Last year at this time, Maria Bueno lived with her husband and two children in a small Manhattan apartment. Now, thanks to Covid-19, they are full-time residents of the Quechee Club, a golf club community in Vermont.
The family never would have made such a move if it weren’t for the pandemic. “I never thought I’d end up with this type of life,” she said. “If you asked me two years ago if that was going to be the case, I would have told you you’re crazy.”
After years of slow sales and stagnant prices, homes in residential golf club communities across the country are seeing a surge in demand amid the pandemic. But for many home buyers, golf is only part of the attraction. Buyers like Ms. Bueno say they are drawn to these communities because they offer myriad options for outdoor sports, dining and socializing when Covid has curtailed many other forms of entertainment. Clubs’ ability to limit access to their facilities makes residents feel insulated from the virus.
“Covid may have affected the consumer outlook on where they want to reside, most likely due to safety and security of the club and being in a controlled environment,” said Jason Becker of Golf Life Navigators, a company that helps home buyers find golf clubs. The fact that many private clubs this summer didn’t allow guests, for example, was “very attractive to somebody in their 60s who is fearful of Covid.” A November Golf Life Navigators survey of people looking to join golf clubs found that 63% of respondents said they wanted to live inside a gated golf community versus outside it, up from 51% pre-pandemic. It remains to be seen if the upsurge in demand for golf homes is temporary, or reflects a permanent shift in buyers’ preferences.
After overdevelopment in the 1980s and 1990s, golf communities have struggled in recent years as participation in the costly and time-consuming sport declined, forcing many courses to close. Golf participation peaked in 2001 with roughly 30 million people; by 2017 it had dropped to approximately 24 million, according to the National Golf Foundation.