Remember to consider both the course and the community.
Posted February 15, 2013
If you can tell the difference between a mashie niblick and a baffing spoon, there’s a good chance you’ve at least considered retiring to a golf community. Spending your golden years surrounded by lush greens, bright sun, and the low purr of golf carts is a widely-held American dream.
And it’s well within reach of a great number of Americans. There are thousands of 55+ communities in the United States with some form of golf course, from simple 9-hole courses to 18 championship challenges. The question is: how do you choose which one?
In part, that all depends on what you actually want. Do you intend to golf a lot? Maybe you’d prefer the challenge of playing a wide variety of courses, rather than just one. Or maybe you need to find a good course that you can afford to play often. Or maybe you just want to spend as much time as possible soaking up the ambience of the links...to be able to sip your morning coffee and watch a foursome sink their putts on the green just yards away from your back fence.
Different desires require different approaches, just as different holes do.
At least the process can be fun. If you actually try out each of the golf courses that make your short list, it can be even more fun, but considerably more expensive. Fortunately, there’s always the Internet to use as your primary research tool.
The Course Itself
First, of course, is the course. Every course is different: some are basic, some are challenging, some make you want to drive your cart into the nearest water hazard. What you like, and what you feel would be a good match to your skill and commitment levels, is an individual choice. But courses differ in more objective ways, too.
For instance: how often, and how well, is the course maintained? What about the layout: forget for the moment about how it challenges your skill level, and pay attention to how it challenges your stamina. A long course, in a few years, may prove to be more than you can enjoy.
What about the scenery? A truly challenging course can be blah from an aesthetic standpoint, while an easy course can still be gorgeous. Which is more important to you? (Yes, of course you can have both...it just costs more.)
What about the level of hospitality? Is the staff helpful and friendly? Is the club pro not simply a good golfer, but a good instructor?
Then there’s the pro shop, and the all-important 19th hole...or is there? Some golf communities will have little or nothing in the way of amenities or shop inventory. How important is this to you?
Don’t forget to look into the rules of the course, especially who the course is open to. Many communities keep costs down by allowing non-residents to play the course—which makes it less expensive for you, but can create problems as well: crowding, or sometimes a less-than-congenial atmosphere.
And don’t forget: you’re assessing an active retirement community, not just a golf course. You still have to go through every step you would take in rating any 55-plus retirement community: is it safe—gated, well-lit, and patrolled? Is the community well-run? In good repair, and in good financial shape? What about the homes? Are they designed to accommodate the future needs of aging residents?
Then there are the non-golf amenities to consider...everything from the community clubhouse to the social life of the community. Are there other recreational options, such as pools, tennis courts, and the like? How about amenities such as restaurants, libraries, spas?
Also, take into account the surrounding area: is there easy access to shopping, churches, medical care? Is traffic a problem; and if so, is public transportation available?
And, perhaps the most important question: are there other golf courses nearby?