Many people are confused by retirement; faced with long days and more spare time than they’ve ever had, these retirees have a long adjustment period ahead of them, more often than not ending up back in the workforce. However, some luckier retirees know exactly what they want to do: go golfing.
If you’re an avid golfer and want to pursue your hobby with vigor in your retirement, you should consider moving to a golf-friendly area. Country club memberships, green fees, equipment, and other costs can add up quickly; if you don’t need to worry about transportation and lodging, you can then afford to play that much more golf. What are some of the best spots in the United States for a golfing retirement?
Sun City, Arizona, just northwest of Phoenix, is one place to start looking. Maricopa Country, which includes greater Phoenix, boasts no fewer than 350 public and private golf courses; you could golf five days a week, play a different course every time, and not have to repeat a course until well into your second year. There are at least 8 courses in Sun City itself. Founded in 1960, Sun City now has a population of 42,000, and the city caters specifically to retirees. When you first move in, a city social director will stop by and arrange a golfing excursion or arts-and-crafts outing for you, giving you a chance to get to know your neighbors.
The city administers various recreational centers offering bowling, swimming, boating and fishing, racquetball, basketball, softball, dance, exercise, music and theater, and much more. Greater Phoenix has all the amenities of any large metropolitan area, and housing prices are still recovering from the meltdown of the late 2000s, so it’s a buyer’s market. On the down side, summers in the Arizona desert can get hot.
On the other side of the country, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, offers more than thirty golf courses within a 20-mile radius of the city. The award-winning Rivertowne Golf Course was designed by Arnold Palmer. John’s Island and Kiawah Island, less than 20 miles away, boast several award-winning courses. Just across the harbor from historic Charleston, this low-country community is a gateway to the barrier island beaches of Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island, so if you tire of golfing, you can indulge in water sports, or get involved in Charleston’s cultural life. South Carolina winters are mild, and Mount Pleasant’s location on the Atlantic coast provides pleasant breezes in the summer. However, the town’s coastal location also results in higher housing costs.
If an urban environment is more your style, Charlotte is not too far up the road. The largest city in North Carolina, Charlotte has a population of 750,000, and the metro area nearly 2 million. The city boasts two major-league sports franchises (in football and basketball), several universities, and a growing retirement community. There are more than fifty public and private golf courses in Mecklenburg County, although the public courses can sometimes get crowded. For a quick getaway, Pinehurst — one of the premier golfing destinations in the United States — is just a short drive away.
Further south, there is plenty of golf along Florida’s gulf coast. Bonita Springs, between Naples and Fort Myers, is a prime destination; nearly half the population of this retiree-friendly town is in the over-55 set. Surrounding Lee County has nearly 200 private golf courses, as well as 50 public courses; nearby Naples has even more. Bonita Springs is a relatively expensive coastal community; golfing retirees on a budget can look to Florida’s inland communities for cheaper housing and amenities.
Back in the southwestern desert, the Palm Springs, California, area has been a mecca for golfers — and a getaway for Hollywood personalities and other celebrities — for decades. This sprawling area, extending for 40 miles along the Coachella Valley from Palm Springs to Indio, has over 300 public and private golf courses; there are courses to fit all budgets, and there are various golfing clubs and organizations to help you sort through them. Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, at the western end of the valley, are expensive, with median home prices over $350,000 (down from half a million in 2006); the older communities of Indio and Coachella, toward the east, are cheaper.
Considerably more affordable is Auburn, Alabama, home of Auburn University and big-time college football weekends in the fall. Auburn also is also home to the Grand National Golf Course, one of eleven championship-caliber courses in Alabama that make up the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. The courses were all designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr.; the project was conceived to help diversify Alabama’s state pension fund and provide an overall economic boost to the state. Two courses on the trail currently host events on the LPGA Tour. The trail’s website provides lots of information about the courses, and offers various specials for golfers.
Finally, St. George, Utah, in the southwest corner of the state, is a more off-beat spot for retiree golfers. There’s a lot to do around St. George; the Grand Canyon’s north rim, Zion National Park, and Lake Powell are all within an easy drive, and the St. George Arts Festival draws thousands of visitors each year. The area is known as Utah’s “Dixie” because the original Mormon settlers cultivated rice here; the local college is called Dixie State College. For golfers, there’s the Red Rock Golf Trail — a cluster of ten beautifully landscaped courses all within a 30-minute radius. Various golf packages are available, and golf can be played year-round.
With a little research and a few casual visits, you can find the golfing retirement that’s most suitable for your needs and budget.