In Charleston’s golf communities, enhanced real estate values are par for the course | Special-advertising
It was golf that helped make Kiawah Island the world-renowned destination that it is today. The 1991 Ryder Cup on the new Ocean Course displayed Kiawah to a mass audience for the first time, and the two PGA Championships that followed have broadcast its beaches and marshes to the world in stunning high definition. Some people first came to Kiawah for the golf—and then came back to stay for good.
“It wasn’t an immediate reaction, but you did have a lot of people who had never been here coming to see the golf, and then bringing their families back,” said Pam Harrington, owner and broker in charge of Pam Harrington Exclusives, a real estate agency located near Kiawah. “People would come down here and think, ‘Oh my gosh, I found this hidden secret.’”
Kiawah may be the most prominent, but it’s hardly the only Lowcountry neighborhood that’s seen golf play a major role in its development. From Hollywood to Summerville to Awendaw to the islands, the Charleston area is dotted with communities built around golf courses. And given that the majority of people living in those neighborhoods don’t play golf, the name of the game isn’t necessarily breaking par—it’s enhancing real estate value.
“Those neighborhoods normally hold their value for a very long time,” said Linda Collins, managing broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Southern Coast Real Estate in Summerville. “They’re good places to live, and people feel closer to each other. I’ve lived in golf communities before, and I just love it, because I have a tendency to go to the club and visit with my neighbors more.”
The greater Charleston area boasts more than 30 golf courses, most of them available for public play, and the vast majority lined with homes, townhouses, villas or some other type of real estate. Living on a golf course isn’t for everyone; you have to be OK with the occasional high-handicapper inadvertently hooking a Titleist into your backyard. But many more people find the expanded vistas that can come with golf course living to be captivating, even if they’ve never swung a 7-iron in their lives.
“It’s the open spaces,” Harrington said. “It’s like you have this huge, beautiful backyard that someone else takes care of. Several years ago, my daughter bought a home on Kiawah after living in Asia. And I’ll never forget, when they arrived for the first time, my grandson George who was maybe 5 went running onto the back deck, saw all this green land, and said, ‘It’s a farm!’”
The added value of a golf view
It wasn’t long ago that golf seemed a dying sport. The Great Recession took a toll on disposable income, and dramatically reduced the number of people playing golf—which isn’t cheap, given its greens fees and equipment costs. Courses overleveraged in real estate were picked off by developers. The Grand Strand, which boasted over 120 courses in the early 2000s, saw more than 30 shut down. The game was seen as too expensive, too slow, and holding too little appeal for younger generations.
The coronavirus pandemic changed everything. With Americans looking for safer outdoor activities due to the threat of Covid-19, golf courses in the United States saw more rounds played in 2020 than ever before. The golf boom continues into 2022, given the limited nature of tee times in the Charleston region and elsewhere. The question then becomes whether the marked increase in golf participation has led to a heightened interest in real estate in golf course communities.
The answer depends on the community, said Mark Mitchell, broker in charge for the Mount Pleasant, Folly Beach and downtown Charleston offices of Dunes Properties. “Those direct effects are seen in golf communities where the golf is tied to real estate,” he said. He points to Daniel Island, where there are some properties that have a Daniel Island Club membership that transfers with the lot. “I think there’s a waiting list of three to five years to join Daniel Island,” Mitchell added. “So, if you sold one of those properties, that could add a little value.”
It’s a similar story at Bulls Bay, a private golf club in Awendaw with just 65 homesites, and where memberships are also tied to real estate purchases—although on an optional basis, Mitchell added. The golf boom has stoked such a demand for membership at exclusive, private clubs like Daniel Island and Bulls Bay that “the clubs have really been able to ramp up their initiation fees for new members coming in,” Mitchell said.
Golf participation, though, is hardly the lone driver of real estate purchases in golf communities. Just as there’s a difference in price and demand for a beachfront home as opposed to another residence one street back, homes directly on the golf course can fetch more than comparable options in the same neighborhood without a golf course view. The difference can be 10 to 25 percent more, Mitchell said, depending on the course.
“It’s all manicured, and you see a lot of wildlife in the morning and in the evening,” said Debra Jadwin, a sales agent at Pam Harrington Exclusives. “Also, you get a lot of year-round activity with birds. I would say that people prefer an ocean view first, then marsh view, then a golf course view over a wooded lot, because the view really is that much more expansive. The view and the privacy might be worth more than the property.”
Snee Farm to Charleston National
When the 18-hole layout opened in 1971, the Mount Pleasant community of Snee Farm seemed light years away from the hustle and bustle of greater Charleston. Today, the same neighborhood finds itself in the middle of South Carolina’s fourth-largest city, a short wedge shot from the intersection of the Isle of Palms Connector and U.S. Highway 17. In addition to its stately homes and spacious yards, that location has helped the town’s oldest golf community remain among its most desirable.
“What sets Snee Farm apart from all the other golf communities is its location,” Mitchell said. “It’s basically at ground zero in the middle of Mount Pleasant. So, in terms of location and good schools and everything, that’s right there. It’s an older neighborhood, and there’s good and bad with that. But the home values there really are driven I think less by golf and more by the location. The golf is just another plus.”
Up S.C. Highway 41 are two other golf clubs owned by the same parent company as Snee Farm, Dunes West and RiverTowne. From a real estate perspective, Dunes West is known for its larger lots, some nearly half an acre in size. RiverTowne, which opened in 2001, has everything from production homes to custom builds on the water that can sell for $4 or $5 million. Dunes West and RiverTowne also both have waterfront lots, given their locations on Wagner and Horlbeck creeks, respectively.
Up U.S. Highway 17 is Charleston National, which was originally intended to be an exclusive club in the vein of Augusta National and hired Rees Jones—the esteemed architect who’s restored the likes of Bellerive, Torrey Pines and Atlanta Athletic Club—to build its course that opened in 1989. But Hurricane Hugo’s arrival that same year caused extensive damage to the property, Mitchell said, leading the original owners to sell the tract to a company that developed it with largely production-built homes.
Homes in Charleston National that were originally sold for $400,000 to $500,000 are escalating in price thanks to the presence of nearby Wando High School and the continuing growth of Mount Pleasant up U.S. Highway 17, Mitchell added. “As those prices have gone up, people are putting in higher-end additions or upgrades,” he said. “People have replaced cheap windows, replaced vinyl siding, and put a lot of money into those houses. You drive through Charleston National today, and people have made it look really nice.”
Over the IOP connector, interest in homes around the Wild Dunes Links and Harbor courses has increased due to a work-from-home movement that’s led many high-earners to the Charleston area looking for island real estate. Although weekend beach traffic and the constant presence of tourists can be a turn-off to some, much of that fades away once you pass through Wild Dunes’ main gate.
“They’ve done a great job of keeping it in good shape, and both courses are timeless,” Mitchell said. “And having two courses helps with the availability of tee times. That’s made Wild Dunes more attractive for people during Covid, when the number of rounds of golf (being played) absolutely blew up.”
Legend Oaks to Crowfield Plantation
Originally built in the 1970s but dormant until its revival in 1994, Legend Oaks Golf Club off Highway 61 in Summerville is known for an abundance of Lowcountry scenery and a layout that requires precise shot placement. It’s also very in-demand from a real estate perspective, according to Linda Collins of BHHS Southern Coast Real Estate.
“Legend Oaks is on fire right now,” she said. “It has some new properties, but it’s maturing now. And sometimes when a property is a little more mature, it seems to do better. There are older trees in the yard, and that sort of thing. So, it really does help when you have that. My oldest son moved there two years ago and loves it. The people are friendly, the kids like to go to the pool, and it’s not far from Summers Corner and those areas. I know the vales have gone way high, so that’s certainly good.”
The north area with its expansive, master-planned communities like Nexton and Cane Bay Plantation have been at the center of the Charleston region’s population boom. But those looking for perhaps a little more space and a more natural view from their back deck have gravitated to one of the area’s several golf course communities, which span from Legend Oaks at the site of a former rice plantation to Berkeley Country Club in Moncks Corner.
“A lot of people like a golf course lot because they don’t want to have a neighbor behind them,” Collins said. “They like that open space. Add in the amenities they have, and it works well for a lot of people.”
Near Summerville Country Club, it’s not hard to find stately brick Colonials and homes built in the early 1980s that have been completely renovated inside and out. At Wescott Plantation off Ashley Phosphate Road, homes built in the early 2000s range in price from the $300,000s to the $500,000s. Nearer to downtown, Pine Forest offers a classic layout surrounded by larger homes from the late 1990s on large lots, in addition to a section reserved for those 55 and older.
Near Fort Dorchester High School is Coosaw Creek, a gated community with brick homes from the 1990s and early 2000s, and where one 4,600-square-foot home on the golf course sold earlier this year for $975,000. Across Interstate 26 in Goose Creek is Crowfield Plantation, which includes four pools and eight parks and playgrounds in addition to its namesake golf course. Crowfield also features several lakefront lots, and has seen homes with combined golf and lake views sell for over $850,000.
Each neighborhood has unique benefits, Collins said. “Pine Forest seems to have a good feel about it, and the tennis community is particularly strong over there,” she added. “At Legend Oaks there’s more than one pool, which makes it easier to get the kids around there. Wescott is big, and it’s close to schools, and it’s easy to get to wherever you need to be. Coosaw Creek is gated, and the homes in Crowfield always show well. And Summerville Country Club really seems to be holding its own.”
Real estate trends in area golf course communities tend to mirror those of the market at large—which right now means a slight bump in inventory, according to June figures from the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors. But since the region remains well short of a balanced market, prices continue to escalate—particularly in neighborhoods with assets like golf courses. Just as with making the perfect approach shot, finding the sweet spot is key.
“A lot of people are still looking, and they’re still paying cash,” Harrington said. “So, they’re still out there. And if a house is priced appropriately, it’s going to sell.”