Golf courses are closing across the country as fewer and fewer people seem to have the time, money and patience to play the game, but across the Nashville region, golf communities are thriving.
Doug Herman isn’t surprised. His company, Legend Homes, builds custom homes in Westhaven, the golf community in Franklin, and in the Grove, Middle Tennessee’s newest golf community located in southern Williamson County.
“Not everyone plays golf, but they love the environment. It’s a lifestyle choice,” said Herman.
Taylor Walker agrees. Even when he doesn’t have time to play the 18-hole course just steps from his door, his family enjoys the resort-style amenities at Foxland Harbor on the shores of Old Hickory Lake in Gallatin.
“Even if you don’t play golf, it’s more walkable than your average neighborhood,” said Walker, who manages the Hendersonville branch of Wilson Bank & Trust.
More than just golf
In fact, the majority of homeowners in the region’s golf communities seem to be there for the lifestyle, not just the golf. Those communities include Westhaven, the Grove and the Governors Club in Williamson County, Foxland Harbor and neighboring Fairvue Plantation in Gallatin, and Five Oaks Golf & Country Club in Wilson County. In Robertson County, Milam Builders offers homes in the gated Pebble Brook community.
Only 35 to 40 percent of the residents of a typical golf community actually play the game. That holds true at the Grove where, despite the community’s Greg Norman signature golf course, most residents are there for other reasons. Those include the pool, tennis and social activities at the clubhouse, said Mark Enderle, a partner in Terra Verde, the company developing the community.
The Grove will have 820 custom homes when it is complete. More than 50 have been completed so far. The community is in College Grove near State Route 840.
“These communities get labeled as golf communities, but they’re really lifestyle communities,” said Enderle. “You make your decision how to spend your leisure time. Our residents spend it where they live.”
Stories about golf’s demise have persisted for years, he said. Time magazine, for example, reported that sales of golf equipment are down and more courses are closing than opening. Reasons include busy schedules that don’t allow for hours swinging a club at a little ball, the expense and the difficulty of learning the game.
None of that affects golf communities, said Enderle.
“They’ve been writing golf’s obituary for years,” he said.
Compared to Atlanta and other cities, Nashville is “seriously under-golfed,” he said, with few opportunities to live along a course. “I’m looking for 800 people, really 400 people, who want to play golf.”
A ‘safe haven’
The Governors Club, the gated and guarded community in Brentwood, offers golf, a full social calendar and something else — a “safe haven” for families, said general manager Jim Fitzsimmons.
“It’s priceless. Your kids are safe,” he said. “Being inside your world here is comforting.”
Regent Homes President David McGowan noticed that even non-golfers are interested in living in a golf community. Regent builds homes in Westhaven in Franklin.
“A lot of people move here for the environment of the course, the green space,” he said.
Goodall Homes Realtor Todd Reynolds said living in a golf community helps residents make the most of their free time even if they don’t play the game. The company built the Foxland Harbor home where Taylor Walker and his wife, Katherine Walker, live. It also builds in Fairvue Plantation.
After moving back to Middle Tennessee, the Walkers didn’t want to buy a home in an ordinary subdivision. Instead, they were looking for “something a little different,” said Taylor Walker.
At Foxland Harbor, they can walk to the clubhouse for social activities, dinner in the restaurant or to watch a game on television, he said.
That convenience is the true advantage of golf communities, said Reynolds.
“You’d make the assumption that most residents are golfers, but fewer and fewer are golfers. Golf communities attract people who like the lifestyle,” he said. “People don’t have time to relax. Here, it’s at their back door all the time.”