With approximately 90 diverse courses, the Myrtle Beach golf market has a lot to boast about.
It’s about to get a new claim to fame.
The market will soon have the longest golf course in South Carolina and one of the longest in the nation, as new “Perch” tees have been added and are growing in at Eagle Nest Golf Club in Little River that will give the layout a new back tee yardage of more than 8,100 yards.
“The Grand Strand needs this, and Eagle Nest is a good place for it,” said Rick Elliott, who owns the course along with his mother, Anne. “It has created an opportunity for the professional golfer to play there, and I think we need that. At some point there’s no reason we can’t have a tournament in this area.
“Now all I need is Dustin Johnson to step on the first tee of the perch tee boxes and see what he can do with it.”
The perch tees are elevated and surrounded by wire, cord and sweet grasses to make them resemble bird nests.
They are expected to be ready for play in late July or early August, once Bermudagrass has time to fully grow in.
The par-72 Gene Hamm design that opened in 1972 is currently 6,900 yards from the tips.
Elliott said the perch tees aren’t likely to be open for public play most of the time, though they will be there for potential tournament play and “there will be some holes we will have open for the general public to give it a go, like the 18th hole,” Elliott said.
In addition to the new back tees, Eagle Nest is adding Super Senior and U.S. Kids golf tees, so the new back tees and forward tees will give Eagle Nest seven tee boxes ranging from 3,679 to 8,168 yards.
“We’re going to be the longest golf course in the state by a good bit and top 20 in America,” Elliott said, “but also more importantly we’re probably going to be the shortest golf course in the state. We’ll provide a tee box for all golfers: men, women and kids. You can get it all at that one course, and we can do that with good conditions and friendly service.”
Some highlights of the new scorecard from the back tees:
- The course’s par-3 will measure 283, 199, 248 and 266, which is the course’s closing hole over water to an elevated green, for a total of 996 and average of 249 yards.
- The course will begin with a 645-yard par-5 and the other par-5 yardages are 573, 683 and 603 for a total of 2,504 yards and average of 626 yards.
- Seven par-4s will measure more than 460 yards, capping out at the 506-yard second hole, which is one of two par-4s exceeding 500 yards.
Course operators are looking to build two more tee boxes that will push the yardage over 8,200 yards.
An improvement project at Eagle Nest began last June. The course has repaired drainage around greens and fairways with updated technology, cleaned lakes and lake banks, and is rebuilding cart paths by milling down existing paths and utilizing limestone crushed rock to give the cart paths a natural and rustic look. Work on sand traps beginning June 1 will be among be the final touches.
“I’m investing in it because I believe in golf in this area,” Elliott said. “It’s important to the courses, people who live here and people who come to visit to play golf.
“I’m positive on golf on the Grand Strand. It’s coming back. We see it starting to reemerge. We believe by putting our course in the best condition possible, then we will emerge and the Grand Strand will emerge as a continued leader in golf in America. That’s what we’re focused on. Golf is going to be good and should be good for our area.”
FGI hires, promotes
Founders Group International, a company owned by investors from China that owns 22 Grand Strand golf courses, has promoted two managers and hired a third.
Matt Daly will serve as director of golf operations, Christa Bodensteiner was promoted and will replace Daly as the regional manager of the South end courses, and Steve Lee, a veteran of the Grand Strand golf industry, has been hired as the company’s new director of revenue.
Daly, the 2017 Carolinas PGA Merchandiser of the Year, was promoted in 2017 to regional operations manager for FGI’s south end courses and has been head golf professional at FGI courses TPC Myrtle Beach, the Grande Dunes Resort Course, Myrtlewood Golf Club and Pine Lakes Country Club.
Bodensteiner, the lone female head golf professional on the Grand Strand, has been the head golf professional at Litchfield Country Club and River Club since 2001 and the general manager since 2013.
Lee has spent nearly two decades in the golf industry in a variety of positions including golf store warehouse manager and buyer to director of sales/marketing and group sales. He most recently served as director of sales and marketing at Carolina National Golf Club.
National title on line
Smith Knaffle, a 16-year-old junior at St. James High School, and teammate Skylar Thompson, 17, of Buford, Ga., begin play Saturday as one of 64 teams vying for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
The future University of South Carolina teammates tee off at 4:12 pm (Eastern) Saturday and 12:48 pm Sunday at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, Cal.
Knaffle advanced to the Round of 32 at the 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship. Thompson was the runner-up in the 14-15 division of the 2016 Drive, Chip & Putt Championship and qualified for both the 2015 U.S. Girls’ Junior and 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
Thirty-two teams will qualify for match play following 36 holes of stroke play, and the semifinal and championship matches will be held Wednesday, May 2. The tournament has a young field, with the average age of participants being 22.5 years.
The South Carolina Golf Association and Carolinas Golf Association have launched Youth on Course across the Carolinas, which allows members ages 6-18 who are not yet in college to play rounds of golf for $5.
There are more than 50 participating courses across the two states, as well as hundreds across the country. Program plans include creating college scholarships for members.
Youth on Course membership is $20 and is good for a calendar year. After registering, youth complete a brief curriculum to gain a membership card and can play for $5 or less at participating courses.
Members are also granted membership with the Carolinas Golf Association, which gives them the ability to play tournaments and establish a handicap.
Myrtle Beach National, the Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina, Founders Club at Pawleys Island and Aberdeen Country Club are among the Grand Strand courses participating. Many courses on the Strand already have a program that allows children to play free with a paid adult.
With more than 730 member golf courses, the CGA, in conjunction with the Carolinas PGA, SCGA and Women's South Carolina Golf Association, will raise funds toward round subsidies as facilities across the states adopt the program. Visit www.carolinasgolf.org/yoc for more information.