Many of America’s top golf courses are situated on picturesque coastlines in places such as California and Oregon, adjacent to ritzy and exclusive enclaves dotted with million-dollar homes.
Many others, however, are located in or near regular towns where regular people can afford to retire. In fact, some of America’s most highly rated championship public courses are just short drives from places where the cost of living is low and homes are still affordable.
The following is a list of towns and cities where both the typical home value and the cost of living are lower than the national average — much lower in a few cases. Each of them is no more than 25 miles from a golf club that ranks among the 25 best public courses in the nation.
These are championship-level courses designed by the biggest names in the industry that are known to host high-level professional and collegiate competitions — and every single one is open to the public.
The average retiree can afford to live in these premier golf destinations — whether the average golfer can make par on the links is another story.
Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin
Golf Digest ranks Whistling Straits as the No. 3 best public golf course in America behind only Pebble Beach and Pacific Dunes. Nestled on the Western shore of Lake Michigan, it’s known for its resemblance to Ireland’s famously scenic courses and its unorthodox four par-3s on the back nine.
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About 11 miles to the south is the town of Sheboygan Falls, where the cost of living is 16.4% lower than the national average. A clean, spacious, low-crime hamlet with a small-town feel, Sperling’s Best says the town “has grown up as a tourist and retirement destination attractive to residents of the larger cities to the south.”
According to Zillow, the typical house there sells for less than $247,000, compared to the national median of $355,852.
Foxfire, North Carolina
Golf Digest ranks Pinehurst Resort as the No. 6 public course in the country — and it’s not hard to understand why. It has been one of the world’s great golf destinations since course designers replaced the reviled Bermuda grass rough planted in the 1970s with native hardpan sand, wiregrass and pine needles in 2010. Ironically, the transition away from grass made Pinehurst one of the greenest major courses in the country, thanks to the water reduction that went with it. In total, the resort is home to nine stunning courses.
Less than seven miles to the west is the town of Foxfire, where the cost of living is nearly 8% lower than the national average. Unemployment is low there, too, and the weather is fair. Sperling’s Best reports the median home value in Foxfire to be just $280,400.
Covering more than 840 square miles, Jacksonville is the biggest city in America in terms of geography — but you don’t need big dollars to live there. The cost of living in this Northeast Florida city is 6.5% lower than the national average. Even though home values there have risen by nearly 30% over the last year, the typical house still sells for a little more than $311,000 — $44,000 less than the national median.
Twenty-five miles to the east on the Atlantic coast is one of the most iconic public courses in America: TPC Sawgrass. Its infamous island green on the 17th has spawned more imitations than perhaps any other hole in the world. The legendary Pete Dye designed both of its championship courses, home of The Players Championship.
French Lick, Indiana
Famous for its mineral springs and even more famous as the hometown of NBA great Larry Bird, French Lick boasts a cost of living that’s nearly 32% lower than the national average. Although home values there rose by 15.7% over the last year, the typical house in French Lick still sells for a rock bottom $141,686.
French lick has one last claim to fame that doesn’t involve healing waters or Celtics greats. The small town of fewer than 2,000 people is also known for the French Lick Resort, which is home to three courses created by three golf design legends: Donald Ross, Pete Dye and Tom Bendelow. There are 45 holes in total — two championship courses and a nine-hole course with roots dating to 1917. Golf Digest ranks the Pete Dye Course, which hosted the 2015 Senior PGA Championship, as one of the 20 best public courses in America.
Located in north-central Oklahoma, Stillwater is a small city of around 45,000 people at the crossroads of Route 177 and State Highway 51. The cost of living is 14.5% lower than the national average — according to Zillow, the typical home there sells for a manageable $215,401.
The town is immediately adjacent to the Karsten Creek Golf Club, a notoriously challenging par-72 that consistently ranks as one of the best public courses in America. Golf Digest ranks it in the top 25. Developed by Oklahoma State University, Karsten hosts some of the country’s biggest collegiate tournaments. Its features and contours make the course both beautiful and infamously difficult, particularly the closing 16th, 17th and 18th holes.
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