimproved lot of the same size also currently for sale.  The comparison follows:


The Resale

By definition, a “patio” home is located on a small lot, typically ¼ acre, and comprises three bedrooms and two to three baths.  Because of the size of the lot, the house typically does not exceed 2,600 square feet.  Built in 1992, the custom-built three-bedroom, two-bath patio home currently for sale at 70 Redwing Court in the gated Pawleys Plantation sits on a wooded lot and, unusually, is larger than 2,600 square feet (2,651, to be exact).  The Pawleys Plantation clubhouse and the first tee of the Jack Nicklaus golf course are less than a two-minute drive away.  The club is semi-private; you have the choice to join and play as much golf as you would like, or to pay as you play.

Denise Talbert of Sotheby Realty has the listing at $342,500.  On a dollar-per-square-foot basis, that works out to $129 per square foot.   Contact me if you would like more information.

Photos courtesy of Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors

Build Your Own

Lot #47 on Green Wing Teal Court is just under ¼ acre and provides nice views of the par 3 3rd hole on the Nicklaus course and the lagoon that runs down the entire left side of the hole.  (A family of alligators often sunbathes in the bunker between tee and green.)  Cathy Bergeron of The Litchfield Company has listed the lot at $90,000.  Cathy and other area real estate professionals indicate that $150 is the typical cost per square foot to build a new home in the area.  Of course, upgraded cabinets and higher end granite counters throughout the house will add to the cost.  At $150 per square foot, the total cost to build a new patio home of 2,651 square feet in Pawleys Plantation would be approximately $488,000; that includes the $90,000 list price for the lot.   Contact me for more information on this property.

The Bottom Line

In a literal sense, you are dreaming big when you decide to build your dream home.  The upcharge in our apples to apples example in Pawleys Plantation is $140,000.  The benefits of building are obvious; you move into a brand new home, built precisely to your specifications, with major repairs to roof and mechanicals far in the distance.  Maintenance costs, at least for the first 10 years or so, will be lower than in a lived-in home.  Most of all, you are getting precisely what you want in a home.  The sting of the cost difference between new and resale will be salved somewhat if you are relocating from a high property tax state; with property taxes in South Carolina and other southern states considerably lower than in the north, you are likely to save enough to pay for the difference over a few years time.  (For example, a home valued at $600,000 in Livingston, NJ, is taxed at $15,810 annually; in Pawleys Island, a home of a similar value would be taxed at a rate of approximately $4,000.

The ultimate choice comes down to how much extra you are willing to pay for precisely what you want.  To paraphrase a popular TV ad of a few years ago, having a dream home built exactly to your specifications may be…priceless.



If you are considering a search for a permanent or vacation home in a golf-oriented area, please contact me for a free, no-obligation consultation at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Richmond: Great Location, Healthcare
and Golf Make River City a Great Spot
for Retiree Living

As a golf retirement destination, Richmond, VA’s charms have been well hidden.  The city should show up way more often on “best of” ranking lists, but even when it does, Richmond tends to rank below other cities that offer fewer services and entertainments.  It is almost as if the Richmond city fathers have spent all their budget on making the city as livable for those already there, with no dollars left to market to newcomers, especially retirees, one of the Southeast’s most attractive cities.  

Richmond may host only a minor league baseball team, the Braves’ AAA farm team, but it is a major league city, with all the positive attributes of better-known urban areas, delivered in a smaller package.  Yet with a metro area population well over one million, you can count on the full panoply of golf courses, from well-tended public facilities to lavish country clubs.

A Prime Location

In real estate, location is everything, and that is true of cities too; there is hardly a more convenient location east of the Mississippi than Richmond, which is bisected by two major interstates — I-95 and I-64.  The former is the thoroughfare for Yankees heading south to Florida and other parts of the Southeast for winter, and for the return back north in the summer.  I-64 makes it easy for Richmondites to get to Virginia Beach and other coastal locations in under two hours; a drive in the other direction delivers them to the university town of Charlottesville in about an hour and the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Wintergreen Resort (45 holes of mountain golf, as well as winter skiing) in well under two hours.  (No need, by the way, to leave Richmond for the benefits of a great university; the University of Richmond has become a magnet for serious traditional students and local retirees who want the stimulation of a serious continuous learning program.) 

Real estate in the Richmond area runs the gamut from newish condo-style homes to large and elegant single-family homes.  Both types, and many options in between, are spread throughout communities across the Richmond metro area and slightly beyond.  My friend, recently retired University of Richmond Statistics Professor Andy Litteral, is my source for everything golf in the Richmond area.  After Andy responded to an article I had written at GolfCommunityReviews.com nine years ago, I found myself a few months later in his office at the University of Richmond while my daughter, a high school senior at the time, was touring the beautiful campus.  Since then, I have tried to make a point when driving through Richmond of arranging to spend 18 holes and a post round libation with Andy, as much for the camaraderie as to test out some golfing options in the area.

Healthy Options

Andy raves about Richmond’s healthcare options and says he has become a frequent user of the wide range of services available.  If he or his wife Anna require a visit to a specialist, they have their choice within 20 minutes of their Richmond city home.  
       “If I were considering moving to Richmond” says Andy, “the extraordinary quality and accessibility of medical care would be a factor.”

The area’s private golf community country clubs run the gamut in terms of privacy, costs of membership, conditions and ease of access from center city Richmond.  All those mentioned in the following paragraphs are of high quality; in my experience and according to Andy, who has played virtually all of them, conditions range from good to exceptional. 

The Country Club of Virginia (CCV) and Kinloch are unquestionably the top courses in Richmond by reputation and rankings.  CCV, which is basically the “old money” club in town — every city has one — boasts three impressive 18-hole layouts, two of them running along the James River.  The club's original course, Westhampton, opened in 1908 and was redone in 1921 by Donald Ross.  In October each year, the club hosts a PGA Champions Tour event.   Count on requiring a “sponsor” to be considered for membership, but typically good real estate agents will know someone who can introduce you.

The Ubiquitous Lester George

Lester George and Vinny Giles, one of the nation’s most famous amateur players and winner of both the British and U.S. Amateur titles, designed Kinloch.  George, who also designed Ballyhack in Roanoke and other notable Virginia layouts (see below), is an ultra modern designer whose iconic shaping of bunkers and circuitous hole routings are emblematic of his design approach.  After I played Kinloch in 2010, I wrote that the club and adjacent community of homes was the only one I had ever encountered in which “the golf club is gated and the sophisticated surrounding neighborhood is not.  The layout and conditions befit such a private club, with fairly rare but welcome touches, such as a caddy program.  I can assure you that a good walk along the swirling fairways of Kinloch is not spoiled by anything other than a poorly played shot.  As for the greens, no excuses accepted; they were perfect.”

From Sam Snead to Lanny Wadkins

Hermitage Country Club and The Foundry also have strong reputations for layout and condition.  Since I have not played either, I defer to my friend Andy to describe both.  He wrote me, “Hermitage is a full-service club with a strong membership base…robust tennis, swimming, social and golf offerings.  Its membership includes good amateur players [happy to have] 36 holes to enjoy.” Hermitage moved a few decades ago from a club known today as Belmont, a public facility that was designed by the famed A.W. Tillinghast and hosted the 1949 PGA Championship.  Sam Snead won the title that year in match play, just six months before a future PGA Champion, Lanny Wadkins, was born in Richmond.

The Foundry, located in Powhatan, is about 30 minutes from center city Richmond and represents “the purest golf experience in the area, with the exception of Kinloch,” according to Andy.  The club is sited inside the boundaries of Greywalls, a suburban subdivision with building lots starting under $100,000 and homes selling from the $500s.  “There is nothing but golf at The Foundry,” Andy adds, “except for a facility for overnight stays and dining.”

Salisbury, where Andy took up membership after his retirement from University of Richmond, Magnolia Green and The Federal Club offer terrific golfing experiences a little closer to Richmond.  I have played Federal with Andy a few times when he was a member there and found it both challenging and a lot of fun (and surprisingly lacking the steroid-like feel of many Arnold Palmer designed courses). 

Salisbury Country Club in Midlothian, where I look forward to a round with Andy later this year, was founded in 1963 and features 27 holes; Ed Ault designed the original 18 holes and, in 2000, the aforementioned Lester George, of Kinloch and Ballyhack fame, followed up with a layout of the final nine holes.  For those golfers who “moonlight” as tennis players, Salisbury has excellent indoor facilities, according to Andy.

Andy reports that the golf community surrounding Magnolia Green in Chesterfield, VA, is “growing like kudzu.”  (Kudzu, for the uninitiated, is a leafy green vinous plant that can take over and cover everything in its path in a matter of weeks.)  The community’s swimming options are especially robust, with five pools available for water bugs of all ages.  Nicklaus Design is responsible for the course layout.  The growing community, composed substantially of folks who hail from outside of Richmond, has plenty of new homes for sale starting in the $300s.

From Bankruptcy to Bargain

Glen Allen, VA’s Federal Club floundered from its badly timed opening a year before the 2008 recession, and was converted from private to public play before being purchased out of bankruptcy by a local developer in 2011, who reverted it to private status in 2012.  Membership fees are quite reasonable, with a couples plan (family) priced at $439 per month with a one-time $5,000 initiation fee.  Seniors (65 and older) can grab a Monday through Thursday membership for just $279 per month with a $2,500 initiation fee.  (Note:  Initiation fees are discounted 5% if paid in full at one time.)  A number of one-acre lots are available adjacent to Federal Club and are priced from the mid $100s.  I could find only a small handful of homes currently for sale, the lowest priced at $800,000 (but it covers more than 4,000 square feet).

The circa 1959 Willow Oaks Country Club is beautifully sited on the south side of the James River not far from the center of Richmond and, this will sound familiar, was renovated by Lester George in 2008.  Stones from an original 18th Century mining site on the property have been artistically and strategically placed at points along the golf course.  I have something of a soft spot for the family-oriented Dominion Club because the articles I wrote about its prior owner’s bizarre financial shenanigans generated some of the most gratifying letters I have ever received.  After trying to declare a bogus bankruptcy and retain full and unfettered ownership of the club, the prior owners were pretty much forced to sell out to a third party in 2015.  The Heritage Group, the new owners, plowed $2 million into refreshing the course and club facilities and re-established it as one of the best family clubs in the Richmond area. (Note: Former Nike and PGA Tour Player Notah Begay shot a 59 at Dominion Club during a Nike Tour event.)

For those who would like to pay as they play, Richmond has plenty of top-quality public options, including Spring Creek and Pendleton Country Clubs, both about 45 minutes from city center but worth the drive; and Independence in Midlothian, about 20 minutes away.  Although The Independence Club is accessible to the public, it offers annual passes for unlimited golf at $3,800 for a single, $5,000 for a couple.  The club’s 18-hole course was designed by Tom Fazio and redone in 2014 by the aforementioned Lester George.  An additional 9-hole Fazio-designed Mentor Course is a great place to hone your short game.  Michael Breed, of Golf Channel fame, and his brother recently purchased Independence as well as two other local courses; members of one can play all three for one monthly dues payment.  Their first investment at Independence was to hire — wait for it — Lester George to redo the golf course.  If you love Lester George’s design philosophy — I do — then you will love Richmond golf.

    If you are planning a trip to Richmond, and you should, this article will provide a range of things to do in The River City:  Click here.    



Larry Gavrich
Founder & Editor
Home On The Course, LLC



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