One of our original planned communities evolves as new families arrive
By Matt White, Chatham Magazine
On a recent Wednesday night, Trey and RamonaLisa Robertson and their daughter Emily, 10, arrived at the front door of the Governors Club main
clubhouse for what’s become a weekly routine: GovernorsClub kids night. Governors Club, a community which for years sold itself as a golf-centered neighborhood, now holds ‘kids night’ on Wednesday at the community’s central clubhouse, with babysitting services provided while parents eat at the main restaurant.
“It’s become our weekly family tradition,” says RamonaLisa.They weren’t the only family taking advantage. As the Robertsons walked up to the club’s regal double doors, a car pulled under the covered dropoff. Jennifer Sherwood, who owns Governors Village Chiropractic, quickly hopped out with her daughter before her husband, Kevin, pulled away to find a parking space. The two families waved and said hello as they entered the clubhouse.
Though their well-timed arrival was a coincidence, the two families have much in common. Both are California transplants, but more importantly for the future ofGovernors Club, they represent an emerging trend in who is choosing to live in the gated community just outside ChapelHill: extended, multi-generation families who, as young children are born, choose to be closer together by moving in. That trend, says Governors Club COO Doug Shifflett, has accelerated recently. “We’ve probably had eight to ten-member-families join in the last year where either [adult]children had located here and grandparents moved in or grandparents were already here and a young family moved in with children,” he says.
The Robertsons have been a multi-generation family governors Club for the better part of a decade, connecting around the neighborhood’s 27-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.
We’re an active golf family,” says RamonaLisa. “Coming from California, golf rounds were very expensive, very long and usually very windy. We figured this was our chance to live in a community like this that would have been very much out of reach in the Bay Area.”
Soon after the Robertsons arrived, Trey’s parents, Chris and Duane Robertson, moved from Pinehurst. All three generations play together and both parents have their own regular games on weekends.
“I play on Saturdays and Trey plays on Sundays,” says RamonaLisa. “We divide and conquer.”
Another family with several generations in Governors Club is Tony and Julia Molina, whose family tree in the neighborhood even has separate branches. The couple arrived in 2003, joining Tony’s brother, Paul Molina, a radiologist at UNC, who had been in Governors Club a decade. Tony regularly boasted about the neighborhood’s lush landscaping, private streets, and quiet lifestyle. It sounded peaceful, even.
But in 2012, the couple had twins, Aurora and Ashton, and Tony’s parents promptly moved into the neighborhood as
well, leaving Aldersgate in Chapel Hill.
Now, says Tony, peace, and quiet is hard to find in their corner of Governors Club.
“My house is the center of attention,” says Tony. Both he and Julia are dentists with separate practices in Wake
County. “Everyone comes over to endure the noise and racket.”
Of course, a noisy home is often the price – and just as often, the goal – of living in the same neighborhood. But
several recent changes around Governors Club are aimed at giving kids more to do.
“We hired a full-time youth activity director to create family programming that we have year-round for kids,” says Doug. “Our junior golf and junior tennis have expanded quite a bit.” A new golf instructor, says Doug, has started competitive teams for children in the neighborhood.
The youth and family movement, says Doug, “is indicative of the club industry as a whole. We think of ourselves as a lifestyle club, for families that have kids and who don’t have kids.”
Governors Club opened for golf and home development in the late 1980s and the 42,000-square-foot clubhouse followed in 1995. As homes, many custom-built began to pop up, the neighborhood soon gained a reputation as a destination-community not just for golf fans but among UNC faculty and RTP workers. Today, the community is about 80% built out, with about 250 homesites still available.
From the neighborhood’s main gated entrance off Farrington Point Road, the development’s central street, Governors Drive, winds through precipitous hills as stately executive-style homes wink in and out of the rugged terrain. At the center of the neighborhood Edwards Mountain, where the “Grand Estates” of the Highland Pond section sits. Homes here, with views for miles over Chatham and Chapel Hill, can sell for millions of dollars, but elsewhere within the neighborhood’s 1,600acres, properties can start as low as the mid-six figures. Property owners can opt to not join the golf club, which also provides access to the gym, pool and tennis courts, but 70% of those who live in the community do, says Doug. When the club held its 25th Anniversary, Jack Nicklaus returned to help celebrate.
More changes are afoot in Governors Club. The main clubhouse, which served 48,000 meals in 2017, is undergoing a $3 million renovation this year. And the explosion in Chatham real estate is being driven not by mid-career or near-retiree couples but by developments like Briar Chapel and the growing hub of Pittsboro which cater to young families, often followed quickly by grandparents. And Governors Club is shifting to welcome them.
“In the nine and half years we’ve lived here, we've definitely seen an increase in younger membership moving in,” says RamonaLisa. “When we first moved here, I don't think there was as big a focus for a younger community. Ithink it was a place where people who retired and came to live. But we’re definitely attracting younger members with families, which is wonderful.”
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 edition of Chatham Magazine and has been reprinted with permission by the publisher.