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Chinese-owned Founders Group International’s first golf course could be redeveloped

A golfer hits a shot at Indian Wells Golf Club on Monday, Dec 17, 2018.
A golfer hits a shot at Indian Wells Golf Club on Monday, Dec 17, 2018.

The Chinese-owned company that owns and operates 22 Grand Strand golf courses may be ready to redevelop, or allow the redevelopment of one of its layouts.

Founders Group International has requested a zoning change for Indian Wells Golf Club in Garden City, and a preliminary proposal for a housing development has been submitted to Horry County Planning & Zoning.

The rezoning proposal for the approximately 150-acre course includes a housing development that features 512 total housing units – 255 single-family homes and 257 townhomes.

The proposal was prepared on behalf of FGI by the Thomas & Hutton engineering firm.

The property is already zoned for housing. It is zoned SF6, which is single-family housing with minimum lot sizes of 6,000 square feet. The requested rezoning is MRD2, which allows for a mixture of single-family and multifamily homes.

The proposal shows minimum single-family lot sizes of 7,000 square feet, with 17 acres of ponds, 31 acres of common areas, a community garden and amenity center.

FGI released a statement to The Sun News that read, in part: “Although the course is not for sale now, Founders Group International has requested that Horry County re-zone the land. Indian Wells Golf Club will continue to be maintained at the highest standards our golfers have come to expect.”

Indian Wells is a 6,624-yard par-72 Gene Hamm design that opened in 1984.

It was part of FGI’s first golf-related purchase on the Grand Strand as one of three courses bought for about $11 million in Sept. 2014 from Classic Golf Group. The sale also included Founders Club at Pawleys Island and Burning Ridge Golf Club.

Other Hamm designs on the Strand include Burning Ridge, Eagle Nest Golf Club, the Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina, Azalea Sands Golf Club, Beachwood Golf Club, and 18 holes of River Oaks Golf Club.

The course is surrounded by a few existing housing developments, including the Woodlake Village 55-and-older adult community that consists of 448 mostly single-family homes with a few duplexes, Sweetwater at Indian Wells, and The Villas, as well as an assisted living facility.

Maryann Dube, president of the Woodlake Village HOA, said her residents have concerns about potential flooding and increased traffic if a development is built on the golf course.

“We’re going to be in big trouble if they build over there,” Dube said. “We’re a 55-and-over community and this will throw quite a kink into that, and we’ll also have a big drainage issue. We’re going to flood tremendously if they build homes there. . . . The whole golf course floods tremendously, they’re not going to be able to do anything to fix that.”

The Woodlake Village HOA has a meeting scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the property clubhouse with Walter Warren, a principal of Thomas & Hutton, to learn more about the proposed project.

The rezoning request and redevelopment proposal are expected to be discussed at an Horry County Planning Commission workshop on Dec. 27, and be on the agenda for the planning commission meeting on Jan. 10. “Believe me, we will have a ton of residents at every meeting,” Dube said.

The planning commission will forward the rezoning request to the Horry County Council with a recommendation for approval or denial, and it will require three approved readings by the council to be adopted.

Adam Schnauffer, president of the Sweetwater at Indian Wells HOA and an owner of a first floor condo with a view of the 15th hole, was also disappointed to learn of the proposed housing development and its potential impact on his community.

“I’m not real thrilled about that going through, not that my one vote would have any consequence at all,” Schnauffer said. “From what I see from other (redeveloped courses) in the area, it’s not always the best for everyone involved.”

“. . . I didn’t buy the condo just for the view, but partially for the view.”

Golf courses aren’t the only property and businesses FGI owns. It has also purchased 29 acres of Myrtle Beach oceanfront property in the Grande Dunes area – where it has proposed to build a hotel – more than 300 acres of undeveloped land at Wild Wing Plantation, TPC Myrtle Beach and International World Tour Golf Links, 200 lots at Wild Wing, and the 80-resident multifamily Stonewall Villas development in Longs, and has been selling lots at some of its properties.

A prime piece of land on Myrtle Beach’s oceanfront will probably not be developed any time soon, as Founders Group International, the company that owns 22 Grand Strand golf courses in addition to the tract.

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Alan Blondin covers golf, Coastal Carolina athletics and numerous other sports-related topics that warrant coverage. Well-versed in all things Myrtle Beach, Horry County and the Grand Strand, the Northeastern University journalism school valedictorian has been a sports reporter at The Sun News since 1993, earning eight top-10 Associated Press Sports Editors national writing awards and 18 top-three S.C. Press Association writing awards since 2007.