If the housing market over the past three years was a golf scorecard, it would read something like birdie, eagle, bogey, and double bogey. As for the remainder of 2023 and beyond, the only thing the experts tend to agree on is that we won’t be anywhere near the birdie-eagle run of 2021. We need economic experts for many things, but this prediction isn’t exactly a revelation. But hey, we’re talking golf in this space. So good news always awaits. Here are four golf real estate markets that should fare just fine, no matter how the balance of 2023 shakes out.
1. Southwest, Fla.
The Southwest Florida golf real estate market effectively runs from Fort Myers south to Naples. And as one local real estate agent put it, “Residential real estate has cooled, but the fire’s still burning.” Winter temps in the 70s, sunny days and lush palms still outweigh the threat of hurricanes, summer heat and seasonal traffic. Always have and always will. When it comes to private golf course demand, Naples is still by far and away the leader in the clubhouse.
“The Naples real estate market has been on the rise in recent years despite the economic challenges faced elsewhere in the country,” says Jason Becker, CEO of Naples-based Golf Life Navigators, an online service that helps match golfers to private courses and communities across the U.S. “Our area’s population continues to grow, which is driving demand for both housing and golf.”
This is certainly the case at The Club at Olde Cypress, a 540-acre gated community just minutes from Naples’ famous beaches, world-class shopping on 5th Avenue, and the Southwest Florida International Airport. Olde Cypress features a P.B. Dye-designed course – a rarity for the region – practice facility, tennis courts, swimming pool and recently reimagined clubhouse that’s become the “place to hang” for members of all ages all week long.
“The Naples real estate market has been on the rise in recent years despite the economic challenges faced elsewhere in the country,” says Melissa Hansen, Director of Membership and Marketing at Olde Cypress. “Our area’s population continues to grow, which is driving demand for both housing and golf. Many people from other states are relocating to Florida due to its warm climate, low taxes, and favorable business environment.”
2. Western, N.C.
Those unfamiliar with North Carolina are often shocked to discover it’s more than a nine-hour drive from the mountainous west to the far eastern Outer Banks. The Tar Heel State’s southwestern section has been a hotbed of private community development for the past 30 years, bolstered in part by golf course architect Tom Fazio being based in bucolic Hendersonville. Fazio designed several nationally ranked courses in the area including his “home” club, Champion Hills, in Hendersonville.
“We don’t have the heat or humidity of Florida, nor do we have the snowy winters of the higher elevations, and as many of my formerly seasonal folks point out – no hurricanes,” says Heather Myers, CMP, Director of Membership and Marketing. “Aside from the mild weather, the fact that our club is located just minutes away from all of life’s necessities makes it very easy, convenient, and comfortable to live here year-round.”
Homes are in high demand in the Champion Hills community, as are memberships at the club. According to Myers, this is due to a “perfect storm” combination. Hendersonville is just an hour from Asheville to the north and Greenville, S.C., to the south – two cities that win awards and score media accolades seemingly every month. The region is also known as the “Goldilocks Zone” for not being too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter.
3. Lowcountry, S.C.
Sea Pines has been synonymous with Hilton Head Island since its creation in the 50s by real estate mastermind and master-planning visionary Charles Fraser. Situated on the island’s south end, this 5,000-acre gated community features an incredible mix of residences spanning luxury beachfront and golf course homes to villas and condos.
Golf fans know Sea Pines as the host venue of the PGA TOUR’s RBC Heritage, held annually on Harbour Town Golf Links at The Sea Pines Resort. What they may not know is there’s private, member-owned enclave situated just behind the community’s guard house, Sea Pines Country Club.
Its aptly named Club Course was designed by Arnold Palmer and later updated by local golf course architect Clyde Johnston. Many golf aficionados consider it among the island’s best layouts, a dexterous mix of challenging and fair holes set amid a Lowcountry backdrop that would make Pat Conroy proud.
While the Club Course is its golf calling card, Sea Pines Country Club’s lavish clubhouse, with its resort-style pool and expansive outdoor deck – situated along a vast tidal marsh with views of the Calibogue Sound – is where many members spend most of their time. Especially young families, of which the club has seen an influx this year.
Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, just off the island to the east, are home to even more private clubs and communities than public golf courses. With well over 30 tracks dotting the area, it does tend to get a bit crowded, especially during the summer months when families travel down in droves from points north. For those seeking a more low-key private golf existence, remote Dataw Island is home to two 18-hole Lowcountry courses designed by Fazio and Hills.
4. Treasure Coast, Fla.
When golfers think of Southeast Florida, their minds typically drift to the hotbeds of Palm Beach Gardens, home of PGA National Resort and Spa, and Hobe Sound, where dozens of PGA professionals reside. It’s hard to blame them – this section of the Sunshine State is arguably the golf capital of the world. But those who shift their sights just an hour north will discover the Treasure Coast, home of the quaint city of Stuart with its prime coastal setting and quaint, artsy downtown.
And just a chip shot from downtown, Willoughby Golf Club and Community is home to a vastly underappreciated Arthur Hills-designed course that’s one of the region’s best-kept secrets. Members like to say the layout winds through a blend of the palm-laden Florida coast and towering pines reminiscent of eastern North Carolina. Willoughby is also attracting new members with its 25,000-square-foot clubhouse, Har-Tru tennis courts, pickleball courts, spacious swimming pool and other amenities.
Sailfish Point is a 532-acre luxury, oceanfront community, is just minutes from downtown and is surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean, Indian River and St. Lucie Inlet. For those whose love of deep-sea fishing rivals their obsession with golf, this is the place to park the flip-flops. Its Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course meanders through the waterways, wetlands and coastal dunes that define Sailfish Point’s Treasure Coast setting.