The Best-Kept Secret? Not for Long!

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The Savannah Lakes lodge grounds.

By Greg Deal
Savannah Lakes Village

Want to hear a secret? Sure you do. We all love secrets.

Why do we love them so much? For some, it’s about knowing someone has told them something that no one else knows. For others, it’s about sharing that secret with another person – then begging that person not to tell anyone else.

We know how that goes. The secret is out.

joeWell, Joe Todd knows a secret, and it’s one you can feel good about sharing. The vice president of land development and new homes for Better Homes & Gardens Executive Partners – which is a development partner with Savannah Lakes Village – channeled his inner Matthew McConaughey to share a story with those who attended the McCormick County Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting.

McConaughey, playing Mississippi defense lawyer Jake Brigance in the 1996 film “A Time to Kill,” asked in his summation for an all-white jury to close their eyes and listen to a story. Brigance wanted the jury to see something in a new light – and eventually render a favorable verdict for a black man charged with murder. Brigance’s story, with the jury’s eyes closed, allowed them to reimagine things they had taken for granted.

Joe Todd wants people who know about Savannah Lakes Village to reimagine it and not take it for granted. He hopes those who don’t know about SLV will find out a tremendous secret – and share it.

It’s time for this secret to go viral. There’s something unique happening here.

Here is how Joe told the story at the Chamber meeting:

“I want you to think about everything you’ve ever known about Savannah Lakes Village, and I want you to forget it.

“Now I want to ask you to close your eyes.

“I want to tell you a story about a place that’s located on a lake with 72,000 acres that has 1,200 miles of shoreline, approximately 90 miles of interiors roads, and dozens of miles of hiking, biking, kayaking and walking trails.

“I want to tell you about a place that borders three state parks with close to a million visitors a year, has three lakefront golf courses inside and adjacent to community, and a recreation center that includes indoor and outdoor swimming and a tennis facility.

“I also want to tell you about a community that is managed as professionally as anyone I’ve ever been around. This community will also be able to deliver a gigabit of data to every doorstep, which is an exciting and enormous partnership (with WCTEL) in its own regard.

“I want to tell you about a place that is in the process of having a new lodge being built and developed, which will include the opening of a restaurant, the reinvigoration of a convention center, and also the master planning of 150 acres of property adjacent to the peninsula.

“I want to tell you about a place that has new programs that promote healthy living and an outdoor recreation-based lifestyle.

“Now, I want you to open your eyes and realize you’ve all been told about one of the most exciting opportunities in the Southeast.

“You’ve been told a big secret. Now go share the secret.”

Say it IS so, Joe!

Joe and his team form BH&G presented their plan to a full house at the Chamber meeting. Joe says, “Every business is a people business.” While he talked about a lot of statistics and numbers, his primary focus is on working with SLV to plan a path of progression and growth that will allow more people to enjoy a life current residents already experience. In other words, he wants others to know the secret. He and his team are planning small pockets of themed neighborhoods in the community. They also are under contract to purchase the lodge, conference center and restaurant, along with lots within the community.

One of the most exciting aspects is the investment of $15 million by BH&G to tear down the old lodge and build a new 50-unit facility that will serve as part of “stay and play” packages for prospects considering making SLV their home.

For every 100 homes constructed, Joe estimates a $20 million increase in the tax base, which is a major boost for the economy.

“We want to do what’s best for the county – and for the long term,” Joe told Chamber members. “We want a sustainable program that will finish SLV.”

Joe said he wants to see a “bustling and exciting place again.”

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said.

And it’s one opportunity people need to know about. You are the messenger.

Share the secret! I promise that no one will call you a tattletale.

Kayaking the Little River Blueway


By Greg Deal
Savannah Lakes Village

Gloria Bramble was kayaking one morning while having breakfast on Lake Thurmond. She noticed what appeared to be Styrofoam on the shore. She paddled closer, not believing someone would throw trash near the pristine shorelines.

What Gloria found, instead, was she had a breakfast companion. It wasn’t Styrofoam, after all. It was a bald eagle enjoying a meal.

“He’s having his breakfast. I’m having mine. It was such a neat experience,” said Gloria, a Savannah Lakes Village resident since 2004. She paddled ever so closer and watched in amazement.

Experiences like this keep Gloria excited about every venture onto the lake and the rivers amid the Little River Blueway Outdoor Adventure Region.

“Every time I go out, there’s something I’ve never experienced before,” Gloria said.

She enjoys paddling the water trails alone – part of an independent nature – but also likes the social aspect of kayaking. She and SLV resident Janie Clark coordinate the annual Kayak Olympics here. Gloria also enjoys moonlight kayaking under the stars.

“There are numerous kinds of opportunities, and they are blanketed by the friendliness of the people,” Gloria said.

Growing up with “city life” in Maryland provided few opportunities for Gloria to experience what the Great Outdoors has to offer. Her first awakening came when she got married. In the early 1970s, she and her husband took a trip to the Colorado mountains.

“I just fell in love with that experience,” she said.

Later, while in Maryland, the couple moved to the suburbs. She made a little walking path so she could enjoy exploring nature. She later discovered Savannah Lakes Village while looking at property on Lake Greenwood. The lady who had never been in a kayak immediately drew inspiration from SLV.

“When I moved here, it (love of outdoors) really blossomed because there were so many opportunities,” she said.

Gloria gets out on the water at least once a week during the spring and summer. She recalls one time paddling back to shore after feeling like she didn’t see anything special. As she got near the boat ramp, she looked over her shoulder and saw a gorgeous rainbow. Nature never ceases to amaze.

Gloria also enjoys biking and other outdoor activities. She fell in love with Savannah Lakes at first glance and has never looked back.

Savannah Lakes Village Residents Tout Annual User Programs

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By Greg Deal
Savannah Lakes Village

Savannah Lakes Village residents enjoy the benefits of the “Unlimited Play, Unlimited Fun!” annual user programs.

“It’s absolutely the best deal for the money anywhere around here,” said Mike Lusby, who, along with wife Marsha, is an annual member of the Recreation Center/Tennis program.

Don Smallwood says price and convenience make the annual golf user program “very attractive.” He likes how daily rates are not part of the equation. “Unlimited play takes that off the table,” said Don, who is married to Dolores.

Unlimited access for golf means you can play in the morning or the afternoon. Green and cart fees are included, along with all SLV-sponsored tournaments and events. There is a $250 personal cart rebate given at the end of the year in an SLV gift card, and users receive a gift card equal to green and cart fees from independent tournaments held at SLV.

Annual membership cost is $250 per month (or $3,000 per year) for unlimited golf.

Don said an annual membership is one way residents can support the golf programs to the best of their abilities. He said the unlimited-play aspect allows him to be more spontaneous about his golfing.

The Smallwoods have lived in SLV for seven years. Don is president of the Men’s Golf Association, while Dolores is coordinator of the Green Tee program, which is for beginning golfers.

“You won’t find nicer courses for the fees we have,” Don said.

Mike and Marsha have lived in SLV for four and a half years. They said they wanted to move south but didn’t want to move to Florida. Both enjoy the benefits of a Recreation Center/Tennis membership. Mike is involved with the Green Netters tennis program, which is for beginners, and Marsha is secretary of the Tennis Committee and is a United States Tennis Association local liaison.

“This is absolutely the best deal going here,” Marsha said. “Look at the amenities you get.”

A Recreation Center annual membership costs $30 per month (or $350 per year). Recreation Center, plus tennis and pickleball, is just $37 a month (or $435 per year).

A membership gives you unlimited use of the pools, fitness room, classes, programs and bocce. House guests are free for pools, lawn games, the pool table and Ping-Pong. With a membership, you have access to all instructor-led classes (water aerobics, land aerobics, yoga, and stretch and tone) and the convenience of key card access for after-hours use.

Marsha’s first love is tennis. She plays four to five days a week. About a month ago, she tried pickleball and said she had a lot of fun. The Lusbys use the fitness room, and Marsha enjoys line dancing classes.

“It (the Recreation Center) is the most important asset we have,” Mike said. “It encompasses everything we have here at the Village, besides golf and dining.”

Commuting Workers Discovering Benefits of ‘Living the Dream’ Today


By Greg Deal
Savannah Lakes Village

The BBC published a story online this week about “super-commuters” – people who choose to trade a long commute to work for a lifestyle that is more in tune with their desires. These commuters might travel to an urban area for their jobs, but they live in places that “give them a lifestyle not achievable within a shorter commute,” the story notes.

People in urban areas might start discovering the benefits of living in a recreation-based lakefront community like Savannah Lakes Village. In a lot of urban areas, people spend up to an hour or more in their cars – stuck in traffic – just to travel from one side of the city to the other to get from home to work and vice-versa.

Why not trade in that hectic commute for a nice, leisurely drive to Savannah Lakes Village after work each day? When you strip away the nightmarish traffic and some of the uninspired living arrangements of everyday urban lifestyle, your life can become more complete. Surely a nice commute is worth the benefits of life on The Freshwater Coast here in Savannah Lakes.

The good news is those with careers don’t have to sacrifice much to achieve their ideal lifestyle. They certainly don’t have to worry about technological connectivity, as the Village offers fiber-optic broadband – for work or for play – to every doorstep. That’s up to 100 mbps of speed that many can use to work from home, if they choose. No issues Skyping with colleagues or conducting a web conference with clients. Also, more people are finding they can work from home, even though their office is a world away. Today’s technology makes that possible.

You’ve probably seen the bumper stickers that say, “I’d rather be fishing!” So, why aren’t you? Why aren’t you boating, jet skiing, kayaking, hiking, biking, golfing, playing tennis and more? Society has tried to tell you that you must wait until retirement before you can live out your dreams. That’s simply not true. More and more people are learning they can live their dreams for most of their lifetime – while not sacrificing their future financial security.

It takes the right mindset to envision the dream. It requires a desire to make it happen.

There is something about living amid nature that is deeply restorative to the soul. You put in a hard day’s work and look forward to the time you’ve earned for yourself or with your family. Many people are discovering that “outdoors” is the new cool. Before DVD players, computers and video games, families spent much of their time outdoors. There is a movement today among those who have grown up around technology – particularly among members of Generation X – to strike a balance between work and home. That balance comes from ensuring the two don’t become so blended together that you can’t remember which is which.

Maybe you know someone who is planning to build that dream home near the lake when he or she retires. Give those folks a gift and tell them they don’t have to wait. It’s amazing how many of us spend our entire lives planning rather than doing. Sometimes we spend our time doing so much planning that, in the end, we’ve simply become an expert planner. Why not become an expert doer?

If you know someone stuck in the grind of an urban lifestyle, share this blog with that person. Share your own story about Savannah Lakes Village and what wonderful things take place right here on the lake.

You can spend your life stuck in traffic – or you can move in a direction that takes you somewhere that cultivates the spirit and rejuvenates the mind.

Lessons Learned from SLV Newcomers


By Greg Deal
Savannah Lakes Village

People continue to discover their dreams in Savannah Lakes Village. The stories about how they discovered SLV are quite intriguing. Those stories were on display this week at the Newcomers Coffee, where the village’s newest residents are welcomed and acclimated to their surroundings.

Part of the event involves newcomers explaining how they discovered Savannah Lakes. Here are interesting observations and snippets gleaned from the answers from the many in attendance – maybe the largest group of newcomers in more than two years.

Breakdown of how people discovered SLV:

  • Through family/friends – 25 percent
  • Longtime lot owners – 20 percent
  • Website/online – 20 percent
  • Familiar with area – 7 percent
  • Boat or home show – 7 percent
  • Participated in event here – 7 percent
  • Random conversation – 7 percent
  • A publication – 7 percent

Favorite quotes from new residents:

  • “We were looking for the package. The whole package is here.”
  • “We like the way the homes are built.”
  • “I’m committed to four lots — and a house.”
  • “My husband never makes a quick decision, but he decided [on buying in SLV] overnight.”
  • “I wanted to go somewhere where you don’t have to sit in traffic.”
  •  “It [SLV] has everything we could have wanted.”

Top things new residents love about SLV:

  • Outdoors
  • Lake
  • Golf
  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • The people

Interesting story

One resident was traveling on a business trip 20 years ago and overheard someone on the plane talking about Savannah Lakes Village. The eventual SLV resident made it part of her “bucket list” to move here. She’s now accomplished that!

Final thoughts

It’s always exciting when new residents discover the wonders of SLV. Newcomer gatherings are always filled with plenty of excitement as current residents greet those new to the area. Based on the above percentages, it’s clear that our best marketing asset for selling SLV are the people. It’s when you share your story with others that people have a chance to discover something you already know and a life you are already experiencing. You are the ambassadors.

Explore a New Passion in Savannah Lakes Village

By Greg Deal
Savannah Lakes Village

When my father was 75 years old, I offered him a computer for free. He declined. “I’m too old to learn that thing. I don’t have any need for it at my age.”

Five years later, at age 80, Dad couldn’t live without his computer. In fact, he just purchased a new PC to replace the machine I bought him.

“I stay connected to all my high school friends and family members,” he said. “It opened up a whole new world to me. There is a world of things out there to experience.”

Sometimes we are afraid to try new things because we don’t think we are young enough to learn them — or that it’s too late in life. Maybe we are just intimidated by new experiences. Whatever the reason, when we limit ourselves to just the things we’ve always known, we miss out on potentially life-enhancing opportunities.

The lesson here is to refuse to be “too old” for anything. If you are in good health, don’t limit yourself to sticking to your little box of lifetime comforts. Step outside that box.

Savannah Lakes Village is a playground rich with opportunities to experience new and exciting things. Don’t be afraid to take up golf, tennis or pickleball. Join the Outdoor Adventure Club and explore the world through a different lens. Go fishing for that big trophy bass in beautiful Lake Thurmond. Rent a kayak or canoe and traverse the water trails, or take a boat or jet ski out on the lake for a day of exhilarating fun.

The point? Never stop experiencing life.

My father is now a computer whiz. He said he’s learned more in the past five years than in his previous 75. He’s reconnected with his youth by reconnecting with high school friends from the 1950s. He’s learned all the secrets to perfecting his garden. He thanks me all the time for urging him to take advantage of what was available to him.

Savannah Lakes Village provides you an opportunity to take advantage of what’s available to you. My challenge to you is to try something new in the next three months. Never played golf? Give it a try. It’s the game you can enjoy no matter how poorly you play. Want to improve your health? Join the Recreation Center.

Think about something you truly love. Remember the first time you tried it and fell in love with it? Fall in love again.

Member-Guest About Much More Than Golf

Enjoying Ladies Night this past Thursday at The River Grille at Tara.

Enjoying Ladies Night this past Thursday at The River Grille at Tara.

This past weekend’s Member-Guest men’s golf tournament at Savannah Lakes Village proved one thing: It’s about much more than golf.

Yes, the Member-Guest drew 68 players to the Tara and Monticello for three days of golfing on the beautiful courses; however, many walked away saying that, despite how much they loved the golf, they enjoyed just being in Savannah Lakes and sharing time with one another.

Even the spouses were getting into the action. One lady commented on social media after seeing a video of the dancing at Ladies Night that she needs to talk her husband into playing next year. Another chimed in: “Me too.”

I encourage you to watch the video on our Facebook page and see how much fun the ladies had. And, ladies, work your magic and get your husbands involved in 2015.

Village resident Wally Cox said on Facebook that his guests couldn’t say enough good things about the weekend, which included several social events. Larry Lundy dropped by the Village Office on Monday morning and mentioned how much he enjoyed the weekend, saying there was so much more than golf to be grateful for, including spending time with family and friends.

Pat Martin said on Facebook that the event was “fantastic from start to finish.”

There were father and son teams, brother teams and even one grandfather-grandson team.

On Thursday night, while the men were having their welcome party at Monticello and participating in some pre-tournament contests, the ladies were enjoying dancing to the sounds of a local band across the Village at The River Grille.

As I took pictures of golfers on Friday, I couldn’t help but overhear the many comments about how nice everything was. Friday night’s couples social on the courtyard and by the pool at the Recreation Center offered the first chance for participants, spouses and SLV team members to mingle while enjoying great food and drink.

After a very exciting playoff on Saturday that was won in a chip-off by Ken and Dave Bastow, everyone came back together for dinner, awards and dancing to the songs of six-time Carolina Beach Music Association Vocalist of the Year Rhonda McDaniel.

The Member-Guest event really has become a major showcase for what SLV has to offer – not just as a superb golf community, but as a lakeside destination with great weather, great people, and many great things you can do when you aren’t playing golf.

The cost of the event is truly insignificant compared to all the wonderful memories and good times. Sure, the golf courses were in fine shape and played just about as well as anyone could expect. In the end, though, it’s the people who make the annual Member-Guest special. It’s the participants, their spouses or significant others, family, friends, SLV team members, volunteers and many others.

When it comes time to play next year, forget about how well you think you will do in the tournament. You’ll forget your score years from now, anyway; but the memories of a special weekend will last a lifetime.

Why not dust off the clubs and enter next year’s Member-Guest tournament. Everyone walks away with a prize. It’s called fellowship – and you can’t put a price on good fellowship.