Wayne Swadron wasn’t looking to be near a golf course when he bought a plot of land at South Carolina’s Palmetto Bluffin 2018. Sure it had an 18-hole, par-72 course designed by the great Jack Nicklaus. But the 55-year-old architect in Toronto was more impressed by the area’s natural beauty and the breadth of other amenities. “We were principally looking for an escape from cold winters,” he says.
He wasn’t in a hurry to erect a home on the property either—that is, until March 2020. Once the reality of Covid19 set in, however, he hurried to start and now considers it the family’s principal winter residence.
As recently as 2016, developers of golf communities were doing so poorly that they were donating courses to national parks to take a tax break. Hundreds of them closed during the last decade after the building boom of the 1990s and early 2000s. But like so much of life since the pandemic, everything around the game has changed: A new spate of beginners has taken it up—the National Golf Foundation estimates that a record 3 million people in 2020 tried golf for the first time. Existing fans have been playing more rounds, too, while sheltering in place and working remotely.
That rebound has extended to real estate as interest in vacation homes of all kinds has skyrocketed. “Demand for private golf club community amenities and real estate is at all-time highs,” says Jason Becker, co-founder and chief executive officer of Golf Life Navigators, which matches homebuyers with golf course communities.
Surveys conducted by GLN found that, since March 2020, 64% of those seeking both club membership and home were choosing to buy real estate inside a golf community—a stark contrast from 2019, when only 51% intended to live on such properties. “Before Covid hit,” Becker says, “the demand was to buy outside the gates of a golf community. But you need people to live inside to support the amenities.”
Dan O’Callaghan, director of sales for Discovery Land Co., estimates that the residential- community developer was doing $60 million in sales annually before Covid-19, but that number jumped to $130 million after. “In general, our numbers doubled during the pandemic,” he says. Following a trend across the country and internationally, buyers in search of turnkey homes and cushy services discovered its development at Silo Ridge, 90 minutes from Manhattan in New York’s Hudson Valley. “If they’d had more homes that were completed,” O’Callaghan says, “we could have sold more.”
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