August-September 2020

Covid-19 has had a strange effect on property sales in golf communities, but it isn’t what you’d expect. Learn more this month in Home On The Course.  The best information web sites are those that are useful and easy to use.  Thanks to a subscriber, we have found Flood Factor, which assesses flood risk by address across the nation.  Also included this month is a free offer for those searching for a golf home, or thinking about. All this and more.  Start reading now…

Haig Point, Daufuskie Island, SC Haig Point, Daufuskie Island, SC

Covid-19’s Surprising Effects on Golf and Golf Communities

 It is the very definition of counterintuitive: The deadly Covid-19 pandemic — which has driven millions of people indoors for most hours of the day — has been good for golf and good for Southern golf community real estate.  

Tee times at public or municipal golf courses have been at a premium, and if you score a mid-to-late-morning tee time, chances are you called a week in advance.  Golf is one of the few recreational sports that can be played safely as long as we accept a modest number of restrictions and modest level of risk.  I have played about a dozen times in the last six weeks and have felt no less safe than I do in my house (although my mask is always with me in my golf cart, and I am content to wear it when I check in and use the facilities at the local courses in Connecticut). 

A couple of weeks ago I was matched with two other locals at my favorite Hartford area venue, Keney Park.  On the first green, one of my partners took a bottle of water and placed it two feet to the left of the cup.  He explained that he was a “high risk” individual and wasn’t going to take any chances touching the cup or bottom of the flagstick.  The bottle would serve as his and his cousin’s “cup” for all 18 holes.  I didn’t ask him for details about his risk, but I almost signed up to putt to the bottle, given that I have Type 2 diabetes and hypertension (both controllable).  In the end, I trusted the disc of foam at the bottom of the cup that meant I could pull the ball out of the cup with two fingers.  (Every few holes, I reached for the hand sanitizer in the cart.)

I see varying degrees of caution among other players; some stand on tee boxes less than three feet from each other, gabbing away, no masks in sight.  Others, as my high-risk individual demonstrated, exercise an abundance of caution.  Suffice to say that Keney Park, like so many other courses, has a much more crowded tee sheet on weekdays than it had last summer at the same time, and more people means more risk.  The extra traffic on the golf course may be the result of fewer people traveling this summer; Hartford is essentially a blue-collar city with aerospace related businesses as well as insurance companies (Aetna, The Hartford) forming its core employment base.  But in other, higher-income urban areas, there is strong evidence that many people who can afford it are in full flight to locations they perceive as safer.

Islands imply safety to many.  Steve, a friend who fled Florida this spring for his other home on Nantucket Island off the Massachusetts coast, told me the island has been crowded with folks from New York and Boston since April, most of them owners of properties they typically use only in summer.  One of those, an analyst for Morgan Stanley in New York, has been there since March and doesn’t have plans to return to the city for the foreseeable future.  Nantucket, which has a year-round population of around 15,000 and triple that in summer, has suffered just 49 confirmed cases of coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.

Those numbers seem consistent with what we might expect of island living — even more so for a true island community like Haig Point on Daufuskie Island which is reached only by boat (it runs a ferry for residents to and from Hilton Head Island) and with a rather stable population.  Haig Point is among the safest places to live right now, with lots of outdoor activities (golf, a nice beach) and residences just a short golf cart away from any location in the community.  Daufuskie Island’s year-round population, most of it at Haig Point, is about 450.  The island’s latest number of confirmed cases since the pandemic began is just four, or a mere .008% of the island’s population, the best performance of any zip code in Beaufort County, SC, which has seen a total of 4,357 confirmed cases since the onset of the virus.  The small town of Sheldon, home to the high-end Brays Island golf community, has totaled just five confirmed cases.  Bluffton, where many of the area’s top golf communities are located, has suffered the most cases in the county, 1,084 for a total population of 23,000.  That works out to .047%.  (By comparison, New York City has seen 237,000 cases, or .03% of its population of 8 million.)

According to a report in the magazine Mansion Global magazine, about 50% of Haig Point’s residents live on the island year-round, but currently that population has risen to 70%.  To reinforce the notion that folks are seeking refuge on the island, in a 2 ½ month period earlier this year, Haig Point’s sales office received 300 more inquiries than it did in the same period a year earlier.

One of our newsletter subscribers, a doctor who lives at Haig Point, wrote me that everyone on the island was invited to be tested at the local fire station a couple of weeks ago.  Results were quick.  He and his wife tested negative and, to the best of his knowledge, all other residents were negative as well.

If you would like an introduction to Haig Point or other island golf communities such as Bald Head Island off the North Carolina coast, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Give and Take: Country Clubs Accept PPP Money

Private golf clubs are businesses, and businesses — with few exceptions, including mine — employ people. People are hurting right now, many in the physical sense but financially as well.  It is important that we keep our fellow citizens off bread lines, safely in their homes or at their jobs, and with a sense of hope for the future (even if there are noisy debates about the amount of relief required).

The Island Packet, the newspaper that serves the Bluffton/Hilton Head area in South Carolina, recently published a list of nearby country clubs that applied for and accepted money from the US government through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), part of the CARES Act passed by Congress to encourage companies large and small to keep their employees on their payrolls.  If those companies comply with the specifics of PPP, there is a good chance the “loan” will be forgiven.  At worst, companies will be required to pay all or part of it over time, a better deal than they could have received from most banks given the low interest rate the government has offered.

As you may have read, some companies opted to return the money they received after media and members of the public questioned whether they really needed funds they already had in reserve. Well-financed and profitable companies, the argument went, should be able to keep their employees on the job, especially if the work can be done from home or some other safe venue.  The Kiawah Island Community Association, according to The Island Packet, returned the $1 million loan it received after a U.S. Congressman complained that “wealthy community associations that have millions of dollars in reserve” should not qualify.

Private golf neighborhoods and gated community property owners’ associations in Beaufort County obtained at least $8.5 million in small business loans,” The Island Packetreported.  Among those who received between $1 million and $2 million were some well-known communities, including Berkeley Hall Plantation, Belfair Plantation and Moss Creek Plantation in Bluffton; Wexford Plantation and the Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island; and Haig Point on Daufuskie Island. The Colleton River Plantation Club and Hampton Hall in Bluffton and Long Cove on Hilton Head received loans between $350,000 and $1 million; Spring Island, near Beaufort, where homes sell at $1 million and higher, received a loan of less than $350,000.  (Of course, this is not a Hilton Head area phenomenon; private golf clubs and communities across the nation have applied for and received similar loans.)  

Even before the PPP program was announced, one of the area’s private clubs had decided to retain all its employees, according to a former Board member at the club.  

“We had no idea what the financial impact would be, but we expected significant revenue declines, which is what has happened,” he told me, asking that I not use his name or club affiliation.  Since all club employees, even the part-timers, have been retained, my contact is confident the loan will be forgiven.  But even if not, he says, “we have not used any of it for current operations, so we’ll repay it if need be; the gap would be funded by our reserves or dues raised for 2021.”

It is clear that this community and others like it could have covered the costs to retain all employees, at least for a time.  But to all of them, it made good business sense to accept, at worst, a low-interest loan from the government and, at best, free money if the loan is forgiven because the club adhered to all the rules, chief among them continued employment for its workers.

Despite its lofty objectives, PPP has not been without controversy.  The program was rushed through to respond to the pandemic and could fall well short of its intended goals, and at a whopping price tag.  

“There really is not any practical way to set up a program in the time frame available to determine the deserving versus the non-deserving,” one developer told me, “so we have a program that, I suspect, will have half the money wasted.  

“It is in the nature of government — and the pandemic.”

 

If you have any thoughts on this topic, please shoot me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I will print appropriate responses.

 

Larry Gavrich
Founder & Editor
Home On The Course, LLC

 

Five Key Steps to Start Your Golf Home Search

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I am mindful that some of you already own golf homes, but some of you may have considered searching for one before the pandemic.  I am hearing from my real estate contacts in the Southeast that they are receiving lots of inquiries about properties for sale in local golf communities, and potential buyers are planning visits for the coming months.  

If you are considering re-starting (or starting from scratch) a search for a golf community home, I have developed a short guide to conducting your search that includes five fundamental approaches you should consider.  [Click here] and I will send it to you with my compliments.  As always, if you would like my personal assistance in matching your preferences to any of the more than 150 golf communities I have visited, shoot me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we can discuss some ideas. 

A Flood of Concern

We are deep into hurricane season which typically means my annual caution not to overreact in deciding whether to live near the coast or not.  (I typically cite the odds of a major storm hitting a particular spot on the east coast; spoiler, the odds are good you won’t be affected and, anyway, local and state governments have become quite adept at evacuation procedures.)

In recent weeks, Hurricane Isaias pelted Pawleys Island, SC, where my wife and I own a vacation condo.  The word from our next-door neighbor was that our condo suffered no damage whatsoever.  Indeed, in the 20 years we have owned the vacation home, the worst consequence of a hurricane has been a leak from the roof that stained a couple of walls. 

Alan Eldridge, a dedicated reader of this newsletter, recently told me about a web site that is both illuminating and easy to use regarding the threat of flooding to any single property in the U.S.  I had been using the FEMA site for such information but FloodFactor.com is considerably more user friendly. (Thank you, Alan.) The site bills itself this way: “Past floods, current risks, and future projections based on peer-reviewed research from the world’s leading flood modelers.”

Plug in any address you want — say, your current home or, perhaps, one you are considering in a marshland golf community in the Southeast — and you will receive an assessment of flood risk for that property.  This is especially helpful in that flood risk determines the amount of flood insurance you must carry.

I input our address in Pawleys Island and was pleased to find out that our home had a “minimal flood risk,” a 1 in 10 chance, even though we are adjacent to a pond and just ¾ mile from the ocean.  However, Flood Factor’s recommendation is that we carry flood insurance, which we have done for 20 years because that is what FEMA recommends. (The cost is a few hundred dollars annually.)  The Flood Factor results for our address also show that 38% of the properties in our surrounding county, Georgetown, are at risk.  Especially helpful for those in the market for a home, Flood Factor estimates the likelihood of flooding over a period of time.  In our case, “this property is unlikely to flood over the next 30 years.”  Other properties closer to the marsh will not be so lucky in the future with an expected rise in sea levels.

Whew.

As I get set to publish the newsletter, I have learned that Realtor.com, where tens of thousands of homes on the market are posted, has decided to include Flood Factor’s risk ratings for many of the listings.  This is a big deal.  I checked out a few coastal homes currently for sale in communities not far from marsh and ocean, and the risk factors ranged from 1 in 10 all the way up to 10 in 10.  The latter risk factor typically warns of a better than 50/50 chance of flooding over the next five years and a more than 90 percent chance of flooding sometime in the next 30 years as sea levels rise.  Realtor.com’s decision should make potential buyers happy; sellers of homes at risk are another story.

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Our latest review at OffTheBeatenCartPath.com, a hidden gem in Swanton, VT. called Champlain Country Club

 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.