On Grand Strand Golf: Courses have cleaned up, recovered from effects of ice storm

ablondin@thesunnews.comFebruary 17, 2014 

Tree limbs that fell during last week's ice storm are piled near an out-of-bounds stake off the 14th hole at Cypress Bay Golf Club, which will be closing Sunday in favor of redevelopment by Mungo Homes.

SUBMITTED PHOTO

It doesn’t appear Myrtle Beach area courses lost anything as iconic as the Eisenhower Tree, which Augusta National Golf Club lost on its 17th fairway because of damage caused by last week’s ice storm.

But the weight of the ice caused countless limbs and trees in some cases to drop and required an extensive cleanup effort on every area course that will likely continue for another week or two.

Most area courses were able to reopen Friday after the storm last Tuesday and Wednesday and a third consecutive day of temperatures in the 30s on Thursday. But course operators had to clear the playing areas and cart paths of debris first.

“We didn’t lose anything major and it hasn’t really affected our play, but in terms of the cleanup I would say it resembled a hurricane,” said Rick Taylor, general manager Classic Golf Group, which operates four Grand Strand layouts. “We lost so many limbs. After talking to our superintendents it could take us the better part of two weeks to get everything cleaned up.”

Steve Mays, vice president of sales and marketing for the 22-course National Golf Management, said the lack of significant wind kept most fallen limbs off fairways and greens on his company’s courses. “It could have been a lot worse,” Mays said. “There was no damage to buildings or anything, mostly just to the limbs and a couple fences.

“The biggest thing is it’s just very labor intensive. When you have an event like this it takes the full effort of everyone in the company to get the courses up and running. It’s not just the maintenance teams, it includes the pro shop staff and bag drop workers to get the courses up and running as quickly as possible.”

Representatives of National Golf Management, Classic Golf Group, East Coast Golf Management’s five courses, The Glens Group’s four courses and a handful of other area facilities claimed they had no major damage to structures or playing areas.

Some courses, including Caledonia Golf and Fish Club in Pawleys Island, took an extra day to clean up and reopened Saturday.

“No one is going to play in that kind of weather anyway so we didn’t really lose any business,” said Ryan McCarty, director of golf at Shaftesbury Glen Golf & Fish Club and Wicked Stick Golf Links.

Among the biggest challenges faced by area golf course facilities in the aftermath of the storm:

• Tupelo Bay Golf Center in Garden City had large nets on both sides of its driving range collapse. The right side netting, which runs along the first hole of the facility’s executive course, ripped in larger pieces so it was pieced back together sufficiently enough to allow players to use that side by Sunday. There were people standing in line to use that portion of the range Monday.

The left side netting that runs along condos came down in smaller pieces, and workers from EF Netting are “trying to knit it back together like it was open heart surgery until we get the full replacement,” Tupelo Bay marketing director Vince Cronkey said. “We hope to have the left side open by Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest.”

Custom-made replacement nets will be made by Tex-Net, but the company likely has a backlog of orders because of the storm.

• Shaftesbury Glen in Conway was without power for 2½ days. It returned around 11 a.m. Friday. A large group played Friday morning, but it was on prepaid golf packages so cash transactions didn’t have to be made without power.

• The entrance to Glen Dornoch Golf Links in Little River was blocked by fallen limbs and large limbs hanging over the entrance road, and the size of the limbs required workers to use chainsaws to eventually clear the road. The entrance to Heather Glen Golf Links was also initially blocked, though workers were able to remove the debris without machinery.

• East Coast Golf Management lost a few trees on its courses. “A couple trees went down but they fell in the right places,” company president Mike Buccerone said.

• Wicked Stick had the netting that lines the right side of its driving range along U.S. 17 all in some places, but there aren’t any large tears, so “we just have to get a lift to get up there and tie back up,” McCarty said. Practicing golfers have been limited to the other side of the range, which doesn’t allow the use of woods, anyway.

If you miss a fairway over the next week or two on many courses, you run the risk of having your ball end up in a pile of debris and tree limbs, though most courses are in the process of removing those isolated piles.

Many courses are using wood chippers to turn the fallen limbs into mulch that they can spread around the layouts. Some, such as Crow Creek Golf Club, have their own machinery. Others, including Shaftesbury Glen, have to borrow or rent the equipment. “We tried to rent a wood chipper but they were all rented out,” McCarty said. “I guess everyone had the same idea we had.”

Cypress shutting down

If you want to finally play Cypress Bay Golf Club for the first time, or want to get a final round in on the 6,500-yard Russell Breeden design that opened in 1972, you have six more days.

Apparently several golfers have already made plans. “Our tee times are getting full daily,” Cypress Bay general manager Gene Blanton said.

The course will be closing after play on Sunday, six days before previously announced in December after Mungo Homes purchased the course for $3 million for a planned redevelopment.

“We need a week to get things out of there that we own, so instead of carrying it to the end of February we decided to close a week earlier,” Blanton said. “There’s a lot to do when you have to cancel everything and turn everything off.”

Several employees have found work in the golf business, which was the primary reason course operators opted to remain open for another three months after the sale.

The vast majority of Mungo Homes developments are single-family, though Lee McLoud, president of the company’s Coastal Division that includes Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Savannah/Hilton Head, said in December that the development could include some multi-family units. He said the land is zoned as a PDD with an allowed density of more than 700 units, but the company doesn’t expect to approach that number of units.

“The zoning on the property allows for several types of housing and some commercial use fronting Highway 17,” McLoud said in an email Monday. “At this point we have not finalized our master plan. In the interim the property will no longer be operated or maintained as a golf course.”

Building isn’t expected to begin until 2015.

Golf panel assembled

Horry-Georgetown Technical College professor and academic chair Rick McGuinnes has assembled a panel for a discussion of golf topics at 10 a.m. Thursday at HGTC’s Burroughs & Chapin Auditorium.

Though the discussion that will involve audience questions has been organized for the students in McGuinnes’ Golf and Sports Turf Management Program at HGTC and Coastal Carolina’s PGA PGM Program, it is also open to the public with limited seating.

I will be taking part in the discussion along with Golfweek senior writer Bradley S. Klein, Craig Currier, who was the superintendent for two U.S. Opens at Bethpage Black and is now the superintendent at Glen Oaks Club on Long Island, and Steve Rabideau, the superintendent at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., which will host the 2020 U.S. Open.

Klein has been writing for Golfweek since 1988, and in recent years he has been the magazine’s architecture editor and director of its course rating program. A former PGA Tour caddie, he holds a Ph.D. in political science, was a university professor for 14 years and has written five books on golf course design. One of his recent articles examines the contrasting philosophies of how the game can be saved.

McGuinnes said Klein will discuss “architecture, the golf business and all the things they don’t teach you in turf school that you need to know.”

Klein is in the area visiting a friend, and the two superintendents are both in the area on vacation. “You don’t get a lot of opportunities like that so I wanted to put it together,” McGuinnes said. “If there is anybody interested in the game of golf this is a great panel we’ve put together.”

Starting the season

Zack Byrd of Murrells Inlet and Myrtle Beach residents and Mexico natives Roberto Diaz and Yoshio Yamamoto are all in the field of this week’s season-opening event on the LatinoAmerica NEC Series, a subsidiary of the PGA Tour and feeder tour for the Web.com Tour.

The Arturo Calle Colombian Open is being played at Ruitoque Golf and Country Club in Bucaramanga, Colombia.

Diaz is exempt on the tour based on his finish of 58th on the 2013 LatinoAmerica Tour money list. Byrd barely got in, and Yamamoto won the Monday Qualifier with a 4-under 66 to lead 12 players from the qualifier into the field. Byrd was 10th among 10 players allowed into the field based on their conditional status on the Web.com Tour.

All LatinoAmerica Tour events have purses of $150,000, with $27,000 going to the winner.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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