AUGUST 2012: BEHIND THE GATES
Author: Frank Dunne, Jr.
When comparing and contrasting the higher-end private golf club communities in the Hilton Head/Bluffton area, it’s really hard to reach a conclusion. The simple fact is that all of them are pretty spectacular places to live, and choosing one over the others usually boils down to an intangible like the community’s “personality,” if you will, or a subtle detail that may not immediately reveal itself, but becomes more apparent as you spend time on the decision process.
“Looking at the Berkeley Halls, Belfairs and Colleton Rivers, you’ll find that they’re more similar than different,” said Duke Delcher of Gateway Realty. “But if I had to point to one thing, I think something that comes up more often than not at Berkeley Hall is the attention to detail seen throughout the grounds, on the golf courses and with the staff. It’s the overall presentation that stands out.”
“As you drive through, you can see the attention to detail and the quality that we offer our residents,” Berkeley Hall’s director of marketing and member services, Bob Ring added. “From a realtor’s perspective, the best selling point that they have is when they bring somebody through. You get a ‘Wow!’ coming through the gate. And as you come across the bridge and see the clubhouse, you get another ‘Wow!’ And then you drive them around the community before you even start selling them houses. It shows them the level of quality that they would be buying in to.”
At just over a decade old, Berkeley Hall is one of the newest private residential golf clubs in the area. It sits on over 900 acres, with nearly two miles of frontage along the Okatie River, and is about seven miles west of Hilton Head Island on Highway 278. Berkeley Hall’s most distinguishing characteristics are two Tom Fazio designed “core” golf courses on which members enjoy the game without interruption from interior streets and homes, and a grand 45,000 square foot Jeffersonian style clubhouse that serves as a hub for Berkeley Hall’s casually elegant lifestyle. Links Magazine and Travel & Leisure Golf have both named Berkeley Hall “One of America’s 100 Premier Properties.” It is also home to the Players Amateur Golf Tournament, which was played last month.
Although the amenity package resembles the offerings of a top-flight resort, Berkeley Hall is purely a residential community. “Approximately 70 percent of the homeowners are here for at least nine months out of the year, and 60 percent of the membership is still full-time employed,” Ring said, “so it’s not an all retiree situation for empty nesters. We do have families with children.” Home rentals are permitted, but only for the long term. “Rental is allowed for a minimum of a six-month term, but tenants don’t have membership privileges,” Ring said—that is, with the exception of Berkeley Hall’s Golf Cottages located near the Clubhouse, which may be rented for shorter terms. “They’re member-owned, and they’re there for members, family and friends of members and business associates of members. We don’t rent them to the general public. Anybody who is using a golf cottage has use of all the facilities.”
Like most elite golf communities, equity club membership is automatic with property ownership in Berkeley Hall; however, the club has recently instituted two non-equity membership options. The National Membership is for applicants whose primary residence is outside of a 75-mile radius around Berkeley Hall. This membership offers full use of all club facilities for the whole family with a maximum of 30 golf days per year. The Individual Membership also offers unlimited use of club facilities to the individual member and family; however, family members must pay greens fees to play golf.
Berkeley Hall’s two Tom Fazio core golf courses wind through the landscape with no interior homes or roads to interrupt, so your golf round feels more like a walk in the park than a ride through the subdivision. “Tom Fazio designed Berkeley Hall so that there are no home sites on any golf course. That’s hugely unusual,” Ring noted. “There are homes on the perimeter with fairway views, but there is separation from the course. Nothing sits on the border of the course. You’re never going to hit a house!”
The North Course features tranquil lakes, bold fairways, challenging bunkers and large contoured bent grass greens. Its combination of elevation changes, open vistas, indigenous grasses, water, and provocative bunkers prompted Fazio to call the North Course one of the most dramatic of his designs.
The South Course, set against the Okatie River backdrop, offers a classic parkland golf experience, with a canopy of mature forest, tree-lined fairways, glistening lakes and boldly contoured greens. Both tracks present players with that coveted combination of a challenging day on the course while taking in the Lowcountry in all of its splendor; members are often heard remarking about the exquisite maintenance of the courses.
Berkeley Hall’s commitment the golf lover in so many of its members continues with one of the most comprehensive practice and learning facilities you’ll ever see. The 30-acre Golf Learning Center, also designed by Fazio, includes four climate-controlled hitting bays, a “super bay” with video cameras and flat-screen monitors, a mobile canopy structure to allow practice in all weather conditions, four practice greens, and a Tru-Putt indoor putting green. Overall, the facility is designed to let players recreate and practice any shot that might be encountered on the North and South Courses.
Another popular touch in Berkeley Hall’s golf complex is the Fazio Room, a place to relax and socialize, play cards, watch the game, indulge in refreshments…simply enjoy the ambience and camaraderie of golf club living.
While the overall golf complex is probably Berkeley Hall’s most distinguishing feature, the club’s attention to detail is just as evident with the rest of its extensive amenity package. A 14,500-square-foot spa and fitness center includes an indoor pool, whirlpool, cardiovascular strength equipment, sauna and steam rooms, spa treatment areas, and a coffee and juice bar. Adjacent are tennis courts, an outdoor pool with private cabanas, a children’s playground, basketball courts, and a sand volleyball court. Along with these facilities, the fitness center offers personalized fitness evaluations and physical training programs.
Enjoying the Lowcountry’s natural surroundings is another high priority among those who live here, and Berkeley Hall’s location lends itself well to providing an arena to do just that. The Berkeley Hall River Park gives members a place to cruise or kayak in the Okatie River or do some crabbing or fishing from a community dock. On land, the Berkeley Hall Greenway is a network of leisure and nature trails, parks and nature exhibits that winds its way through the entire community.
In total, there are 554 home sites in Berkeley Hall and, according to Ring, the community is 46 percent built out with 254 homes owned and occupied. If you buy a home or land, you can expect to have a wooded, golf or marsh view or some combination thereof. Mind you, because of the golf courses’ core designs, homes with fairway views will not be immediately adjacent to the course boundaries. “There are also private deep water lots that are on the market,” Ring said.
Delcher estimates that there are approximately 24 homes currently for sale in Berkeley Hall. “Frankly, that’s not a lot of inventory,” he said, but pointed out that the full variety of styles and types of homes found in Berkeley Hall is represented in that number. For example, a Golf Cottage, Carolina Lifestyle Home or “lock-and-leave” Lifestyle Cottage may be found in the $400,000 – $500,000 range. Then you’ll see larger estate homes (3,000- to 4,000 plus-square feet) from about $600,000 to $900,000 or higher, especially if it’s something on a deep-water lot. All are resales. Berkeley Hall has been fully member owned and operated since 2005.
Carolina Lifestyle Homes and Cottages are unique to Berkeley Hall. Their design is centered on a screened outdoor living space called the Carolina Atrium. Aside from that and the Golf Cottages, you won’t find anything that would be called a standard model in Berkeley Hall. “There are all sorts of different homes and home styles,” Ring said. “Every home in Berkeley Hall must have some uniqueness in its exterior design.”
As one might guess from the impressive list of amenities, the lifestyle in Berkeley Hall is very active both recreationally and socially. “The members are very much involved with the community,” Ring said. “Back in 2008, Berkeley Hall introduced a fundraising activity called the Berkeley Hall Charity Cup. In three years, the members have raised over $370,000 for local charities.”
Member Lori Delaney and her husband Steve were initially lured by Berkeley Hall’s top-notch golf facilities. “That was very important, especially for my husband,” she said, “but now that we’ve been here I’ll tell you that it’s the people that I love most about Berkeley Hall. We’ve found so many friends with similar tastes and interests…it’s just a great place to live. I always hear people say it just feels like home.”
For more information, visit Berkeley Hall online at BerkeleyHallClub.com or contact Bob Ring at (843) 815-8423 or bring@BerkeleyHallClub.com.