Spring training games begin in earnest this weekend and millions of fan-atics, like yours truly, have begun their deep dives into baseball statistics in the hopes they will defeat a group of friends – and, often, a few strangers – in their fantasy baseball leagues. Before I started playing fantasy baseball 15 years ago, I knew a lot more about golf communities. And when I wrote my book, Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home, I borrowed some of the elements of building a fantasy baseball team. 

Over 15 years, it has become clear to me that those team managers who do the best job of weighing and balancing the 10 categories we measure in our fantasy baseball league are the ones who win year in and year out. Yes, there is luck involved, as an early injury to a star player can ruin a team’s season; conversely, an unheralded player might have a miraculous year that no one, except perhaps the team owner who drafted him, saw coming. But for the most part, slow and steady wins the race – and the prize money. And that is how it is with the search for a golf home.

Your search criteria, not unlike the categories in fantasy baseball, must be weighted in accordance with your (and your mate’s) lifestyle and balanced against each other’s preferences to create the kind of harmonious mix that will guarantee a happy life in your new home. In fantasy baseball, generally, a total of 10 categories form the basis of the competition – five for batters and five for pitchers. For the search for a golf community home, there are 10 criteria that will determine a successful search -- location, climate, size of community, composition of community (age-restricted or open), the local golf scene, proximity to important services, real estate options, costs, amenities and the buyers’ intuition.  The extent to which you weigh them against your preferences will determine if you have a winning search.

Savannah Lakes Tara Finiisher 1Savannah Lakes Village in McCormick, SC, sits beside Lake Thurmond, features two fine golf courses, and has some of the lowest amenity fees of any golf community. But it is eight miles from a supermarket and more than an hour from a city with a decent airport.  Those who crave quiet and no traffic or noise pollution will love it.  Those with an active, entertainment oriented lifestyle?  Maybe not.

Location   This criterion is essentially about topography and population density. Do you want to live at a distance from traffic problems and air and noise pollution, or would you prefer a suburban or urban area with all the culture and entertainment options associated with a nearby city? And do you prefer a mountain setting, a lake setting or a home on or near the ocean? (Side note: If you and your significant other cannot agree on topography, let the person who doesn’t play golf, or who is less serious about it, make the decision on topography. There are wonderful golf courses – and homes -- virtually everywhere.)

Climate   Over the last 70 years, the population of the Sunbelt has exploded, driven mostly by the millions of retirees and others seeking warmer and less expensive places to live. There are few perfect or near-perfect climates in the U.S. – San Diego comes close – and those seeking warmer winters will have to endure some beastly hot summer days in Florida, Georgia and much of the Carolinas. Mountain golf communities such as those in the areas near Asheville, NC, will provide temperate summers but at the cost of not playing golf over the coldest months of winter. For serious golfers, the choice comes down to whether you give up golf for some of the winter or you resign yourself to playing golf at 8 a.m. during Florida summers, before the stifling heat moves in.

Audubon Naples pink clubhouseIf you can afford to live and play in Naples, FL, half the year -- the winter half -- then you are golden. But summers are stifling hot and those with resources find cool comfort farther north.

Size of Community   Communities with a golf course (or two) inside the gates are, by definition, large. The nearly 5,000-acre community known as The Landings just outside Savannah, GA, is home to 8,000 residents, although not all of them live there year-round. I will never forget heading for one of The Landings six golf courses early on a Sunday morning years ago and, in my car’s rear view mirror, were a dozen or so golf carts coming over a rise in the road, following me to the golf course for a shotgun start. It reminded me of the famous helicopter scene in the movie Apocalypse Now. Some large communities, like The Landings, have successfully masked their sizes and populations by developing discrete neighborhoods. Don’t automatically dismiss a community because you think it is too big. If it seems to match all other criteria, visit and decide for yourself.

Composition of Community   This is an easy one to decide before you start your physical search for a golf community. Do you want to live with people roughly your own age in a community where children and young adults can make only short-term visits; or do you enjoy living among families and the squeals of happy children at the community pool? That is something you can and should decide before you make on-site visitations.

Landing approacvh live oak treeThe Landings near Savannah checks many desirable boxes for retired golfers. It features six golf courses and is only 20 minutes from downtown Savannah. The community is large -- 4,800 acres and 8,000 residents -- but it is organized into discrete neighborhoods that give The Landings a more intimate feel than its size implies.

The Local Golf Scene Golf   Many communities provide a full range of golf experiences. Private clubs treat their members special, bending over backwards to justify the initiation fees and monthly dues that are their lifeblood. Private courses tend to be in better shape and, often, more challenging than less expensive semi-private clubs. The semi-private clubs accept outside play and charge green fees, thereby supplementing the total of member dues. Many semi-privates do not charge an initiation fee and, therefore, can be a great choice for couples who do not plan to live and play year-round in the community. Many semi-private clubs, as well as purely public and municipal courses, are located outside the confines of golf communities but nearby; they are great options for those who only plan to play occasionally. Many golf communities offer a social membership that provides access to amenities, including the clubhouse, other than golf. Combining that lower priced membership with occasional play on accessible courses outside the gates can widen a couple’s social connections – and save money. (Note: Many golf rich areas offer reasonably priced memberships that include play at dozens of courses. In Myrtle Beach, for example, Founders Club International charges a modest annual fee that provides access to its fine roster of 23 golf courses at deeply discounted rates, as low as $30 a round.)

 Coming Next: The roles that Proximity, Real Estate Options, Costs, Amenities and Buyers’ Intuition play in your search for a golf home.

I recently stumbled across a list titled “2024’s Best Bachelor Party Destinations for Golfers.” I was eager to see where golfing meccas like Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island and Pinehurst ranked; I thought, for example, that combination golf and gambling resorts such as Turning Stone in upstate New York would provide everything a bachelor party weekend would need, all located in one place, no need for designated drivers or Uber. After all, bachelor parties typically run from just one night to a weekend, at most, and who wants to waste precious time in a van traveling back and forth to golf courses through city traffic?

Reunion15th holeReunion is one of many accessible golf coures in the Orlando area. Orlando ranked second on a list of cities most suitable for a bachelor party that involves golf.

Silly me. The Best Bachelor Party Destinations rankings is a list of the major cities in America, starting with Las Vegas and including Orlando, Houston, Los Angeles and San Diego (the top five of the 200 cities on the list). Myrtle Beach and Pinehurst are not even on the list of 200. You would be hard pressed to find accessible golf courses inside the boundaries of these sprawling cities – maybe a municipal course or two. Plus, unless the party planner and bachelor himself live near one of these cities, assessing the soon-to-be-groom’s friends the cost of airfare might seem a bit cheeky. And why would you want to bite into the weekend with the time it would take to fly roundtrip? That seems silly when there are plenty of notable golf resorts nationwide to do the trick. (A few of my suggestions below.)

You might assume that those who sponsor a ranking of bachelor party locations would be in the golf, travel or wedding business. Silly you; the sponsor of this dubious study is a company called Lawnstarter which, as the name suggests, provides residential and commercial lawn care services.  They should stick to their mowing.

It isn’t hard to conjure a list of golf destinations that would enhance a bachelor party weekend without time-consuming travel and wasteful trips through traffic to golf courses outside a major city. Here are just a few suggestions east of the Mississippi that, at worst, would require a short plane ride from some large population centers.

Turning Stone Resort, Verona, NY A huge casino, three top-50 golf courses (per Golf Digest), a golf superstore, luxury accommodations – in short, a one-stop bachelor party destination. And should you be forced to hold the party during winter, denying you access to the golf courses, a 17,000 square foot indoor practice facility with greens, bunkers and a 110-yard-long practice range is at your disposal. And with the facility’s simulators, you can celebrate the end of your bachelorhood by banging into a screen as many balls as you like. Distances: New York City, 4 hours; Buffalo, NY, 2 ½ hours; Albany, NY, 1 hour, 40 minutes.

LakeofIsleswithcasinohotelThe Foxwoods casino (left) and hotel are the only signs of civilization from the Lake of Isles golf course.

Foxwoods Casino & Resort, Mashantucket, CT The casino’s Lake of Isles course is a short, free van ride from the hotel and has made Golf magazine’s list of “Top 100 Courses You Can Play” (in the U.S.). Surrounded by hundreds of acres of undeveloped land, the only reminder of civilization while you are out on the course is the large Foxwoods hotel lurking in the distance. Another casino resort, Mohegan Sun, is just 10 minutes away and features its own golf course, open to the public. Distances: Hartford, CT, 1 hour; Stamford, CT, 1 hour, 40 minutes; New York City, 2 hours, 45 minutes; Boston, 1 hour, 40 minutes.

National Golf Club approachI played the sleek National Golf Club in Pinehurst a dozen years ago. The club was acquired by the Pinehurst group in 2014 and today is known as Pinehurst #9.

Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, NC With 10 golf courses in its portfolio and a well-oiled system of shepherding outside play onto most of them every day, Pinehurst is suited to the most serious golf-centric bachelor partygoers. All the courses are within a short distance of whatever hotel you choose, and there are enough good restaurants and bars to accommodate your dining and drinking needs. If time permits, travel the half hour from Pinehurst to Tobacco Road, Mike Strantz’s wild and strangely wonderful 18 holes. Distances: Charlotte, NC, 2 hours; Greensboro, NC, 1 hour, 15 minutes; Raleigh, NC, 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Grande Dunes 14th holeGrande Dunes is one of the most scenic of the 80 courses along the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach.The par 3 14th holes sits beside the Intracoastal Waterway.

Myrtle Beach, SC  Okay, Myrtle Beach is not exactly near a densely populated city, but it is reachable via-nonstop flights from major northeast cities. With 80 golf courses packed onto a 90-mile strip known as The Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach has been hosting buddy golf trips since the 1960s. It is set up perfectly for great golf and as much honky tonking in the town’s legendary local bars as you can handle. Flight times, airport to airport, all non-stop: Philadelphia, 1 hour, 43 minutes; New York, 2 hours; Boston, 2 hours, 20 minutes. (Note: Some of these flights are priced at less than $100 each way.)