It has been a rough year for those of us who like to drive to our local muni, open the trunk, grab the clubs, and head for the first tee.  Tee sheets are clogged weeks in advance; snagging a preferred tee time these last few months has required the coordination and timing of synchronized swimming.

Annoying inconvenience, to be sure.  But those searching for a golf home this year face more consequential challenges courtesy of the pandemic and the peculiarities of demographics.  The most direct consequence of Covid has been to empty cities in a way not seen since King Kong roamed the streets.  Where is everyone going?  The answer is that some of the most popular safe-place destinations are gated golf communities, especially those in the lightly populated South, where the real estate agents I work with say inquiries, visits, and sales are at historic levels.  

One deluxe community featuring million-dollar homes and a Jack Nicklaus golf course in Bluffton, SC, for example, saw 48 sales pending this past October.  In October 2019, that number was zero.  And it isn’t just the high-level private communities that are attracting record numbers.  On Lake Keowee in South Carolina, in a community where you can still score a home on the golf course for less than $350,000, bidding wars have broken out on the very days a house is listed, and the community’s typical inventory of 100 homes for sale sank to just four in October.

The laws of supply and demand being what they are, all this activity and competition has driven up prices 10% and then some in the more popular golf communities.  Simple math: A $400,000 home in 2019 is selling for $440,000 or more this year.  Next year, it could reach $500,000 if mass migration and demand continues. The result will be to pay more or settle for less house.

And it isn’t just the flight of the city folk looking for safe retreats that is driving up prices and shrinking inventories.  Consider that 70,000 Baby Boomers will continue to retire each week for the next 10 years and that many of them have put on hold their plans for a golf retirement home because of the pandemic restrictions.  Okay Boomer, we are not a generation known for our patience.  Many of us will be joining that migration south pretty soon if we haven’t already done so.

But one other consequence of the pandemic will have an even more profound effect on the tsunami of migration, and that is the millions of employees sent to work at home by their employers.  Those companies have been pleasantly shocked by how productive those workers are, freed from the wear and tear and expense of commuting, as well as from the temptations of time-wasting social intercourse in the office.  And those employers are calculating how much money they can save by eliminating leases and utilities that support their workers.  The shift to work at home as a standard practice needed a nudge, and what it got from Covid was a giant shove.

As many workers in cold winter climates are told they will be working from home for the rest of their careers, will they be content continuing to live in Stamford, CT, for example, with an average high temperature in January of 38 degrees and a cost of living 18.5% above the national average; or rather in, say, Myrtle Beach, SC, with a January average high temperature of 56 and a cost of living 15.2% below the national average?  All things better than equal, won’t many of them choose year-round golf, including a quick nine in at the end of the workday every month of the year?

This is where a prudent author issues the customary declaration:  Past results are no indication of future performance.  But if you have been seriously considering the start of a search for your dream golf home, it may be time to get a move on.