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She found her dream home on one of the world’s most famous golf courses

The dream home can take many forms. Few, however, would envision their perfect property built on the grounds of a major sporting venue. Because while having a world-renowned golf course in your backyard might sound idyllic to the diehard golfer, the prospect of balls careening towards windows and strangers strolling through your garden is less appealing to most people.

And yet, nestled among the sprawling fairways and shimmering lakes of Tournament Players Club (TPC) Sawgrass – home of the PGA Tour and host to The Players Championship – is a community where one family has holed out on a slice of paradise. Rebecca Burchell had a tough decision to make. Settled and content in leafy Beaconsfield, a market town in southeast England, her family had spent 10 years building a new life across the pond after moving from Ponte Vedra Beach near Jacksonville, Florida, in 2007.

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Her two teenage children, Emma and Liam, were happily embedded at a local school, with Burchell – a licensed realtor – volunteering as a governor there. Yet the reason the family originally made the transatlantic switch would ultimately be the reason they returned. Having established a long career in the global relocation industry, Rebecca’s husband Mark would see life imitate work as a new job opportunity in Jacksonville led the Burchells to move back to Florida. “It was a really, really difficult decision,” Burchell told CNN.

“But for my husband, as you learn in life, you gotta go where the job and the money is. It was really hard on Emma because she moved at 18, she didn’t know anybody, whereas with Liam (13) – though it was devastating leaving – he started school right away so he instantly made friends.”

The desire to send Liam to one of the state’s top schools immediately narrowed the search to the her old neighborhood of Ponte Vedra Beach. Given her real estate background, renovating and flipping properties, Burchell was in her element.

Twenty house viewings quickly rattled by, many lasting less than a minute. “I can look at a house and I’m like yes or no within 30 seconds,” Burchell said. “With any property, I look at the front and then I go all the way to the backyard and I even skip all of the inside. If I don’t like the backyard, I don’t even bother.”

But there was no quick exit when Burchell stepped out onto the lawn at Sawgrass Players Club, which is home to 1,900 properties, making up 16 neighborhoods across 1,200 acres.

Waterways – brimming with fish, turtles, and the occasional gator – winding around immaculately kept greens, herons and eagles swooping from the tops of towering pine trees; Burchell was immediately besotted by the “spectacular” setting of the community. Burchell’s focus had settled on Seven Mile Drive, a neighborhood that occupies the second-highest price bracket at Sawgrass Players Club. Property prices on Seven Mile Drive range from $1.4 to $2.5 million, Burchell said, a rung down from the sweeping $2.5 to $3.5 million estate homes on Sawgrass Island.

Proximity to the coastline, a five-minute drive away, puts a premium on prices, Burchell added, with even the cheapest properties on site starting from $700,000. More than 80% of the 117 Seven Mile Drive properties dot the perimeter of the Dye’s Valley Course, brainchild of designers Pete Dye, Bobby Weed and 1982 Players champion Jerry Pate. Adjacent to the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, it has played host to a string of professional events since opening in 1987.

The Burchells decided to buy a home pitched along the cart path in the middle of the first fairway, a spot that put their garden and pool in the landing zones for around 10 balls a week. Yet for Burchell, it was a minor inconvenience that’s simply par for living on a golf course. Problems would only arise when the occasional brazen golfer would stroll into the Burchell’s garden without permission, risking the wrath of a rescue dog wary of strangers. “I was like, ‘She’ll attack you … she’s not a friendly dog!’” Burchell recalled, laughing.

“It [balls in the garden] is just expected. Some people get a window knocked out … but I’ve never heard anyone complain about it.”

Later, they relocated a few doors down to a house overlooking the third green, and in the two years since moving, the Burchells have not had a single ball drop onto their property.

Working from home can be a challenging task, with the laptop fighting for attention against the sight of golfers quietly putting, and the ever-present wildlife, be it baby herons hatching from a nearby nest or pelicans divebombing the water hazards to pluck their next meal. The view remains the star attraction of life in Sawgrass Players Club for Burchell, but it is far from the only draw. A sprawling array of amenities – from a swimming pool to a children’s play park – forms the beating heart of the community.

Players Park boasts an expansive recreation complex – including softball and soccer fields, basketball and beach volleyball courts – and serves as the venue for annual events and festivals, such as Springfest and the movie-themed Flicks in the Field. Tying it all together is the 77,0000-square-foot, Mediterranean-style TPC Sawgrass clubhouse, kitted out with a range of restaurants, a gallery, and a golf shop. “It’s just a really tight community,” Burchell said.

“I play tennis, my husband plays tennis, so we have all our tennis friends … and with the restaurants and the clubhouse, it’s just a very social, really great lifestyle.”

Ironically, golf ranks relatively low on the priority list. Burchell’s husband plays, but the advantage of proximity to two championship courses is countered by the costs required to play them. Fees for a round at the Stadium Course start from $450 a head, rising to $650 between September and May. The Dye’s Valley Course is cheaper, but will still set players back a minimum of $175 for 18 holes.

As a result, Burchell’s husbands plays primarily at The Yards, a former golf club renovated in 2020 that offers residents a less costly alternative. Fees start from $57.50 to play all 12 holes, with the club also home to tennis courts and a dedicated facility for the rapidly growing pickleball community. It leaves Burchell hard-pressed to find a single negative – and the only one she can eventually think of is immediately offset. Perhaps inevitably, it involves the annual Players Championship.

Often dubbed “the fifth major,” the arrival of one of the sport’s premier events brings with it enormous fanfare, noise and – most pertinent of all – traffic. For one week every March, gridlock reigns, yet the locals have developed a survival strategy. It’s golf’s version of doomsday prepping: residents flock out in the preceding days to stock up on supplies before hunkering down and not leaving the site for the duration of the tournament. It’s sheltering in the lightest sense of the word, as a week of non-stop festivities ensues for the community.

Private seating at the course offers locals a front-row seat to the world’s greatest players, with concerts, a military appreciation day, a ladies day and other events staged throughout. Scottie Scheffler’s 88-year-old grandma walks every hole of his dominant Players Championship victory

“It’s just a huge party,” Burchell said. “People start drinking at 8 a.m, sit out on the course all day. After the tournament everyone comes back here, they continue partying, and then we start all over again the next day.

“The weather’s beautiful … it’s just a great fun week.”

It’s a lifestyle that has helped provide a tonic to the soreness of leaving behind close friendships in Beaconsfield. With Burchell’s daughter graduating from the University of Florida and chasing her dream of working in the horse industry, life on the golf course has been smooth-swinging for the family. “It’s just spectacular,” Burchell said. “We couldn’t have lived in two more perfect places.”
© 2023 Cable News Network. A Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All Rights Reserved. CNN Sans ™ & © 2016 Cable News Network. Credit – CNN

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