Golf

Three years after closing, future of Myrtle Beach golf course remains at impasse

Roy Clyburn closed Heron Point Golf Club more than three years ago to avoid losing any more money in the golf business. He said the course off S.C. 707 lost money for several consecutive years.

He figured he’d wait until the real estate market improved and he’d have several options, considering the course was zoned general residential.

The real estate market has certainly progressed, yet Heron Point is no closer to being redeveloped today than it was when Clyburn closed the short and tight 6,477-yard Willard Byrd design that opened in 1988.

The homeowner association around the property, the Myrtle Beach Golf & Yacht Club Association, discovered an indenture deed that was updated as recently as 1992 that it believes limits use of the land to a golf course or country club.

Clyburn filed a lawsuit against the association in April 2015 in an attempt to free his land for sale and development, but the two sides remain at an impasse and mired in a court case regarding enforceability of the indenture deed and possible restrictions on the property.

Clyburn wants to sell the property to a homebuilder, while the HOA wants the property to remain undeveloped – preferably a golf course.

Clyburn owns Condo-World Resort Properties, one of the largest property rental companies on the Grand Strand that is also heavily involved in the golf package industry. He became a part owner of Heron Point more than a decade ago and eventually purchased the course with primary partner Al Thomas of Greenville and became the managing partner.

“I felt bad about it because I bought into it for a golf course, never thinking about the development or anything like that,” Clyburn said. “But there was no choice but to close the course down to keep from losing money.”

Clyburn said he has multiple buyers in line, and they are all homebuilders, including one that has proposed a development with approximately 400 lots. He said no one has approached him wanting to purchase the property to reopen the course, and he doesn’t believe he’ll be able to sell the property until it is free from a development restriction.

He said he is maintaining the property to the extent it doesn’t become a health hazard, and he has no interest in reopening the golf course.

“If they win, what they’re going to get is what they have already,” Clyburn said. “They basically want me to run a golf course for them and lose $150,000 to $200,000 a year. That would make them happy. But I wouldn’t be.”

Clyburn hired East Coast Golf Management to try to turn a profit at Heron Point for a couple years before its closing, but Clyburn said the company was unsuccessful.

Golf package play was limited at the course, which was on the low end of green fees in the Grand Strand market, and Clyburn said it had only about 40 members at its peak during his ownership.

Members of the board of directors of the Myrtle Beach Golf & Yacht Club Association, Inc., which includes more than 1,000 homeowners according to court documents, could not be reached for comment over four days through Monday.

Kerry Jardine, an attorney representing the association through The Pearce Law Group, said the firm has a policy to “not comment on pending litigation, and this is a matter that should be dealt with through litigation.”

Clyburn questions the validity and enforceability of the indenture deed, in part because he believes it was tied to a mortgage that no longer exists since he has purchased the course.

Clyburn said there have been a few proposals for the future use of the property, but nothing satisfactory to both parties.

He said one of the HOA board’s proposals was to split the golf course, allowing the HOA to retain nine holes. He said his first proposal was to move the clubhouse and create an amenities center out of the existing one, build a swimming pool, repair roads throughout the development, improve drainage, add a new exit from the property, and give the HOA more than $1,000 for every lot sold. With up to an estimated 400 lots, the take for the HOA could approach $500,000.

“I don’t think this board of directors has kept the homeowners fully abreast of the situation,” Clyburn said.

Clyburn said he has spent more than $150,000 in legal fees already through several court dates and mediation attempts.

Other current and former Grand Strand golf courses have had similar standoffs between course owners and homeowner associations.

Homeowners around Eastport Golf Club prevented at least partial redevelopment of that course when a judge ruled in 2007 that then-owner Mel Graham was restricted from redeveloping the course by a provision in the Quit-Claim Deed he signed when he purchased the course out of bankruptcy in 1989.

Graham had proposed building condominiums on a portion of the course. Graham sold the course shortly after the ruling, and it reopened in December 2008 after being closed for nearly two years..

At Deer Track, potential developments on two former courses were held up for a decade from the mid-2000s by two separate homeowner lawsuits against course owners. Much of the course properties were overtaken by nature as the cases lingered.

Homeowners around both the former North and South courses suffered defeats in court, and a housing development called Ocean Commons is being built on part of the South Course property.

DJ taking break

Following a ninth-place finish in the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on Sunday, Dustin Johnson is not playing over the next two weeks in either the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego or Waste Management Phoenix Open.

He’ll then play in consecutive weeks in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles. Johnson, who has 17 PGA Tour wins and nearly $50 million in official tour earnings, has won twice at Pebble Beach and is the defending champion at Riviera.

“I feel like my game is in good shape,” Johnson said in a post-round interview Sunday. “I’ve got two weeks off, so I'll get a little practice in and get ready for Pebble. … Both tournaments, I really like the golf courses and I really like the events, so I’m definitely looking forward to that.”

His junior tournament, the Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship, is the next week from Feb. 22-25, and Johnson said last week in Abu Dhabi that he hopes to make an appearance at the event at the TPC Myrtle Beach, at least one day. The WGC-Mexico Championship follows, where Johnson is also the defending champion.

Johnson has a win and runner-up in his two PGA Tour events this season, and assessing his play this past week, he said, “I had one good day on Friday, but other than that, it was just okay. A little bit off. I just made a few too many mistakes, really. But all in all, I mean, it was a solid week I guess. I just didn't have my best stuff, that’s for sure.”

Ruiz tied for 22nd

Coastal Carolina University junior Luis Ruiz enters Tuesday’s final round of the 2018 Latin America Amateur Championship at the Prince of Wales Country Club in Santiago, Chile., tied for 22nd at 4-over 217.

Ruiz is eight shots behind leader and Mexico countryman Alvaro Ortiz, and four players a shot back in second include Joaquin Niemann of Chile, the world’s top-ranked amateur according to the World Amateur Golf Ranking, and defending champion Toto Gana of Chile.

The winner will be invited to the 2018 Masters and receive exemptions into the final stages of qualifying for this year’s U.S. Open and British Open.

Ruiz has made seven birdies and 11 bogeys in his three rounds in the 180-player event featuring players from 27 Latin American countries. His older brother and former CCU teammate, Alfredo, was selected to play in last year’s tournament.

CGA joins alliance

An alliance between the United States Golf Association and 59 regional golf associations has been formed, and the Carolinas Golf Association is part of the alliance.

The Allied Golf Associations will administer the USGA handicap and course-rating systems, will serve as their communities’ primary resource for USGA championship qualifiers, governance and facility support, and will support grow-the-game programs such as Play9, which encourages golfers to fit nine holes into their schedules.

The Allied Golf Associations will be supported by the USGA’s five existing regional affairs offices in the Northeast, Great Lakes, Southeast, Central and West.

BMW makes changes

The Web.com Tour’s BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation, which is played annually in the Greenville area and features celebrities and amateurs playing alongside the competing pros, has changed a hosting course and named four primary charities that will benefit from this year’s event from May 17-20.

The Cliffs Valley will join Furman University Golf Club and Thornblade Club as tournament host courses, and Children’s Hospital of Greenville Health System, Cliffs Residents Outreach, Mobile Meals of Spartanburg and Upstate SC STEM Collaborative are the primary charities.

Other local philanthropic organizations will also have opportunities to earn funds. The tournament has donated more than $12.7 million to charity since 2001.

The tournament will again be broadcast on Golf Channel.

Volunteer registration is open through bmwcharitygolf.com, and volunteers may select one of the four featured charities to donate proceeds from hours worked.

The tournament has a new executive director in Steve Sellery and tournament director in Mike McGovern, the tournament’s former operations director. Sellery is a sports marketing entrepreneur who was also director of sports marketing at Golf Channel and director of event marketing & partnerships at The Cliffs collection of seven courses.

PGA Tour gives

The PGA Tour announced it donated $180 million to charities in 2017, surpassing the previous year’s record by $14 million. The 2017 donations bring the tour’s all-time charitable amount to $2.65 billion, which includes donations made by tournaments on all of the tour’s entities.

The Web.com Tour has been a staple of the PGA Tour’s charitable giving. In 2017, the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship raised more than $2.1 million for central Ohio charities and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Disc golf growing

The Myrtle Beach Disc Golf Club, a newly created nonprofit that is trying to grow the game of Disc Golf, is hosting the fourth annual Myrtle Beach Invitational at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 3 at the Socastee Park IV recreation center off Enterprise Road.

The 36-hole event has gained some traction, as there are 90 paid participants and another dozen players on a waiting list. Entry fees for four divisions from recreation to pro range from $30 to $50, with an additional $10 for non members of the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA). Disc golf is essentially golf using discs such as Frisbees.

Call Barry Halpern 843-267-1046, visit www.discgolfscene.com or email Chuck Connelly at chuckster@spikehyzer.com for more information.

Alan Blondin: 843-626-0284, @alanblondin

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