Long Island golf communities offer country club living
By: By Tom Schlichter
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Donna Rosario loves her morning walks. She’ll step out of her apartment, breathe in the crisp air, and saunter over to her favorite park bench for a glimpse of the squirrels, rabbits, deer, songbirds and wild turkey that skirt the woods surrounding Pine Hills Golf Course in Manorville.
“I love this place,” says Rosario, 66, who rents a one-bedroom, 875-square-foot attached apartment at the Villas at Pine Hills Apartments, a gated community on the golf course grounds, for $1,875 per month. “I’ve got great views, peace and quiet, an active and diverse community, pool and gym, plus the restaurant and golf course are open to the public. For me, it’s an ideal living arrangement.” And Rosario doesn’t even play golf.
These are the kind of sentiments commonly heard from people living on golf course properties, says Jimmi Conway, vice president of golf operations at Pine Hills. “While no two golf communities are exactly the same, they generally offer outstanding amenities, great views, open space and unique social opportunities. You don’t even have to play golf to enjoy living in these places.”
Golf homes can be a sound investment for those who can afford them, says Jason Becker, a PGA of America professional golfer and CEO of Golf Life Navigators, a company that connects buyers to gated golf communities across the country.
Since COVID arrived on the scene, demand for homes in these communities has risen, Becker says, adding that such homes have increased in value from 25% to 30% nationwide in the past two years. “There’s no doubt this component of the real estate market is red hot,” Becker says, “and we don’t anticipate deceleration of that market.”
A range of options, prices
About 30 of the 140 golf courses on Long Island have houses, condos or apartments on their grounds, while others are nestled in communities, says Carol Szynaka, East End sales manager for Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty. Collectively, these offer a range of home choices with prices that vary widely. At Birchwood at Spring Lake in Middle Island, for example, there’s a mix of options: Two-bedroom condos can start about $300,000, while town houses go for about $500,000.
“On Long Island, homes in these communities have seen about a 20% increase in prices since the pandemic, but North Fork prices have risen like crazy,” Szynaka says. For example, she says that while homes at Laurel Lakes Country Club in Mattituck were mostly selling for under $1 million before COVID, one recently sold for $2.9 million. Homes there range from 3,065 to 5,000 square feet. “In the past people didn’t want all that space because many were being purchased as second homes, Szynaka says. “Since the pandemic started that sentiment has changed.”
In addition to rent or mortgage payments, some golf courses require those living in their communities to purchase a golf membership, pay maintenance fees and, sometimes, even a social fee. These fees can vary widely from place to place based on home style, membership choices and other options.
For Rosario, who works as a receptionist at The Hamlet Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center at Nesconset, life at The Villas at Pine Hills is a family affair: Her son, Joseph Rosario, 43, is an assistant super at the property, while her daughter-in-law, Wendy Rosario, 45, lives there with her children, Kallie, 20, Angelina 18, and Joseph, 9, as does another daughter, Sandra Rosario, 48.
“I can’t actually see the golf course from my windows because my apartment faces the front of the property,” says Rosario, “But all amenities are included in my rent. There’s no club or social fees because the golf course is open to the public.”
While Rosario and her family members are happy to rent, Jay Palatnik, 84, and his wife, Jacqui, 82, bought their two-bedroom attached quad-style home in Birchwood at Spring Lake in Middle Island for the country club lifestyle. Jay retired from sales and Jacqui from interior design. Both were always on the move. Now, Jay is a licensed real estate broker matching sellers and buyers in his community while Jacqui teaches mahjong and canasta in libraries across Long Island.
With a pool, golf, tennis courts, racquetball and card tables, Birchwood is a comfortable fit for the active couple. “We like that it’s gated, but not an over-55 community,” says Jay, “We play a lot of golf but save money because a membership is included in our maintenance fee (approximately $500 a month). Our house is the perfect size for our needs, but there are also apartments and villas offered here.”
The Palatniks purchased a home with a loft overlooking the third hole 21 years ago for roughly $280,000. Today, they estimate it’s worth more than $400,000. “All the amenities and landscaping here are taken care of so we don’t even have to shovel snow.”
For Harry and Maxine Koenig, 82 and 80, respectively, The Greens at Half Hollow in Melville have proved to be a golf community mecca. The Koenigs bought a contemporary ranch that backs up to the fifth hole for $1.25 million nine years ago. Today, they say it’s worth $1.9 million.
“It’s been a great investment, of course,” says Harry, “but there’s also plenty to do.” The gated 55-plus community features lush views, a restaurant for community members and their guests, an outdoor pool, gym, tennis courts, card rooms, and a members-only golf course. Social dues for the 1,144 homes on the premises run $225 a month, while golf packages vary.
Harry, a former advertising executive, heads the homeowners association, runs the architecture and aesthetic committee, and serves as vice president of the men’s club. He and Maxine enjoy golfing and do so often.
“When they move to Florida, some residents downsize their homes within the neighborhood, so they have a place to stay when they come back to visit.” Harry says.
Not everyone is thrilled with golf courses and their associated communities, however. Environmentalists point out that while the open space is a plus, there is little in the way of biodiversity for all that glorious green, and the heavy use of fertilizer on some courses is certainly a concern in terms of Long Island water quality.
“There are many things golf courses across the country can do to enhance the natural world and protect water quality while providing recreation,” notes Bill Lucey, the Long Island Soundkeeper for the nonprofit Save the Sound. Some are planting native species, reducing water usage, capturing stormwater, and reducing fertilizer and pesticide use, he says.
Appreciation in value
While the Rosarios, Palatniks and Koenigs are all happy with their golf course accommodations, it’s hard to imagine anyone getting more out of their golf property than Rene and Rob Tringali. The couple, 74 and 79, live across the street from the tony Nissequogue Golf Club and have just listed their shingled, Hamptons-style home with six bedrooms and three fireplaces overlooking the 2 Hole with views of the 120-acre golf course for $3.6 million.
“We fell in love with this area,” says Rene, who with her husband owned an auto body shop in Smithtown before retiring and putting their son, Robert Jr., in charge of the business. The Tringalis bought the 6-acre parcel in 1998 for $474,000. They tore down a dilapidated home on the property and built a carriage house that has room for 12 cars.
The Tringalis, who don’t golf, haven’t joined the Nissequogue Golf Club, and pay no maintenance or social fees because they don’t actually live on the golf course property. Still, they appreciate the views, mature trees and animal life, including sea turtles that crawl across the golf course from the Sound to lay eggs on their property.
“I like that we don’t have to worry about who will build across from us,” Rene says. “Our road only has houses on one side, opposite the course, and there are beaches, marinas and good fishing nearby.”
The couple are downsizing and heading south. “We’ve absolutely loved our time here,” Rene says, “even if an occasional slice lands a golf ball on our front lawn.”