Smart Buying

A Golf Course Community’s Big Variable for Retirees

Golf club memberships can often be a separate, and hefty, annual fee at golf communities. Here's some guidance before you tee up your retirement move to live on the links.

The dream of many retirees is a home in a golf course community, where connecting a shiny driver with a perfectly dimpled ball on a lush, green fairway is just another day in paradise. 

But a golf club membership isn’t a given at these communities and sometimes comes with hefty fees.

It pays to understand just what exactly you’re getting. Some golf courses may be owned by the community, while others may operate as an entirely independent business. Because the attraction of these communities is often tied to the golf club, make sure your big green neighbor is financially healthy. If its business suffers, so could your home values

Golf club membership scenarios run the gamut, says Cathy Harbin, president of OnCourse Operations, a golf management company based in Paris, Tex. “It can be a developer owns the club and pays your membership for you when you buy a home lot or, through a promotion, they buy your initiation fee and the first few years of your membership,” says Harbin, a former vice president of golf for ClubCorp, which operates private clubs. “Or it can even be an optional situation, where you are offered a discount if you want to buy a membership. Of course, it can just be you buy the home separately, and the membership doesn’t have anything to do with your purchase.”

Generally, homeowners association fees and club costs are higher for private clubs, says Harbin. At Desert Highlands, a private golf course community in Scottsdale, Ariz., every homeowner must become a club member, says Joan Sykora, director of sales and member relations. That membership cost is a $75,000 initiation fee, and monthly HOA dues are $1,325. 

At Ridgeview Ranch in Plano, Tex., where the community’s golf club is public, members get unlimited range balls and discounts on rounds of golf at certain hours—with the amount of times expanding depending on the monthly membership fees, $49.95 or $69.95. There’s no initiation fee and the HOA fee is a semiannual $254 with an extra $107 for one community neighborhood. On the downside, crowded play is more likely at a public club, and the courses may not be as challenging as a private club’s. 

Still, membership fees may be the least of your problems if the golf club has financial difficulties. When the Sanctuary Golf Club in Beaufort, S.C., shuttered its doors in January 2019 and went into foreclosure, homeowners in the nearby Cat Island community had reason to fear the worst. Home values for communities with shuttered golf clubs can fall by more than 20% in an average economy, says Jeff Pinckney, a Beaufort-based part-time commercial realtor. 

Cat Island residents were lucky because although the golf club was closed for about a year, it eventually found a new buyer and has since partially reopened, he says. As a result, home prices weren’t as affected. 

Realtor Susan Akagi of Lakefront Living, On the Lake Realty, in Loudon, Tenn., says prospective buyers can get a better idea of how a community golf club is doing by talking to the club’s chief financial officer. A golf course that’s been around a long time often “gives a greater sense of stability,” she adds. Plus, most communities also include other amenities for family members who don’t play golf, which can help real estate values if something happens to the golf club.

Are the communities worth it? To 60-something Janis Killion, they are, and she isn’t even an avid golfer. She makes her home in the Pine Mountain Lake community in Groveland, Calif., which along with a golf course also offers a pool, tennis and pickleball courts, hiking trails and a private lake for boating and fishing. A broker associate who sells real estate there and a former school district assistant, Killion finds the community’s connection to nature fits her personality. 

“Our children love to play golf and it makes it even better when they come to visit,” she says. “Even though I don’t play, I want to. And living in a golf course community means it’s ready when I’m ready.”

Most Popular

Don’t Be Tricked Into Voluntarily Paying Higher Taxes on Your IRA
IRAs

Don’t Be Tricked Into Voluntarily Paying Higher Taxes on Your IRA

Traditional IRAs are set up in a way that basically incentivizes you (and your heirs) into paying the highest tax bill possible. Don’t fall for it. Co…
July 4, 2022
Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
The 15 Best Stocks for the Rest of 2022
stocks to buy

The 15 Best Stocks for the Rest of 2022

The lesson of the past two years: Be ready for anything. Our 15 best stocks to buy for the rest of 2022 reflect several possible outcomes for the seco…
June 21, 2022

Recommended

Has Bad Economic News in 2022 Hurt Your Retirement Plans?
retirement

Has Bad Economic News in 2022 Hurt Your Retirement Plans?

How the right plan now can get you back on track and reduce the risk going forward.
July 6, 2022
With High Inflation and an Uncertain Stock Market, Do I Have Enough to Retire?
retirement

With High Inflation and an Uncertain Stock Market, Do I Have Enough to Retire?

If you’re at all concerned then it’s time to do some analysis, either with a financial professional or even just on your own. Answering a few question…
July 6, 2022
How to Go to Cash
investing

How to Go to Cash

What exactly does it mean to 'go to cash,' and what should you do once you have?
July 5, 2022
Age Magnificently with the Help of a Geriatric Care Manager
retirement

Age Magnificently with the Help of a Geriatric Care Manager

Geriatric care managers help families map the coming changes and explore the options before they are even needed.
July 5, 2022