When the call came inquiring about WCI Communities' interest in building Golf Magazine's second annual “Dream House” at its Tiburon community in Naples, Fla., project manager Paul Erhardt had only one question: Could the house be built within the same footprint as a standard model?
When the answer came back that the promotion was more about what golfers wanted in a house, the idea was a go. After all, how could you turn down spreads in three different issues of a magazine with a monthly circulation of 1.4 million golf enthusiasts and a readership of 5.9 million?
“Naples made sense, we made sense, and Tiburon made sense,” says Erhardt. “Naples is an ideal location because it has more golf holes per capita than any other city. Given that WCI builds high-end golf communities, we were a logical pick. And Tiburon, with its two Greg Norman–designed golf courses and the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, was the perfect choice.”
WCI even had a primo site for the 3,000-foot Mediterranean style golfers' fantasy, a lot overlooking the sixth green on the Gold Course, where the Franklin Templeton “Shark” Shootout is played every November. Located in a 44-unit gated enclave of golf villas within the 943-acre master planned community, the lot was “the best in the neighborhood,” Erhardt says. “We had been hanging on to it until last because we wanted to get the best price for it.”
The project manager's only concern was that the show house would be so unique he'd have a difficult time selling it. “This is a fairly narrow market,” he explains, “and we would be taking a bit of risk that the place wouldn't fit in with the neighborhood.” But when the magazine agreed to ask readers what they wanted inside a standard three-bedroom, four-bath Serafina floor plan, Erhardt accepted the challenge. “We didn't commit to building everything readers said they wanted, but we said we'd do as much as possible,” he says.
“Many Golf Magazine readers aspire to own a home in a high-end golf community, and WCI has truly delivered a dream home,” says publisher Chris Wightman.
But the sponsors weren't satisfied with a photo spread in the magazine's December issue. They turned the effort into a 10-week event, one benefiting Liberty Youth Ranch, a nonprofit community planned for Bonita Springs, Fla., where WCI is headquartered, to provide a home for up to 100 abused, neglected, homeless, and orphaned children. Each Friday through Sunday from mid-October to mid-December, visitors toured the spectacular residence, with hundreds paying the recommended $5 entry donation.
In the end, Erhardt's worst fears were dashed when a Chicago couple in their 50s who had first seen the house in the magazine plunked down $2.2 million for what turned out to be a miniature golf clubhouse. “[The husband] was very much into cigars, and he couldn't believe he found a place with a built-in humidor,” the project manager says.