Heather Glen Golf Links in Little River will be closing by the end of November or early December, according to its operator.
The course is slated to be sold to homebuilder D.R. Horton if rezoning is approved by Horry County.
The Glens Group, which operates the course through a lease agreement with the property owner, is closing the layout despite the rejection by Horry County Council of the homebuilder’s first rezoning proposal on Oct. 3.
“We can’t afford to operate the golf course so we’re shutting it down,” said Glens Group managing partner and general manager George Gore. “We start losing money in December, January and February, and have for the last 15 years.”
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Homebuilder D.R. Horton is expected to submit another plan to the county, but its approval wouldn’t come until sometime in 2018.
A plan submitted to the county by Thomas & Hutton engineers for D.R. Horton laid out a housing development with about 1,100 units – 799 single-family homes and 284 duplex units.
The plan was approved by the Horry County Planning Commission on Sept. 7 and passed the first of three required readings by the council but was voted down 7-5 at the second reading when several residents of the area expressed concerns, largely regarding stormwater drainage and increased traffic. The course itself does not have homes on it but there is housing nearby.
The course is currently zoned SF10 – residential with minimum lot sizes of 10,000 square feet – and the requested rezoning was MRD2, which allows for mixed residential development in suburban areas and 5,000-square-foot lots.
Thomas & Hutton submitted a new rezoning request for the 420-acre property just before the monthly deadline of 5 p.m. Tuesday, proposing a 1,000-unit development with 766 single-family homes, 234 duplex units, 58 acres of ponds, 42.6 acres of wetlands and 93 acres of open space under the MRD1 zoning designation, which allows for mixed residential development with minimum 7,000-square-foot lots. If approved, the plan’s approval won’t come until sometime in 2018.
Heather Glen is a 27-hole facility. The initial 6,783-yard 18 holes designed by Willard Byrd opened in 1987 and was named the best new course in America by Golf Digest in 1987. A nine-hole addition designed by Clyde Johnston opened in 1990.
Gore was among the first employees of the course. He was hired in February 1986 as an assistant superintendent for $8 an hour and was putting survey stakes on the property before it was built.
“It’s bittersweet for me. It’s been my only professional career job. I went straight from turf school to working at Heather Glen,” Gore said. “I was the first employee and I’ll be the last employee.
“… We appreciate our customers and package providers who have supported us for the past 31 years and we’d like for them all to come out and play us in November.”
We just can’t afford to keep the golf course open for the winter and borrow money we can’t pay back.
Glens Group general manager George Gore
The course is owned by the Vivian E. Vereen family trust. But with more than a decade remaining on The Glens Group’s lease, the management company plans to be involved in the next phase for the property.
The Glens Group also manages Glen Dornoch Golf Links, Possum Trot Golf Club and and Shaftesbury Glen Golf & Fish Club. It operates Glen Dornoch and Possum Trot through lease agreements, and Glens Group partners own Shaftesbury Glen.
Several area golf courses have closed in the past 16 months, largely citing financial struggles, including Island Green Golf Club, Black Bear Golf Club, Brierwood Golf Club and Wedgefield Country Club, which may reopen in 2018 under now ownership.
Heather Glen will be the most high-profile course among the recent closures.
Its walk-in green fees ranging from $50 to $135 depending on the season are in the middle to high end in the market, and in its heyday in the 1990s the course played 50,000 to 60,000 rounds per year.
But golf has declined as a business venture.
“We can’t afford it. There hasn’t been an owner distribution at Heather Glen for about 15 years,” Gore said. “People complain about your rates, and package providers say you can’t raise your rates, and this is what happens.”
D.R. Horton has numerous developments on the Grand Strand, including Tuscany and Sago Plantation near U.S. 501, West Lake in Market Common, The Farm in Carolina Forest, Retreat at Ocean Commons in Deerfield Plantation, Harmony at St. James and Hidden Brooke off S.C. 90 in Little River.