At a Napa Valley auction for charity, a connoisseur bid $500,000 for a single bottle of cabernet sauvignon. A celebrity magazine recently spent the same amount for photos of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie beachcombing. And the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board spent $500,000 to custom-paint an airliner to look like a giant salmon.
For that kind of money, you might be thinking, you could buy a home in a high-quality golf community.
With a bit of searching, you certainly can. You may have to dig a bit deeper for closing fees and related services, and you might not get to live right on the water or the course, but plenty of sleek homes in excellent neighborhoods are still available at the half-million-dollar price point. Here's a geographic sampling of what you can get.
Estrella Mountain Ranch
Goodyear, Arizona The lovely, once-remote foothills here are seventeen miles west of downtown Phoenix and feature beautiful, dusky ridgelines in the middle distance and excellent terrain for golf. The seven-year-old Nicklaus Design course, a serious challenge from the tips at 7,139 yards, has worked its way onto various lists and rankings. The golf isn't private, but it's smartly run by Troon Golf, a global service-driven management company. New arrivals to the community—many of them families with school-age children—are attracted to the village-oriented neighborhoods; the on-site public schools; the two large lakes for sailing, canoeing and fishing; and an array of affordable model-home designs from which to build. The recently completed Starpointe Residents Club, a 24,400-square-foot recreational complex including a water park for the kids, is another highly valued feature. Visit estrellamountainranch.com.
Bluffton, South Carolina Although there are some higher-priced (one might say snootier) communities just down the road, Hampton Hall has the bragging rights that come with a private Pete Dye signature course. It has all the brilliant playing angles and rhythmic routing elements for which the old master has long been known. Residential options include a well-sited "Carolina Home" (such as the one below) with three bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, a flowing floor plan and quality architectural detailing, starting in the $400,000s. Visit hamptonhallsc.com.
Jefferson, North Carolina Sitting at a cool 2,700 feet in altitude, this well- established Blue Ridge community is an easy detour off the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway. Few locales can top it for day-tripping—attractions include state parks, Grandfather Mountain, skiing at Banner Elk, canoeing and fishing along the New River and treasure hunting in nearby artist colonies. Plus, the subtly contoured golf course designed by Larry Nelson is a beauty. A large clubhouse is community central. If you can do without a drop-dead view from your residence, generous living spaces (four bedrooms, four baths) can be secured for less than half a million, including your membership at the country club and fitness center. Visit www.jeffersonlandingclub.com.