How Myrtle Beach golf market is working to overcome, prevent winterkill & its stigma

Indigo Creek reopened within the past week after several renovations, including the installation of new greens.
Indigo Creek reopened within the past week after several renovations, including the installation of new greens. The Sun News file photo

Finally getting back to full strength, the Grand Strand golf market has been focused on overcoming the negative publicity generated by the winterkill and taking steps to prevent another widespread outbreak.

The Myrtle Beach Area Golf Course Owners Association held a meeting specifically for course operators and superintendents to inform and advise, and Golf Tourism Solutions created an all-digital marketing campaign aimed at informing consumers of improved conditions.

The course owners meeting in July included Bruce Martin, recently retired Clemson University plant pathologist; Max Morgan, director of agronomy for Founders Group International; and Shaun Donahue, superintendent at Tidewater Golf Club, which used tarp covers on its greens on the winter’s coldest days and avoided serious damage.

MBAGCOA executive director Tracy Conner said six courses had tarps last year and more than 40 have committed to invest in them before next winter, and about half of the area’s courses overseeded in the winter to have consistent conditions during the spring golf season, and more are considering it.

“[The meeting] was so they can better make an informed decision on what they should do this year,” O’Conner said. “Tarps are going to be a big factor in ensuring we’re going to have good playing conditions in the future.”

The Golf Tourism Solutions marketing plan was put into action July 7 and utilizes its email databases and Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook accounts to disseminate information, and includes something specific for every GTS member course.

“From a destination standpoint it was clear that some consumers’ expectations weren’t met. There was quite a bit of criticism on social media, reviews and that type of thing,” said Bill Golden, president of Golf Tourism Solutions, a marketing and technology agency for the Grand Strand golf industry.

“We wanted to make sure consumers were aware that Myrtle Beach was continuing to progress, reinvesting in the facilities, redoing the greens, preparing for that type of scenario in the future,” Golden continued. “The question becomes how do we get that out in a way that’s impactful.”

The campaign includes weekly blog articles, daily video posts and photos. All of the social media marketing efforts affiliated with winterkill have used the hashtag #myrtlebeachgolflive, which feeds into the GTS page.

According to GTS, through Aug. 28, 34 videos of current conditions at individual golf courses were produced and posted, and more than 71,000 had been viewed since July 7, with approximately 8 percent of viewers watching the entire video.

Those helped the total number of videos viewed on the GTS website increase 42 percent in July and August compared to May and June, totaling 478,000 videos.

Every GTS member course is scheduled to have a video posted by the end of September, and several more will debut this week.

Nine blog articles with videos, photos and other content have garnered 35,000 page views, and total internet impressions are up 14 percent over the past two months compared to May and June to approximately 7.7 million, according to GTS.

“We wanted to continue a blitz of all the activity here, the fact the courses were open, that some courses weren’t impacted at all and were in great shape,” Golden said. “We wanted to make sure everybody was aware we had overcome that and were prepared for the fall, and conditions were going to ideal for the fall and certainly for next spring.”

GTS is also maintaining a weekly update of individual course conditions for golf package providers so they can inform their customers.

Related stories from Myrtle Beach Sun News