Seven firms submit proposals to manage Myrtle Beach’s Whispering Pines Golf Course

Seven firms are vying for the opportunity to take over the management of the Myrtle Beach-owned Whispering Pines Golf Course after city officials said the course has operated at a loss of about $250,000 a year over the past four years.

Representatives from the firms are expected to present their plans to Myrtle Beach City Council and answer questions during a workshop Tuesday morning.

If the city selects a firm to move forward with plans for the struggling golf course, the U.S. Department of Interior would have to approve changes because the federal government gave the course to the city for recreational use when the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base closed in 1993.

Two Murrells Inlet firms – Atlantic Golf Management and Whispering Pines Advocates – and five other groups submitted proposals by the city’s May 23 deadline.

Suggestions found in the proposals range from adding junior golf programs and high school and college tournaments to offering internship programs and rebranding the course.

Will Mann, with Whispering Pines Advocates, said he is looking forward to presenting a plan Tuesday that would reinvigorate the golf course. Mann and Gary Schaal, both are past PGA of America presidents. The PGA of America is the association of club professionals and instructors. Mann also is director of Coastal Carolina University’s Professional Golf Management Program,

“We hope to reinforce that this is the golf capital of the world, like we advertise it [to be],” Mann said. “We were out there the other day. It needs some cleaning up and some updating of the golf course. It needs to be operated on a level that is consistent with the golf courses of the area.”

Assistant city manager Ron Andrews said firms have been asked to make a short presentation that outlines their goals for the course and what the expectations will be of the city.

“I’ve asked them to tell us ... what are you going to look to the city to provide?” he said. “Are you going to want money? Because that’s a no-no.”

The U.S. government gave the former Air Force Base golf course to the city when the base closed in 1993. The course must be used for golf or other recreation and cannot be leased to another entity. However, Andrews said he would try to find a way to draft a vendor agreement that the federal government would accept.

Council also decided during its April retreat to begin treating the course as a recreation asset instead of as an enterprise fund, the way it has been operating. The change is mainly a shift in accounting, where money generated by the course would cover the operational cost, Andrews said.

The city has struggled to determine how best to handle the 6,700-yard course, which first opened for play in 1962 and is the only city- or government-owned course among about 100 on the Grand Strand.

The City Council workshop will be held 9 a.m. Tuesday in City Hall, 937 Broadway St. in Myrtle Beach.