The Golf Life

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What’s so great about living in a golf course community? Sure, there’s the golf, but it turns out there’s lots more…

The golf is what first attracts golfers to golf communities. As insights go, that’s not exactly Earth shattering.

But talk to enough people who relocated to golf communities and a common theme emerges. The lure of the links might have been what brought them there in the first place, but they had no idea of the other benefits awaiting them once they settled in.

For Cheryl DeWilt, one of the bonuses is having a view that stretches as far as the eye can see. For her husband, John, it’s about the kinship that develops in a neighborhood full of similar people embarking on new phases in their lives.

For Dawna Farrington, it’s waking up in the morning and seeing a coyote on the patio. For Ginny Kylberg, it’s the simple joy of making a batch of soup when the golf course is covered with snow.

For Terry McCarthy, it’s about, let’s see . . . mostly it’s about the golf. He plays practically every day. But Andra Cowles never plays, nor does her husband, yet their back yard is a golf course.

“I hope to play someday,” Andra explains. “But we’re pretty busy right now.”

But the following golf community residents weren’t too busy to talk about what drew them to their new digs—and what they found once they arrived.

Winchester Country Club

Hardly a day passes that Cheryl DeWilt doesn’t thank her lucky stars that she and her husband bought a home at Winchester Country Club in the foothills above Auburn. The golf is as good as advertised, but it’s the view that really sold her on the place.

“On a clear day, we can see the Delta and Mt. Diablo,” she says. “In the winter, I can see a puff ball of fog sitting over the valley while we’re in our shirt sleeves.”

The DeWilts lived in a nice neighborhood before—Granite Bay. Cheryl’s husband, John, sells dental equipment and is semi-retired. They had a membership at Sierra View Country Club in Roseville but wanted to move to a golf community. They considered Oregon and the Palm Springs area.

They found what they were looking for at Winchester, just a short drive east on Interstate 80.

“We love pine trees and blue sky,” Cheryl says. “We found both here.”

The DeWilts bought a lot in the hills above Winchester and moved in two years ago. John is a bit more serious about golf than his wife, averaging four rounds a week to Cheryl’s two.

“The golf is still the crux of what brought us up here,” John DeWilt says. “But what we weren’t expecting was the camaraderie of the people living here. Most of us are between 55 and 65, mainly empty nesters. It’s a new experience for everybody, and we were surprised how easy it’s been to make friends.”

Winchester was co-designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and his late father, legendary architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. The course is considered by many to be the best in the Sacramento region. The front is tree-lined and rolling. The back nine is set largely in wetlands. Its elevation of 3,400 feet means Winchester is situated above the valley fog but not so high that you can’t play year-round.

“The conditioning is impeccable,” John DeWilt says. “We were playing summer rules in late January. The difficulty here is the greens and around the greens. Sometimes this golf course can beat you up. You have to put your ego away.”

You need a thick pocketbook as well as a thick skin. About half of 409 original home sites have been sold at prices ranging from $300,000 to more than $1 million. Golf memberships start at $35,000. Winchester allows a limited amount of public play three days a week at $250 per person.

The DeWilts obviously think it’s worth it. Cheryl belongs to hiking and book clubs and is captain of the women’s club.

“We played a lot more golf before we moved up here,” she says. “There’s so much else to do. And the sunsets are so beautiful.”

Trilogy Golf Club at Rio Vista

Terry McCarthy knew he’d have to do some looking when he set his mind on buying a home in a golf community. The Sonoma and Napa offerings near his Petaluma residence were too pricey. The retired military man found what he was looking for in the wide-open spaces of the Sacramento River Delta.

He bought a home four years ago in the golf community now about to be called Trilogy at Rio Vista. Rio Vista Golf Club is a gem, a links-style course that’s tough enough to challenge the low-handicapper while not overwhelming the 100-shooter. Rio Vista is open to the public at fees in the $30 to $60 range.

But the clincher for McCarthy was the community’s affordability. Terry and his wife live in a home on the right side of the 18th fairway that cost about $230,000.

“The price was right,” Terry said. “The idea of living in a senior community was appealing, as was the unlimited play you get with a golf membership.”

Terry served in both the Coast Guard and the Navy. The McCarthys have grown children who live in Sacramento and Petaluma, so Rio Vista is close to both. A golfer for 38 of his 60 years, he works part-time in the golf shop and plays three, four and sometimes five times a week.

“A lot of people don’t like this course because of the summer winds, but I don’t have a problem with it,” he says. “It’s a good layout, great for winter golf.”

But he does have a few words of advice for those thinking of living on a golf course.

“You have to be careful,” he says. “A lot of people get their houses banged all the time. I was awful careful about where I’d have my house located.”

He selected a home on the right side of the 18th fairway. The 18th hole is Rio Vista’s best known, featuring a large lake in front of a green surrounded by waterfalls.

“I get an occasional ball in the front yard once in awhile, but those come from bad second shots off the second fairway,” Terry says. “That’s OK. It’s fun to kibbutz with the people I know passing by.”

Sun City Lincoln Hills

Dawna Farrington drives her golf cart to the grocery store and draws scarcely a glance. In Sun City Lincoln Hills, the golf carts, not the residents, work overtime.

That’s how Dawna likes it. She and her husband, Ernie, moved five years ago from Sacramento to the popular Del Webb retirement community in south Placer County. They had more in common than a love for golf.

“Both of us had lost spouses to cancer,” Dawna says. “We decided to move here and start a new life. We both thought it would be really fun.”

The Farringtons bought a home overlooking the 14th green. Of the 5,400 homes in Sun City, 774 are situated on one of the 27 holes. An additional nine holes will open this summer. The golf course, which played host to the LPGA’s Longs Drugs Challenge in 2003, is open to the public.

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