In a little less than two months, 156 of the world’s greatest golfers will arrive in Charlotte for the PGA Championship.
With wives, kids, trainers, chefs and others in tow, many will settle into leased houses close to Quail Hollow Club for the week, giving them privacy and a touch of home during a high-stress week at one of golf’s four major championships.
For this touch of comfort, the players will be able to thank Anne and McSwain Bell, the volunteers who have been coordinating housing for the pros for more than a year. The husband-and-wife real estate team from Cottingham Chalk Hayes lined up nearly 100 available homes and expect about half will be leased by the time players tees off in August.
“The next PGA champion could be staying in your home,” says McSwain. “It’s kind of cool to think about it.”
The Bells, who have two young children, are among the 3,500 volunteers who will help bring to life the first-ever golf major to be held in Charlotte. Their role is particularly high-profile because it involves lodging the players at a tournament known for having the sport’s top-ranked field.
The couple volunteered on the urging of a client who helps with the Wells Fargo Championship, also held at Quail Hollow. With their real estate experience, they figured helping players find homes for the week would be a good fit for their skills.
“Having a real estate background, obviously, it was easier for us to identify houses that were in close proximity to the course and to target certain neighborhoods we thought to be desirable to the players,” says Anne.
The golf world currently has its attention on the U.S. Open, the major championship that concludes this Sunday. But in recent weeks preparations for the PGA Championship have been heating up, with the tournament announcing its transportation plan for fans, and workers starting construction of a massive souvenir shop on the club grounds.
To get started on their task, the Bells consulted with counterparts who handled the same job at last year’s PGA Championship in New Jersey. Next, they started sending out mailers to targeted neighborhoods and checking with their network of real estate contacts.
To select homes, players were able to check out a special web site that didn’t include addresses to protect privacy. After that, the Bells helped put players and their agents in touch with the homeowners to negotiate lease terms.
The couple said they couldn’t talk about prices, but noted that the accommodations vary in size from two-bedroom condos to large homes. The players rent them for a week, including practice days leading up to the four-day tournament, Aug. 10-13.
On Airbnb, the home and apartment rental web site, a sampling of Charlotte residents offering up their homes and townhomes to fans during the tournament are asking for prices ranging from about $700 to $1,500 per night.
Players coming to Charlotte for the tournament are looking for privacy, as well as amenities such as fitness equipment and pools for their kids. Players started leasing the homes this spring, but the Bells can’t disclose names.
“Some big-name players are already starting to sign up, including previous major winners,” says McSwain.
Not everyone needs the Bells’ help. Some players opt for hotels, while others already have favorite places to stay from past visits to the Wells Fargo Championship.
Some players may end up signing up at the last minute, as they qualify to play in the PGA Championship.
“Somebody wins a tournament, and they’re in and they need a place to stay,” Anne said. “We expect to be leasing houses up until middle to end of July.”
Charlotte homeowners leasing their homes are either going out of town for the week, or staying with friends or family because they also want to go to the tournament, the Bells said. Some will know the names of the players who are staying at their homes, others won’t.
The Masters golf tournament in April showed the possible pitfalls of leasing out a home when top golfer Dustin Johnson hurt his back as he slipped on stairs at the home where he was staying.
“Ironically, we haven’t gotten any comments about that,” McSwain says. “When that happened I was like, ‘Oh great, I’m going to get bombarded with questions.’”
The Bells advise homeowners to check with their insurance agents about their coverage in case of any accidents.
Anne says she has been pleasantly surprised by how accommodating homeowners have been. Some offer to leave out toys and bikes for the players’ kids or even to stock the fridge.
In coming weeks, the Bells and the other members of their committee – Daniel Cottingham, Ben Dobson and Shannon McCullough – will make sure homes are ready. Just like at a beach rental, they’re putting out information about local grocery stores and restaurants, as well as the all-important password for logging onto the home’s Wi-Fi network.
Once the tournament week arrives, they plan to be on call in case any problems arise. With their real estate experience, they have preferred vendors at the ready in case of any issues.
“Hopefully, we won’t be fixing anybody’s air conditioning,” Anne says.