May 2013

Behind The Gates: Oldfield

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr.

About 13 miles from the bridge to Hilton Head Island on Highway 170, or about 18 miles from Beaufort in the other direction, you’ll come upon a pastoral scene: long white fences, rolling pastures and grazing horses. No, this isn’t Kentucky. You’re in Okatie, South Carolina, and you’ve just arrived at Oldfield.

Just beyond the main entry gate, you’ll pass by a little general store with two of those antique gas pumps out front…straight out of an early 20th century postcard.

The pumps are only props, but the store itself is anything but. In fact, this is where the Oldfield folks come to pick up their mail. These are your first clues that Oldfield recalls a much different Lowcountry than do the area’s golf-oriented private communities—a time before a ball was ever teed up in coastal South Carolina and before multitudes flocked to Hilton Head Island’s beaches. By design, Oldfield reflects an era when America’s great captains of industry made the Lowcountry their seasonal home, drawn in by the sporting life—hunting, fishing, horses—and, of course, love of the region’s natural beauty.

Once considered off the beaten path, Oldfield now stands as a shining example of the old real estate axiom: Location. Location. Location. “Oldfield really isn’t out of the way anymore, and that’s what people have told me,” said Oldfield real estate agent Jan Ferguson. “People say, ‘I go to Beaufort, I go here, I go there, I’m constantly driving by you.’ That’s why they’re coming in. Oldfield is at the hub if you want to go to Savannah, Beaufort, Charleston, or Hilton Head. Everybody’s about 30 minutes except Charleston, and we’re so close to I-95.”

For the past few decades golf has been at the core of private community development models throughout Beaufort County; but times change, tastes change, trends change. Today, golf is a lower priority for Lowcountry homebuyers, and Oldfield is well-positioned to serve them. “Most of our residents bought into Oldfield because they appreciate the lifestyle that Oldfield offers. They’re not only golfers, they’re not only fishermen, they’re not only sportsmen, and they’re not only equestrian. They want all of that, and many of our members want a refined, high-end club experience that doesn’t feel as if you need to wear a jacket everywhere you go,” said Jamie Selby, Oldfield general manager. “So that first class club with a very laid back style, that’s what you get when you come through the gate.”

Asked to profile the typical Oldfield resident, both Selby and Ferguson lead with the word active, and Selby estimates that the demographic mix between retirees/empty nesters and younger working families is about 60/40. So, it is very much a family oriented place, a neighborhood where you would want to raise your children. Resident Rick Price, who came to Oldfield from New Jersey with his wife Diane nearly three years ago, spoke of an idyllic image: the yellow school bus. “We like that,” he said. “It speaks to youth and vitality.”

“It’s unique when you see such a diverse crowd at a big community event,” Selby added. “You see kids running around; you see all the activities for the kids.”

Oldfield’s amenities package is the differentiator between it and other Lowcountry private communities, and it begins with the Outfitter’s Center. Situated between the Okatie River shoreline and Oldfield’s fresh water River Pond, the Outfitter’s Center is home to Oldfield’s—perhaps peerless among Lowcountry private residential communities—fishing, hunting and nature programs. According to Selby, the Outfitter’s Center and the sporting lifestyle that it affords is the feature that draws most of Oldfield’s members into the community. “We’re on the river, we own our own boats, we have kayaks, we have fishing equipment, and we have motorized boats that go on our lakes.” They also have Outfitter’s Center director and staff naturalist Marvin Bouknight running the show to members’ delight. Bouknight is your guide for myriad activities, including inshore, near shore and offshore boating and fishing trips, shrimping and crabbing from one of Oldfield’s three community docks, even clay shooting or quail and duck hunting through an arrangement with Turkey Hill Plantation in nearby Ridgeland. “He also does fun things for the whole family,” Selby said, “like owl prowls and bat calls, or identifying areas throughout the community where we do have wildlife that he can record and then take people out to see—fox dens, for example.”

“Marvin is the reason we bought here,” Rick Price said. “Whatever Marvin does, we attend.”

Bouknight also plays a key role in preserving and protecting Oldfield’s Okatie River shoreline and natural landscape. “To us, the view from the river is as important as the view to the river,” he said. “Everybody says that they respect the land, but Oldfield is the only community that I know of that has a naturalist taking part in planning and architectural review decisions. Nothing is forced here.” So one thing that you won’t see at Oldfield is a row of docks sticking out into the river. Instead, boat-owning members keep their boats at the community’s concierge service marina. The crew there will launch, fuel, bait…do anything necessary to get the boat ready at the members’ request.

Oldfield’s Sports Club caters to members’ active lifestyles and penchant for health and wellness. It features a fitness center, bicycle rentals, an indoor lap pool and outdoor resort pool with a waterslide, tennis courts, basketball court, and some 40 classes monthly. All are complimentary to members. Additionally, the Sports Club employs lifestyle directors for children’s activities, allowing parents to drop their kids off for a few hours so they can get in a workout or take care of personal business.

“We have tried at every venue, frankly, to do everything within reason to meet the needs of our membership,” Selby said.

As its rolling pastures and white fences are your first image when entering Oldfield, the Equestrian Center sets the tone for the community’s pastoral personality. The center is equipped with a 12-stall barn, riding ring, full course of jumps, round pen, grass paddocks and access to miles of riding trails. Boarding is available to horse-owning members.

Although golf is not Oldfield’s reason for being, the golfer is by no means forgotten. A Greg Norman-designed track winds through Oldfield, giving members a playable, yet challenging, golf experience while enjoying the beauty of a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Designed to be a small and intimate community (550 homes in all at build-out), Oldfield’s golfing members love that they never have to wait to play.

Single-family residences are all you’ll find in Oldfield, and most of the lots offer wooded, golf course, marsh or river views. There is no attached construction nor are there any garden style homes in the community. According to Ferguson, home sites range in price from $50,000 to $575,000; homes for sale start in the high $300,000s and go up to $1.5 million. Architecturally, homes adhere to traditional Lowcountry and Charleston styles. “You won’t find any predominantly stucco homes in here or some of the more common and basic construction that you see in other communities,” Selby said. “Our ARB takes a great deal of pride in maintaining the streetscape of Oldfield so that everything looks as it should.”

Club membership is required with property ownership, but Oldfield has responded to changing demands by inserting some flexibility into its membership model.

Community Membership, which gives full access to all non-golf amenities and limited access to the golf course, is automatic for all property owners. Upgrading to full Golf Membership is totally optional. “Living here, obviously the dues structure is considerably lower than other clubs with a similar amenity package,” said Selby, who sees this as one of two distinct advantages that Oldfield has with homebuyers, the other being a developer who is involved and attentive to the members. “Savvy buyers look at the dues structure, and they look at financial reports and statements. They want to know that next year they are not going to get hit with a $20,000 assessment because something needs to be redone. Right now the developer funds that.”

“He listens to the members,” Ferguson added. “He’s open to the question, ‘What is Oldfield?’. And that’s important, because everybody’s very proud of Oldfield. When customers see Oldfield for the first time and they see that pride and the tremendous respect for what Oldfield is, it’s very impactful.”

Oldfield is located at 130 Oldfield Way, Okatie, S.C. For more information, call (843) 379-2500, or visit

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