When sports shutdown and golf courses remained open amid the Covid-19 crisis, the royal and ancient game emerged as the de facto outdoor activity of the pandemic. A record number of rounds were played across this United States this summer, and the uptick in participation is holding steady into the fall.

Ten million more rounds were played in August 2020 than in August 2019, a staggering 20 percent increase according to the National Golf Foundation. In golf-rich states like the Carolinas, Florida, Texas and Arizona, rounds skyrocketed up to 39 percent higher, month-over-month despite the searing heat of summer.

And it’s not just golf participation that’s benefiting from the game’s national renaissance; it’s also the residential land that surrounds these courses.

Golf communities, which struggled mightily following the Great Recession, have also seen their popularity surge since April. Each month, thousands of people are relocating from dense, urban areas to spacious suburban and exurban regions. Florida alone is absorbing up to 950 new residents, daily, from high tax states like New York and New Jersey.

According to Golf Life Navigators, a golf community and club matching service, 70 percent of its customers are planning to play “more golf” in the year ahead and up to 90 percent are combining the search for a community and golf club in Sunbelt markets like Hilton Head, S.C.

So if the allure of wide-open spaces, lush green fairways and the charms of small-town living sound appealing, here are three golf communities that are primed and ready for couples and families of all ages.

Three Golf Communities We Love Right Now

1. Champion Hills | Hendersonville, NC

Champion Hills is situated in the heart of one of the most sought-after relocation corridors in the United States – the “Ville to Ville” pipeline spanning Greenville, S.C., and Hendersonville and Asheville, N.C. Having recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, this iconic community is ideally positioned for the current luxury real estate market upswell.

It boasts a broad array of residential options – resale homes, building lots and low maintenance cottages and lock-and-leave villas – suiting a wide variety of buyers. For golf lovers, Champion Hills is synonymous with Tom Fazio, one of the greatest living golf course architects, who for decades made his home amid the Western Carolina hardwoods.

Fazio was so enamored with Champion Hills’ location near Hendersonville’s quaint, vibrant downtown, that he relocated his office to Main Street where it remains to this day. His design work at Champion Hills is legendary; a magical mountain layout wrought by not only Fazio, but also many of his brightest architecture pupils of the time, such as Beau Welling and Tom Marzolf.

Building lots at Champion Hills range from .5 up to 3.8 acres, with prices from $60,000 to $350,000. Move-in ready luxury residences range from $465,000 to $1.9 million featuring both golf course and mountain views. The golf club, operated by global leader Troon, offers both full-equity and 12-month trial memberships. Both include full access to golf, dining, the wellness center, pool, spa, and tennis courts.

As residents are known to say at Champion Hills, “visit for a day, stay for a lifetime.”

2. Sailfish Point | Stuart, FL

While relocating to an island may sound extreme, it’s actually quite feasible along Florida’s underrated, and underexposed, Treasure Coast. The region running from Indian River County south to Martin County is a throwback to the Sunshine State’s unspoiled coastal landscapes of the 50’s and 60’s and not short of amazing golf communities.

Near its southern end in Stuart, Sailfish Point is a 532-acre luxury, oceanfront community surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean, Indian River and St. Lucie Inlet. For prospective buyers whose love of deep-sea fishing rivals their obsession with golf, there simply is no better place to park your flip-flops.

Its nationally-ranked Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course meanders through the waterways, wetlands and coastal dunes that define Sailfish Point’s Treasure Coast setting. Golfers are blown away by the course’s stunning collection of unobstructed water views from nearly every hole the first time they play this masterpiece.

A host of move-in-ready luxury residences are available, from surprisingly spacious townhomes and condos to sumptuous villas and sprawling estate homes. Prices start just below $1 million for condos and scale up to $6.4 million for an estate home with inlet and ocean views.

“We had a lull in March, April and the first part of May like everywhere else, but activity ramped back up in June once businesses started reopening and there was more clarity about our path forward,” says Sailfish Point Realty Broker and Managing Partner Kristen Cheskaty. “We’re anticipating a robust fall and peak season as people realize more flexibility by working remotely or opting for early retirement.”

A recently reimagined 60,000-square-foot clubhouse with resort-caliber beach club offers multiple dining options, a two-story fitness center, aquatic center, tennis courts, full-service spa and access to a staggering five miles of pristine beach.

Downtown Stuart, one of Florida’s artsiest small towns, and the hip-but-quaint Jensen Beach, are just minutes away. As is the deep blue water of the Atlantic’s Gulfstream current, offering anglers easy access to the sailfish, wahoo and other coveted sport fish.

3. Sea Pines | Hilton Head Island, SC

Sea Pines has been synonymous with Hilton Head Island since its creation in the 50’s by real estate mastermind and master-planning visionary Charles Fraser. Situated on the island’s south end, this 5,000-acre gated community features an incredible mix of residences spanning from luxury beachfront and golf course homes to villas and condos.

Miles and miles of bike paths famously link the community’s enclaves with a bevy of amenities, such as the Sea Pines Beach Club. Restaurants and shopping abound, as Sea Pines is truly a self-contained Shangri La in which time slows down and days are filled with seafood and sunshine.

Golf fans know Sea Pines as the host venue of the PGA TOUR’s RBC Heritage, held annually on Harbour Town Golf Links at The Sea Pines Resort. What they may not know is that there is also a private, member-owned enclave situated just behind the community’s guardhouse, Sea Pines Country Club.

Its aptly named Club Course was designed by Arnold Palmer and later updated by local golf course architect Clyde Johnston. Many golf aficionados consider it among the island’s best layouts, a dexterous mix of challenging and fair holes set amid a Lowcountry backdrop that would make Pat Conroy proud.

While the Club Course is its golf calling card, Sea Pines Country Club’s lavish clubhouse, with its resort-style pool and expansive outdoor deck – situated along a vast tidal marsh with views of the Calibogue Sound – is where many members end up spending most of their time. This is especially true among young families, which the club has seen an influx this year.

“They love having a place to relax, workout, and grab a casual lunch or dinner, and the kids can take part in so many sports and activities,” says Nic Booth, the club’s director of membership development. “The island has been built-out for years, and there aren’t many places where the entire family can spread out and enjoy an afternoon together playing golf, tennis, bocce ball or just lounging by the pool.”

Sea Pines Country Club holds the dual distinction of being both a “Distinguished Club” as awarded by BoardRoom Magazine, and one of “America’s Healthiest Clubs.” A 7,300-square-feet $3 million fitness center opened in 2019 featuring the latest cardio and strength training equipment, as well as a grab-and-go café and infrared saunas.

Staying fit is only half of the equation, and Executive Chef Brian Coseo ensures that members have access to fresh and local meats, seafood and produce to keep both their bodies and minds in a healthy state of being. Living in Sea Pines, and really living at Sea Pines Country Club, makes for a highly coveted island way of life.