December 2020

You might have resented being told, “Go play with someone your own age” when you were young. Well, what goes round comes round, and past the age of 50, that can be pretty good advice. This month, I cover the Senior Golfers Association, a group that plays all over the world.  Also, some observations about the results of the Presidential election in the Southeast and a cost-of-living chart that may tax the assumptions of a few wannabe Floridians — all included this month.

f998b401 915a 43f4 a3c9 abfbe5979d42  Keowee Key, Salem, SC, Photo by Bill Koepnick

If Politics Matters in Your Search for a Golf Home…

As an unprecedented number of folks from the North search for homes in the South during a time of political divide in the country, many will be attempting to assess where the locals stand politically.  It is nearly impossible to divine the political tilt of any particular golf community since no figures are published, no board officials would answer such a question and because, frankly, people in golf communities tend to go along to get along.  I recall a conversation with one former client who lives in an upscale community in South Carolina. While on the golf course, he listened to some blatantly offensive remarks and decided not to confront the speaker for fear it could ruin his golf group — and perhaps bruise his knuckles. I suspect a lot of that goes on.

Every four years, I take a look at county-by-county voting in the Presidential election to discern any patterns in areas populated by golf communities.  The 2020 cycle, although the parties seemed more divided than ever, pretty much followed the patterns of 2008, 2012 and 2016.  Rural votes tended to go in the Republican direction, and urban votes tilted in the direction of the Democrats. In between it was a bit of a hodgepodge set of results. (There were a few exceptions here and there.)

 

Counties with Large Universities Typically Vote Democrat

It is certainly possible that the inherent politics of a particular golf community may not reflect the sentiments in the community outside its gates. But those who intend to get involved in the life of the community outside the gates may wonder about the political environment.  Take the following results with a grain of salt.

I can say that, pretty much without exception, any progressive-leaning couple who wants to live in a surrounding area of like-minded people should target areas that are home to large universities.  Almost exclusively, the surrounding counties voted Democrat.  For example, Albemarle County Virginia, home to the state’s university in Charlottesville, voted overwhelmingly for President-elect Biden, 66% to 32% for President Trump.  (I have rounded up and down to eliminate decimals.)  In Tallahassee, FL, home to that state’s university and in the otherwise red panhandle of the state, the results were similar, 64% to 35%, respectively.  Few counties showed a more skewed result than in Durham County North Carolina where Biden collected 80% of the vote; Durham is home to Duke University.  Next door in Orange County, home to Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina, Biden won 75% of the vote.

 

Counties with Smaller Schools Vote Republican

Counties with smaller colleges and universities tilted toward the President.  In Beaufort County North Carolina (not to be confused with a county of the same name in South Carolina), voters went 63% to 37% for President Trump; the county seat of Greensboro is home to East Carolina University.  In Horry County South Carolina, which comprises much of the Myrtle Beach area and is home to Coastal Carolina University, the vote went 66% for President Trump and 33% for Biden.  In Greenville, where Furman University is located, the surrounding county voted 58% to 40% for the President.  One of the relatively few counties to vote for Biden in South Carolina — 56% to 43% — was Charleston County, home to Charleston, the College of Charleston and the numerous golf communities that surround the city.

The votes in counties of the South largely made up of cities was a bit of a mixed bag.  In Chatham County Georgia, home to Savannah and the sprawling Landings community, the vote was 59% Biden, 40% Trump.  Richmond County (Augusta) went for Biden substantially, 68% to 31%.  Henrico County Virginia, home to Richmond, voted almost the same way, 64% to 35%.

 

Finding Balance in Voting Difficult

Yet in Florida, city results were all over the place.  The Tampa area’s Hillsborough County went 53% Biden, 46% Trump; yet Sarasota County, which comprises the cities of Sarasota and Venice, went 55% Trump, 44% Biden.  Duval County (Jacksonville) was close, at 51% to 47% in favor of Biden. (Yet next door in Nassau County, which includes Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island, the vote was a strong 72% for Trump and just 27% for Biden.)

Those looking for a perfect political balance in the voting results will be hard pressed to find them.  Of the 50 or so counties I looked at, the two that came closest were St. Lucie County in Florida and New Hanover in North Carolina.  The former is home to Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie and voted 50% to 49% in favor of Trump; the famed PGA Village community, with three PGA National golf courses, is located in Port St. Lucie.  New Hanover county comprises the popular city of Wilmington and, among other communities, Landfall and Porters Neck. New Hanover voted 50% to 48% in favor of Biden.

    

How to Play Golf with People Your Own Age

When I was in college, my youngest brother, 11 years old at the time, was a masterful chess player. Either I or my sister would drive him from our suburban New Jersey home into New York City to compete in tournaments. I recall one match in which he played against a 50-something gentleman who, something like 15 minutes into the match, knocked over his king and extended his hand to the little kid across from him.  I recall thinking, “Why don’t you play against people your own age?”  I was thinking about the older man…

…which brings me to the Senior Golfers of America (SGA), one of the best affinity golfing groups you’ve likely never heard of.  I say that with a mix of confidence and bewilderment because there are only about 1,000 people on the group’s mailing list and millions of golfers over the age of 50 in the U.S. (a large percentage of them living inside the gates of golf communities).  SGA has the kind of programming and history that deserve better, and I am doing my small part here to spread the word. (Full disclosure: SGA Director Catherine Powell is posting an article about my new book for her membership and I, impressed by SGA’s vigorous schedule for senior golfers, offered to write about her group.)

In non-pandemic years, SGA events are scheduled virtually every month, and even in this chaotic year of 2020, the group has kept to its domestic schedule.  The events, which are both competitive and non-competitive, are a mix of lavish and demure: “Lavish” as in Christmas at The Cloister in Sea Island, GA, or a few days at Hotel Royal and the Crans sur Sierre Golf Club in Crans-Montana, Switzerland; “demure” as in The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama and Linville Lodge in the North Carolina mountains.  Somewhere in between lie such stalwarts as Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines, both on the schedule for mid 2021.  I hope to attend the group’s Lobster Festival event next year in Boothbay Harbor, ME, a leisurely four-hour drive from my home in Connecticut.  

You might get the feeling, at this point, that membership in this club is exclusive and that you will have to take out a second mortgage to afford it.  Au contraire.  Annual membership for a single is just $75, for a golfing couple $125, and for a golfer and non-golfing spouse, $100.  The only requirements for membership, besides being a lady or gentleman and adhering to the written and unwritten rules of golf, is to be 50 years old or older.

If you would like to learn more, visit the SGA website at https://seniorgolfersamerica.com/, or contact SGA Director Catherine Powell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Larry Gavrich
Founder & Editor
Home On The Course, LLC

 

Beware the Income Tax Trap

As we approach the end of the calendar year, many of us will have taxes on our mind as we wait for our W-2 and other forms to arrive and then prepare to file our returns.  Some of us will look at the resulting tax burden and ask, “Wouldn’t it be great if we moved to a state with no income tax?”

The answer is “Maybe not.” Here is what I wrote about taxes in my new book, Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home, available for sale at Amazon.com:

Three states in the Southeast—Florida, Alabama and Tennessee—do not impose a state income tax on their citizens. In retirement, if you earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, then God bless; Florida or the other two no- income-tax states are viable choices. But for the great majority of the rest of us, the state income tax is relatively meaningless, especially since those states without one have to make up the loss of revenue somehow. (Sales taxes seem to be a popular way.)

The overall cost of living in Florida’s cities and towns, for example, rivals that of many cities in the North and is considerably higher than most locations in the Carolinas and Georgia. Insurance rates in the Sunshine State are about the highest in the nation. And former commuters to cities like New York and Boston will relive nightmares sitting in Florida interstate and local traffic, especially during the winter months when the population level of the state explodes. (You can circumvent some of those problems by paying tolls.)  Still, if you want to play year-round golf and enjoy the best weather in the U.S. during the winter months, Florida is a great option. But unless you maintain a large income, don’t choose Florida for the income tax break alone.

The financial newsletter Kiplinger indicates that South Carolina is actually more tax friendly to retirees than is Florida. Like Florida, South Carolina does not tax Social Security income but offers additional breaks to seniors, such as the exclusion from state taxation of up to $25,000 of retirement and other income. The average property tax on a $400,000 home in Florida is $3,920 annually; in South Carolina it is $2,402. 

In the end, the determining financial factor should be cost of living, of which taxes is but one component.  In the chart below, also included in my book, cost of living for states in the Southeast and selected states elsewhere are ranked based on their comparison to the US average cost of living.

State Cost of Living Index
Compared with US average 

State  Rank  COL Index 
Mississippi  86.1 
Tennessee*  88.7 
Michigan  88.9 
Georgia  89.2 
Alabama*  11  89.3 
Indiana  12  90.0 
Iowa  13  90.1 
Ohio  15  90.8 
North Carolina  22  94.9 
South Carolina  23  95.9 
Wisconsin  25  97.3 
Florida*  26  97.9 
Virginia  30  100.7 
Minnesota  31  101.6 
Pennsylvania  32  101.7 
New Hampshire*  37  109.7 
Vermont  39  114.5 
Rhode Island  41  119.4 
New Jersey  42  125.1 
Connecticut  43  127.7 
Massachusetts  46  131.6 
New York  48  139.1 
California  49  152.7 

*states with no income tax

Source: WorldPopulationReview.com 

3f3ba9e0 2a4e 42ba a5b4 41eb034fc018

Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home is available in paperback at Amazon.com. An eBook version will be available soon.

 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.