Luxury homes on a plot of land that Jack Nicklaus saved for himself and a few others

When people make the pilgrimage to the Muirfield Village Golf Club in most springs, they often walk past an enclave of homes along the front nine holes, unaware of their exclusivity. There are 22 homes within the gated Estates at Muirfield Village, and this is where Memorial Tournament founder, golf course designer and legendary pro Jack Nicklaus—and other luminaries—have massive houses.

“My vision was that I would have a home there in Muirfield Village, and that I would provide lots to three key gentlemen who worked with me on the project—Pandel Savic, Bob Hoag and Ivor Young—and that they could choose what they wanted to do with the lots,” explains Nicklaus recently via email. “Pandel Savic built on his and Ivor (Young) and Bob Hoag sold theirs.”

Notable homeowners in years past have included auto racing magnate Bobby Rahal, the late Sun TV and Appliances founder Macy Block, and the late car dealer Len Immke. The list of current residents includes Urban Meyer, former Ohio State University football coach and current assistant athletic director; Brandon Dubinsky, Blue Jackets center; and Ed Bacome, CEO and co-founder of the Dublin-based Epcon Communities.

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The Estates is a unique collection of luxury residences where the homes start at 6,574 square feet and the smallest lot is 1.3 acres. Most have multiple fireplaces and full baths to accommodate family members and guests. The community also has several condos just inside the gate, but they are not integrated into the rolling land that houses the far-flung mansions.

The largest single-family home is 22,830 square feet, and sits on the largest lot, which is 2.7 acres. “It is very exclusive,” says Alli Close, who heads the Close Connection sales team at the Keller Williams Consultants brokerage. “And everything’s on acreage. … You just can’t get in there for under seven figures.”

Close has worked on four transactions “inside the gate” over the years, either on the listing side or as the buyer’s agent. Most recently, she represented the buyer in the sale of a four-bedroom ranch on Muirfield Court listed on the Delaware county Auditor’s website at nearly 6,600 square feet for $1.2 million. “There are only a few areas [in Greater Columbus] where you have so many million-dollar estate homes together,” she says. Among them are the gated New Albany Farms and Highgrove, where homes are still being built, also in New Albany.

The Memorial Golf Tournament teed off in 1976, two years after the championship course opened. Marketing for the first 17 lots on the 33 acres in the Estates yielded its first homes in the early 1980s. The last home construction was in 2009 among wooded lots on an additional 17 acres behind a second gate at the end of Muirfield Court. This is where Nicklaus built his home. Two more lots carved out of that wooded area in recent years have remained vacant.

While several of the lots have exposure to the course, many of those on Muirfield Court covet the privacy within the middle of the enclave. Count retired energy industry executive Lance Schneier among those finding solace along the nearby course where thousands have wandered during tournament weeks. The founder of natural gas marketer Yankee Resources in the early 1980s said he began looking at the Muirfield Village residential market as he relocated the company to Metro Center. “Muirfield was getting well-developed [as a residential community] at that time,” he recalls. But the homes were a bit close together, so the option of building on two lots came under consideration.

Finally, a lot in the Estates section caught his fancy with its blocked views of the course during golf season. An irrigation pond for the golf course is adjacent to his backyard—this is where he would jump into a boat and fish for bluegill and catfish out of view of golfers during the tournament week or during busy summer weekends when club members were on the course. “It was a unique opportunity to have a lot of property [2.7 acres] with privacy but still close to every amenity,” he explains.

Schneier has also participated in the revelry of tournament week. For several years, he shuttled business clients to his home from the Metro Center offices of the energy company. (He later rebranded his company Access Energy after he bought out his partners.) He also hosted golf pros playing the tournament at times. “It’s a very exciting time during tournament week,” he says, as Muirfield Estates neighbors have gatherings with family members and friends.

During tournament week, the Estates remains private. “Nobody rents out their houses here,” Schneier says, unlike many of the other homes along the perimeter of the course. “It’s a different form, style of entertaining. It’s an energized environment during the tournament,” he says. “And then it’s gone.”

Narrow Market

When a home in the Estates goes on the market, it often gets a lot of attention. With many happy memories, Schneier and his wife, Sue, have their home up for sale as they prepare to downsize to a smaller place in Old Dublin. The couple expanded their home in the Estates after their marriage to accommodate the blended family—each brought children from previous marriages when they moved in 1995.

The home has eight bedrooms, 10 full baths, an extensive weight room and a two-story home theater. A room Schneier formally used as a place to practice his golf swings is now used as a Pilates studio. A wing built for the couple’s sons has a kitchenette, while an interior gym sports a mini basketball court flanked by two climbing walls and a painted hopscotch court.

Listing agent Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre of HER Realtors’ Raines Group said the resort-style home, priced at $3.95 million, has gained some attention from prospective buyers. “We’ve had some inquiries from out of town,” Grand-Pierre said. While located within a high-end section of Muirfield Golf Village, he says the gated community has its charm. “It’s not pretentious despite its price points,” he says. “It’s private, yet it’s still a friendly neighborhood. You don’t always see that in a high-end neighborhood.”

Another home in the neighborhood sold in 2019. The smaller place—a five-bedroom English manor offering 6,746 square feet of living space for $1 million—closed in December. The Street Sotheby International Realty brokerage, meantime, has another home currently listed. Just 1,000 square feet smaller than the Schneiers’ home, it features 21,573 square feet for $5.5 million.

Street Sotheby President Scott Street says the luxury community attracts among the wealthiest in the market, with top-notch doctors and lawyers as well as C-suite executives among residents there. “It’s not just people who are golf fanatics,” says Street. It’s people who want privacy and quiet. While several of the homes are exposed to the course, few of those walking by understand the exclusive residential community they are passing.

“In my mind, it’s an amazing spot … and an amazing little gift” from Nicklaus to the region’s executive housing stock, he adds.

Marketing an Estates property is not like selling a home anywhere else in Muirfield or Dublin. “You don’t do open houses that big unless it’s vacant,” says Close. The home’s amenities can assist in the marketing, such as a swimming pool or a wood oven for baking pizzas and salmon planks. As in any residential sale, pricing is important and renovation will likely occur. “Once you’re north of $1 million, everyone comes in to make the house their own,” Close adds.

Ready to move on

“It was a good decision to live here,” says Schneier. “We’ve enjoyed it here.” Then he reflects on the decades his family spent playing “Turkey Bowl” games of football on Thanksgiving and such. He also has appreciated his friendships with interesting neighbors.

“We’ll miss a lot of this: the home, the neighbors and the views,” he adds. With children now grown up and living on their own, the house no longer fits their lives. “It’s just the two of us. It’s just too much for just two people.”