FGI, owner of 22 Grand Strand golf courses, undergoing management shake-up

The Founders Group International flag flies above the International World Tour Golf Links flag in front of the World Tour clubhouse on Sunday.
The Founders Group International flag flies above the International World Tour Golf Links flag in front of the World Tour clubhouse on Sunday.

Founders Group International, the largest course ownership and management company in the Myrtle Beach area, is undergoing a management shake-up by parting ways with two executives on Friday.

The company, which owns and operates 22 Grand Strand courses and is led by investors from China, terminated the employment of General Manager Rick Taylor and Chief Financial Officer/Vice President Tommy Smothers.

FGI Director of Sales and Marketing Steve Mays said day-to-day operations would not be impacted, and said he couldn’t comment on personnel issues and the company would not have further comment at this time.

The terminations are the latest of several changes in management the company has made since purchasing 22 courses between September 2014 and April 2015 to become the primary player in the Myrtle Beach golf market.

FGI initially retained some administrators of the courses and companies that owned and/or operated them and made them executives with FGI.

Neither Dan Liu, a principal owner of FGI, nor company president Nick Dou had operated golf businesses prior to leading FGI’s purchases.

Contacted Saturday in New York, Dou said he was aware of the firings but was not present for nor involved in them, which leave the company thin on executives with experience in the golf industry.

Former International World Tour Golf Links general manager Tom Plankers was FGI’s vice president and general manager before he was let go in late January and Taylor was promoted into the GM position.

Taylor was the general manager of Classic Golf Group, which operated the first three courses purchased by FGI, and Smothers is also a former Classic Golf Group GM.

FGI owns many of the Strand’s acclaimed courses and golf facilities, including Pine Lakes Country Club, TPC Myrtle Beach, Grande Dunes Resort Course, Myrtle Beach National Golf Club, World Tour and Pawleys Plantation.

Its purchases include the Prime Times Signature Card membership program, a tee time call center, two golf package companies and a few popular golf- and tourism-related websites. Twelve courses and the ancillary businesses were acquired in the final purchase in April 2015 of most of the assets of National Golf Management, which was formed through a 2012 merger of the Myrtle Beach National Company and Burroughs & Chapin Golf Management.

In addition, FGI owns 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.

In January 2016, FGI’s investors purchased 29.1 acres of Myrtle Beach oceanfront property situated between the Ocean Club at Grande Dunes to its south and the Vista Del Mar luxury condominiums and The Dunes Golf and Beach Club to its north from Grande Dunes owner LStar Communities for a listed sales price of $25.6 million. A high-rise hotel is expected to be part of development there.

FGI has a division that handles residential and retail development, and executives say it has partnered with one of the largest travel agencies in China to bring golfers and wedding parties to Myrtle Beach. Liu was married in Myrtle Beach in April 2015.

As it has assessed its holdings and tried to settle into the area golf market, FGI has made several administrative changes over the past two years.

Just after its final golf course acquisition in April 2015, FGI retained executives from Classic Golf Group and NGM to comprise its executive team.

Plankers, who was previously the president of golf operations of the three-course Sea Trail Plantation and director of golf and marketing at the four-course Ocean Ridge Plantation, became a VP and GM. Taylor and former NGM vice president of golf operations Scott Justman were regional managers, each essentially overseeing operations at about half of the company's courses. Mays, the former NGM vice president of marketing and sales, was the company spokesman, former NGM executive vice president of marketing and interactive services Jim Woodring was a marketing executive, and former TPC Myrtle Beach controller Brian Kramer was the chief financial officer.

Only Mays remains among them. Smothers was the company’s third CFO, succeeding former Ocean Ridge Plantation CFO and NGM corporate controller Brent Wise.

Alan Blondin: 843-626-0284, @alanblondin

FGI courses

Horry County

Aberdeen Country Club

Burning Ridge Golf Club

Colonial Charters Golf Club

Grande Dunes Resort Course

Indian Wells Golf Club

International World Tour Golf Links

Long Bay Club

Myrtlewood Palmetto

Myrtlewood PineHills

Myrtle Beach National West

Myrtle Beach National SouthCreek

Myrtle Beach National King's North

Pine Lakes Country Club

River Hills Golf & Country Club

Wild Wing Plantation

Georgetown County

TPC Myrtle Beach (parts in both counties)

Founders Club at Pawleys Island

Litchfield Country Club

Pawleys Plantation

River Club

Tradition Club

Willbrook Plantation

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