By Linda Smith Davis - New England Fine Living
New England is rich with historical facts, especially when it comes to boasting rights to so many “firsts” in this country. One, being our region, holds the title for having the first and oldest golf course in the country, The Country Club in Brookline, MA.
Today, you will find many golf courses dotting the vast open areas of New England, but two of those New England courses are owned and managed by Southworth Development.
Located on Cape Cod, Willowbend, a luxury residential community of custom homes, townhomes, and villa condos, offers 27 holes of championship golf on three nines, attracting local members and professionals alike such as Gary Player and Rory McIlroy. It also offers the area's only stadium tennis court and three dining venues.
North of Boston, in Haverhill, MA, Renaissance is a family-friendly private club that focuses on top-notch service as-well-as fun. Its championship golf course welcomes players of all abilities. The 30,000-square foot Renaissance Clubhouse, nominated by Golf Magazine for its National Clubhouse of the Year award, offers private men’s and women’s lounges for socializing, a grand ballroom for business or social events, club rooms for overnight guests, and a Grill Room.
David Southworth, founder of Southworth Development, LLC, has been a leading force in residential resorts and luxury residential communities all over the world. I recently had the opportunity to ask David a few questions about his New England properties.
Here’s what David shared:
NEFL: As a leader in international golf communities and properties, what makes the New England properties special and unique from those found in other parts of the world?
DS: Golf has a rich history in New England and many New Englanders continue to remain passionate and true to the game. That, combined with good old-fashioned New England family values, makes for a dynamic combination that’s ideal for our type of sports and health-centric master-planned communities.
NEFL: - I understand Southworth Development has three properties in New England: Renaissance in Haverhill, MA, Willowbend in Cape Cod, MA and Meredith Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH, two of which are golf communities; what drew you to those three areas especially the golf resort communities?
DS: In each case, we felt that these three New England communities offered something special. Willowbend on Cape Cod was the first community I ever developed (we’re celebrating the 25thAnniversary this year!) – but more to the point, I believe Cape Cod is an iconic destination that will forever hold its allure and popularity. Renaissance was a special opportunity for us for two reasons: (1) The course setting, layout and design features are fantastic and (2) Boston’s North Shore is golf-crazy! We felt that adding a beautiful clubhouse and family-friendly amenities to a course of this caliber would be a winning combination - and it is! Lake Winnipesaukee is similar to Cape Cod in that it’s an iconic New England destination and has been a popular family gathering place for generations. With Meredith Bay, we are very proud to be a part of what that community has become and its popularity.
NEFL: Being a New Englander yourself, we both know New England can have its seasonal challenges. What challenges did you face and have to keep in mind for the golf communities?
DS: Unpredictable and sometimes extreme weather conditions are just the way of life in New England. Like most New Englanders, we don’t think too much about those issues – we simply just deal with it. I would say the biggest challenge in operating our New England communities at such a high level is staffing. It takes a great deal of training to prepare our seasonal staff to deliver the professional and caring service we are known for offering. Fortunately, the operations are big enough where we have a great nucleus of year-round professionals and many of our seasonal staff return year after year. We also have the advantage of having other Southworth communities whose off-season falls in the summer, allowing us to bring in added managerial talent during the busy New England summer and fall periods.
NEFL: Do you see the future of luxury golf communities growing in popularity here in New England? If so, why?
DS: I’m not certain there will be too much growth in the foreseeable future simply because it’s difficult to find suitable locations and these types of communities have become very difficult to finance.
NEFL: How healthy is the market currently in this region, as golf has gone through its ups and downs in New England over the years?
DS: We’ve had a very busy three years at our New England properties. That being said, we spent millions of dollars improving these properties during the recession, putting them in a position to succeed once the economy improved. Willowbend and Meredith Bay were our number 1 and 2 producers of real estate sales last year and Renaissance set a company record of selling 52 new memberships in 2016. Thus far in 2017, we are pacing ahead of 2016 in those three properties. We are very happy!
NEFL: Do you have any plans for future golf communities in New England? If so, where and when will they be ready to visit and enjoy?
DS: - We have no plans at the moment to expand in New England, but you never know when the right opportunity might present itself. We are a New England company, so any project we can do close to home is a plus.
Over the course of his career, David Southworth, of Southworth Development in Natick, MA, has become a recognized leader in the field of golf and hospitality projects.
Specializing in residential resorts and hospitality-branded real estate communities, David has written his own success story by developing over $1 billion dollars’ worth of beautiful properties found all over the world, three of which are right here in New England.