On Grand Strand Golf: Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday refocuses on European markets

ablondin@thesunnews.comMarch 17, 2014 

The Myrtle Beach golf market has made some inroads with golfers in China through the Olle Sports marketing company with Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship participation and a series of Chinese qualifiers, and a new annual Ryder Cup-style event.

With that success, Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday wants to make sure it isn’t neglecting another overseas market.

The marketing cooperative is hosting five European golf writers for a six-day familiarization trip around the 20th annual Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am on April 14 at Barefoot Resort’s Dye Club.

“Europe has been a great feeding ground for us throughout the years, but we feel like we’ve just not done enough in the past five years, maybe taken a step back in terms of awareness,” Golf Holiday president Bill Golden said. “There is so much competition for golfers in the [United Kingdom] and Germany with new destinations in Spain and Turkey that are shorter-haul flights for them and they’re attractive alternatives.

“So we need to make sure European golfers recognize and keep remembering Myrtle Beach. So this increased PR and increased press awareness is I think a good first step.”

The group will arrive April 10 and depart April 15, and from April 11-14 they’re scheduled to play Barefoot’s Love and Dye courses, The Dunes Golf and Beach Club, Tidewater Golf and Plantation and Pine Lakes Country Club. They will also attend the Hootie MAM event in the afternoon and attend a Hootie MAM Masters viewing party and welcome banquet/auction on April 13.

The writers will be taken on a tour of Myrtle Beach and its non-golf attractions on the afternoon of April 11.

The writers are Clive Agran representing Golf International Magazine in the UK ( www.golfinternationalmag.com), Detlef Hennies representing Golf Magazin in Germany ( www.golfmagazin.de), Martijn Paehlig representing Golfers Magazine in Holland ( www.golf.nl), Sebastien Brochu representing Golf Europeen Magazine in France ( www.francegolf.fr) and Kaia Means representing Golf Travel Journal ( golftraveljournal.com) and Norsk Golf in Norway ( www.norskgolf.no).

The magazines each have a purported readership of between 35,000 and 300,000.

Myrtle Beach has hosted golf operators from Italy and Portugal in recent years, and some European journalists through FAM trips organized by the state’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism department.

“Those have worked out well for us but we thought going for a more golf-specific outreach into publications that would have the ability to influence would work for us,” Golf Holiday communications director Chris King said. “… We think that will be a good time and place to showcase the area. It’s April peak season, we should have nice weather and the courses should be in great shape.”

Golf Holiday has partnered with Landmark Media Americas to drive its international public relations campaign that is primarily targeting Europeans. The hiring marks the debut of Landmark Media Americas, a golf-focused public relations firm based in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and sister agency of Landmark Media International, a leading golf communications company that was established in England in 2003.

The campaign is targeting golf travelers primarily in the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Germany and France.

Landmark Media International advises and represents golf businesses including European Tour Properties, International Golf Travel Market, Club Car, Callaway and golf tech companies Golf GameBook and All Square. The company is also involved in the PR campaign for the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Former PGA Tour Director of Editorial Services and Augusta Chronicle sports editor Ward Clayton is Landmark Media Americas’ director of communications.

“We’re focusing on the press side and PR side [in Europe],” said Golden, who is scheduled to leave Saturday with Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes for a week in China for the Asian Convention of the International Association of Golf Tour Operators. “We feel that’s a way for us to do something that will pay immediate dividends. We’re also working on some tour operators over there to enhance our exposure to the tour operators who are conversing on a day-to-day basis with vacationing golfers, so that’s kind of our two-pronged approach.”

PR moved in-house

Golf Holiday has also taken over its own public relations efforts, ending a two-year relationship with Buffalo Communications.

“They did a good job for us, but there is some historical precedent. For a long time Golf Holiday ran its public relations efforts in-house,” King said. “We think we can replicate those [Buffalo Communications] efforts and that money can potentially be reallocated to market the area in other ways.”

Golf Holiday had changed its PR representative in February 2012 from the Myrtle Beach-based Brandon Agency to Buffalo in the hopes of increasing the exposure of Myrtle Beach golf throughout North America.

Buffalo’s PR duties included press releases and getting Myrtle Beach golf mentions in newspapers and magazines, and on websites, radio and television. The company is headquartered outside Washington, D.C., and has offices in New York, Boston, Minneapolis, Phoenix and Pinehurst, N.C.

The Brandon Agency and Golf Holiday have been affiliated for nearly five decades, and Brandon continues to handle Golf Holiday’s other marketing duties, including the development of brand and marketing plans, ad creation and placement, and video production.

King helped run Golf Holiday’s PR campaign during his employment at Brandon Agency in the 2000s and also worked on the World Am account while he was employed by LHWH Advertising & PR. “It’s not as if we’re stepping in with no PR experience as it relates to reaching out to media,” said King, who added that a spring FAM trip for domestic media is scheduled with writers from at least Colorado and New England.

Can-Am event endures

The Canada-America Challenge had become a tradition at Cypress Bay Golf Club, and it has managed to survive despite the course’s demise.

The course closed on Feb. 22 for planned redevelopment, so the event has moved along with pro Bill Jones to the nearby Valley Club at Eastport. The one-day event will begin with a 1 p.m. shotgun start Sunday.

Jones, the new general manager/pro at Eastport, said past participants simply didn’t want to see the tournament die. He expects 120 players – 30 two-player teams representing each country.

The event features prizes, food and evening entertainment, as well as a 12:30 p.m. professional shootout that is open to spectators involving Jones, fellow local pro Rob Lane and Canadian pros John Irwin of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and Richard Dumeah of Pugwash, Nova Scotia.

A limited numbers of entries are available and interested players can call Eastport at 843-427-4424.

S.C. juniors prevail

The weather probably favored the Canadian team in the final round, but the U.S. team prevailed again in the 16th annual Can-Am Junior Team Matches this past weekend at the private Wachesaw Plantation.

The matches pit the top eight junior girls and top eight junior boys in South Carolina rankings against their counterparts from Ontario, Canada, and Sunday’s singles matches were played through cool, windy and soggy conditions.

Nevertheless, the S.C. contingent, which didn’t include any players from the Grand Strand, added to its lead after the first round as the girls went 6-1-1 in singles matches and the boys went 6-0-2.

The U.S. is now 13-3 in the matches, which are supported by a group of Wachesaw members.

First Tee signups

The First Tee of The Grand Strand is holding registration for spring golf classes for youth ages 7-14 in Horry and Georgetown counties. Three sites will host classes from 4-5:30 p.m. one day a week for 10 weeks beginning this week: Willbrook Plantation on Mondays, Conway Country Club on Thursdays and Crown Park Golf Club on Fridays. Additional sites may be added.

The cost is $25 for 10 classes and canceled dates will not be made up. Clubs will be provided if students do not have their own and scholarships are available upon parent request.

Classes will be between 6 and 16 players on a first-come, first-serve basis. Parents can register students at the site on the first day of class if it is not full.

Register at www.thefirstteethegrandstrand.org. For more information contact program director Tommy Gaither at 843-833-2999 or tgaither@sc.rr.com, Conway CC coach Bill Knehr at 603-348-3165 or billknehr@yahoo.com, or Crown Park coach Andy Anderson at 910-840-1501 or andyanderson731@gmail.com.

Carolina Series begins

The NGA Pro Golf Tour’s Carolina Series begins this week with a scheduled 54-hole event at River Hills Golf Club, though Tuesday’s weather could affect the first round.

The series has 13 events scheduled through Sept. 18, with the majority on Strand courses.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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