The golf lifestyle is not always about golf. In fact most people who live in a golf community rarely swing a club.
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“Typically the percentage of golfers in a golf community is only 25 to 30 percent,” says veteran golf industry expert Garth Chambers, chairman and CEO of Paloma Resorts and Hotels in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The company’s portfolio includes Geneva National Golf Club with three championship courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino.
Golf course developments offer homeowners value beyond the game. It is a setting that beckons like a giant park with wide-open green spaces and lush foliage in a secure community that fosters social interaction. Both enthusiasts of the game and enthusiasts of the setting consider a golf course a thing of beauty. What’s more, many courses actively encourage wildlife by implementing earth-friendly practices and native vegetation that enhance the natural environment. Those that meet standards in categories such as water conservation and chemical use reduction are eligible for certification by Audubon International.
For homeowners who do take to the greens, golf offers a life of recreation, sporting challenges, exercise and fresh air.
How a new course takes shape begins with the real estate developer. “It’s an amazing adventure to buy 800 or 1,000 acres and then decide what that’s going to feel like and think of the hundreds of families who are going to live there,” Chambers says. He calls the developer an orchestra leader, the person who looks at a raw piece of dirt and determines what the course will look like, what the market will be, what the price points will be, what kinds of homes will surround the course and what the theme will be. Then after physical, environmental and engineering considerations are mapped out, the developer provides the golf course architect with the envelope within which to design. “It’s a complicated dance between the developer and course architect,” Chambers says.
The cost of a golf course varies widely. It could be $300,000 or well over $3 million, especially for one designed by an internationally known name.
A Jack Nicklaus or Tom Fazio-designed course adds cachet to a golf community. “Those high end designers are very expensive, but there’s certainly a correlation between the designer’s name and the prestige, and from a developer’s standpoint hopefully the value of the surrounding real estate,” Chambers says. Well-established course architects also have their own aesthetic. “Ben Crenshaw courses are very natural, very minimalistic in terms of movement of dirt,” Chambers adds. “Jack Nicklaus’ courses are manicured differently and more polished.”
Mike Nuzzo of Nuzzo Course Design considers himself an artisanal course architect who works on one project at a time. He’s been involved in courses in his home state of Texas all the way to Tasmania including a personal 18-hole course for one client that was carved out of a cattle ranch. Nuzzo says his idea of a great course is one that’s attractive from any angle–whether that’s on the course or from the homes looking on to it. It also has to be “fun to play. You want to play it over and over again.”
There are about 15,000 golf facilities in the United States alone, according to the National Golf Foundation. Florida, California, New York, Michigan and Texas account for nearly 30 percent. Changes in the industry have been dramatic, mostly notably in the move toward sustainability but also toward women-friendly fairways. On the course and in the clubhouse, it’s no longer a man’s world. Today’s game puts men and women on equal footing and includes facilities for juniors as well.
For Nuzzo who grew up playing the game with his family, golf represents quality time together. “A round of golf takes on average four hours but the percentage of time you’re actually swinging a golf club is a fraction of the time you spend on the course with someone you care about.” And, he adds, “golf courses are some of the most beautiful places on earth.”
Article provided exclusively to Sotheby’s International Realty, LLC. by Iyna Bort Caruso