Golf is at the heart of Red Ledges in Heber City, Utah, with an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed course and a 12-hole, par-3 Nicklaus Signature “golf park” in the private Rocky Mountain community about 25 minutes from Salt Lake City.
The community is coming off a record sales year in 2017, with 150 closings and about $64 million in sales volume. After it took close to nine years to get the first 100 homes built and sold at Red Ledges, there have now been approximately 550 sales the past few years and more than 100 more homes are in the construction or design process.
“The pace is kind of staggering,” says Bill Houghton, the VP of Real Estate for Red Ledges, which overall will be 1,100 to 1,200 units with 700 to 800 single-family homes and cottages.
Red Ledges isn’t alone. The golf course real estate industry has been thriving in certain markets and locations, and the positive momentum has carried into 2018. While the growth is a reflection of the economy overall, it’s particularly encouraging for the golf industry.
The latest U.S. Golf Economy Report was released this week, showing that the game drove $84.1 billion in economic activity across the country in 2016. Included in that total was $9.34 billion in the golf real estate market, including $7.24 billion in new home construction.
By comparison, those numbers were $4.74 billion (golf real estate market) and $3.14 billion (new home construction in golf communities) the last time the Golf Economy Report was released in 2011 following the Great Recession and the financial crisis.
“In the last few years, it’s been a pretty good run of sales in the golf area, with folks wanting to have either views of, or frontage on, the golf course,” says Charlie Hill, the President and COO for DH Investments, developer of the Cordillera Ranch community outside San Antonio.
Cordillera Ranch, which is also home to a Nicklaus signature course in the Texas Hill Country, has topped $100 million in total real estate activity for three straight years. The 8,700-acre master-planned residential community also has six other resort-style clubs in addition to the golf club, offering a wealth of family and outdoor activities.
“With the array of amenities, that’s one thing we were fortunate to be a little ahead of the curve on,” Hill adds. “When we started thinking about the idea of a private club with a golf course and other amenities, we knew that so many people come to the Hill Country because of the outdoor activities, like floating the Guadalupe River, riding horses, fishing, sporting clays or just being outdoors. So we didn’t just want to be a golf course.”
That’s where the Seven Clubs of Cordillera concept was born.
“We try to market to the buyer who isn’t just looking for a golf course because there are nice golf courses all over the world and a lot of these folks can afford to be anywhere,” says Hill. “We didn’t want these to be token offerings either; we went the extra mile on all those things.”
Fueled by a combination of a special location, unique offerings and/or desirable amenities, it’s a recipe that many other golf communities have followed successfully. Following are a few examples:
Kohanaiki – Kona, Hawaii
Kohanaiki is a spectacular private club community spread across 450 oceanfront acres on the Big Island of Hawaii. The property has 1 ½ miles of coastline, a Rees Jones-designed oceanfront course, a beach club and a wealth of outdoor adventure activities for families. With homes that range from $3 million to $22 million, Kohanaiki closed $131 million in sales last year and achieved the most transactions on the Kona-Kohala Coast in 2017. (www.kohanaiki.com)
Reynolds Lake Oconee – Greensboro, Georgia
Halfway between Atlanta and Augusta sits Reynolds Lake Oconee, a sprawling resort community that’s home to a Ritz-Carlton as well as 2,500 condominiums, cottages and single-family homes. The property boasts 350 miles of shoreline as well as six golf courses — including two ranked among the Top 100 public or resort layouts in the nation – built by architects such as Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus, Rees Jones, Bob Cupp and Jim Engh. Last year, every single spec home that was built was bought and there are currently almost 100 homes under construction. (www.reynoldslakeoconee.com)
Boot Ranch – Fredericksburg, Texas
Boot Ranch is another private club and family retreat in the heart of Texas Hill Country, located less than an hour from Austin. Defined by a mix of luxury and recreation, Boot Ranch has a Hal Sutton-designed golf course, a 34-acre practice area and an executive par-3 course. The property also sold 64 properties valued at $41 million last year, a 23 percent increase over the previous year. The first quarter of 2018 showed similar momentum, with 21 sales, a 30 percent increase from the same time a year ago. (www.bootranch.com)
Clear Creek Tahoe – Clear Creek, Nevada
Ten miles from Lake Tahoe and 19 miles from both the Incline Village and Heavenly ski resorts is the private community of Clear Creek Tahoe. The design team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore took a light hand in routing the golf course across beautiful rolling terrain – over hills and through the towering pines of the Sierras. There were a total of 52 sales last year, with an average price of almost $400,000. (www.clearcreektahoe.com)
Magnolia Green – Moseley, Virginia
Magnolia Green is central Virginia’s premier multi-generational, active lifestyle residential community, located about 20 miles southwest of downtown Richmond. The community had a record 204 home sales in 2017, with an average sales price of more than $450,000. The 18 percent year-over-year increase came after Magnolia Green invested $10.5 million in resort-style amenities, including a 10-acre aquatic center with four pools and a new clubhouse for the golf course built by Nicklaus Design’s Chris Cochran. (www.magnoliagreen.com)
Timbers Kauai – Kauai, Hawaii
Timbers Kauai is a luxury oceanfront residential community that features the Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean course with features the longest stretch of oceanfront holes in all of Hawaii. As the property gears up for its official opening on June 1, it is already at $50 million in pre-sales and continues to build momentum. (www.timberskauai.com)
Santa Lucia Preserve – Carmel, California
Tucked into the Santa Lucia Mountains just east of Carmel, up a long, winding road and behind multiple gates, is a weekend escape with a fantastic Tom Fazio design that’s proven popular with golf course raters as well as buyers from the San Francisco Bay area. There are fewer than 300 home sites spread across 2,000 acres at the Santa Lucia Preserve, with another 18,000 surrounding acres protected in perpetuity by the Santa Lucia Conservancy. There have been 123 finished custom homes, with 11 currently for sale, another 11 in design review and 10 homes under construction. (www.santaluciapreserve.com)