A swimsuit model and Canadian radio part of Myrtle Beach golf marketing in 2018

A promotional agreement with swimsuit model and social media sensation Paige Spiranac, ads on Golf Channel and a partnership with a Canadian radio and TV program are all part of the marketing plan for Myrtle Beach golf in 2018.

The plan is being implemented by the Golf Tourism Solutions marketing and promotion agency, which features the website It has taken over the mass marketing of Grand Strand golf from marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, with essentially the same staff.

Spiranac, a former pro golfer who is a featured model in the 2018 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, has been retained by Golf Tourism Solutions (GTS) as an endorser of and spokesperson for Myrtle Beach golf. Her agreement includes a sweepstakes to play a round of golf with her on the Strand in the fall.

She spent a couple days in November exploring the Grand Strand on film, and GTS is utilizing much of the footage for commercials and promotions. Spiranac will also share her Myrtle Beach experiences with her social media followers, of which she has 1.3 million on Instagram and 181,000 on Twitter, and another 242,000 fans on Facebook. She is expected to return to the area for further promotion on and off the course.

“When we’re looking to attract new golfers, how do we get younger golfers, how do we get millennials, how do we get more females?”Golf Tourism Solutions CEO Bill Golden said. “So certainly social media is a great place for that conversation, then you add and integrate an influencer like Paige to it, that’s a significant piece of that strategy.”

GTS has partnered with Golf Ontario, one of the game’s largest associations with more than 100,000 individual members and 450 member clubs, and Golf Talk Canada, the only national golf radio program north of the border.

Golf Talk Canada provides national radio and TV programming nearly year-round. Co-hosted by Mark Zecchino and Bob Weeks, Golf Talk Canada routinely broadcasts live from events including The Masters and U.S. Open.

The Ontario/Toronto market is an important area for Myrtle Beach Golf. According to National Golf Foundation research, Myrtle Beach (15.2 percent) edged Phoenix/Scottsdale (14.7 percent) as Canada’s most popular golf destination, and Myrtle Beach is the dominant U.S. golf destination in Ontario, attracting 26.4 percent of golfers, more than twice as many as second place Orlando at 11.3 percent.

The market has opened up with nonstop air service from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on Porter Airlines during the spring golf season from Feb. 14 through May 19, and additional direct flights from Toronto on WestJet.

The number of nonstop markets flying to Myrtle Beach has increased to 45, and many are in key areas for golf tourism.

Frontier has recently added Denver, Islip, N.Y., and Trenton, N.J., Elite has entered the market with flights from Newport News, Va., and the New York markets of Albany and White Plains – and golf bags fly free on Elite – and Minneapolis has been added by Sun Country and Spirit.

GTS will advertise the flights in each of the key markets, with a heavier concentration on the newest flights. “We target specifically the new markets and markets that have shown recent increases or if there are additional flights out of those markets,” Golden said.

Marketing includes Golf Channel ads on the programs Feherty, Morning Drive and Golf Central, Pandora and SiriusXM radio ads, and radio ads in Canada.

Golf Tourism Solutions is also behind the new free glossy magazine @MyrtleBeach. The initial issue is 88 pages and 100,000 copies have already been printed. The magazine’s editor is Jim Herre, the former managing editor of the SI Golf Group, and many of the contributing writers are current or former SI scribes including Jack McCallum, John Garrity and Alan Shipnuck.

About 30,000 have been sent to people inquiring about Myrtle Beach golf vacations, and other copies are earmarked for consumer golf shows, TopGolf and retail locations in targeted markets and other distribution channels. The magazine also lives online at PlayGolfMyrtleBeach.

GTS also operates eight events on the Strand, including the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship and Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship, and assists with a couple others in the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am and National Father & Son Team Classic.

Golf Talk Canada and Golf Channel’s Morning Drive will be on site at the DJ World Junior, and SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio will return to broadcast live from the World Am and Hootie MAM.

Traditional ads in national and regional golf magazines have largely been replaced by social media and direct contact promotions.

Golf Tourism Solutions has 722,000 unique email addresses and sent 65 million emails in 2017. It will also take advantage of its 186,000 Facebook followers, 5,800 Twitter followers, 4,500 Instagram followers and YouTube, on which it posted 333 videos that received 234,000 views last year. GTS said the Golf Holiday website received 886,000 user sessions in 2017.

“We’ve got the assets of a media company, and we’ve built that over a long period of time,” Golden said. “That allows us to have access to golfers to market ourselves to them in a variety of ways.

“We’ve done a really good job as an organization to develop our own assets and our own audiences, so we’re less reliant upon traditional golf media than we certainly ever were. The ability now to create our own media, create our own content, is much more efficient and effective through our own channels than we feel at times the media can offer us.”

The website includes regular instruction from Ted Frick of the Classic Swing Golf School, the Steve Dresser Golf Academy and Dustin Johnson Golf School, a golf hole of the week featuring a drone flyover, and golf package opportunities. A Myrtle Beach golf blog features three to four articles per week.

Father-Son gains sponsor

Family Golf Week, which includes the 21st annual National Father & Son Team Classic, has gained a title sponsor in Srixon/Cleveland Golf.

The event, which also features the Parent & Child Team Classic, will be played July 18-21 on several Grand Strand courses including the TPC Myrtle Beach, Rivers Edge Golf Links, Barefoot Resort Fazio Course, Crow Creek Golf Club, Wachesaw Plantation East and Legends Resort.

As part of the new sponsorship, players will receive a dozen Srixon golf balls, and Srixon/Cleveland will sponsor the Family Golf Week Demo Day on July 18, when players will have an opportunity to test the company’s newest offerings, and the Skills Challenge on July 19. Mike Buccerone, an owner of East Coast Golf Events, said the title sponsorship is a one-year agreement with the possibility for additional years.

“They’ve been great with everything we want to do with the event moving forward,” Buccerone said. “We’re really exciting about having them on board. I know it’s going to be great.”

Last year’s event featured approximately 650 players from 42 states and five foreign countries.

Early entry fee for both events is $995 per team and includes three rounds of golf, daily lunch, pre- and post-event functions, and a gift bag per player valued at $600 that includes a logoed polo shirt and $150 gift card that can be used at host courses for food, merchandise and pre-tournament practice rounds.

The 54-hole events have formats of two-person captain’s choice, better ball and alternate shot, and the event is being managed for the first time this year by East Coast Golf Events. Players can register for the tournaments at or by calling 800-833-8798.

East Coast adds Thistle

Thistle Golf Club has been added to the East Coast Golf Management marketing cooperative, giving it 14 courses on the Strand and adding Thistle to the company’s Platinum discount membership program.

East Coast will provide golf membership programming, marketing and golf packaging services to the 27-hole Sunset Beach, N.C., course.

East Coast has provided membership and marketing services to International Club of Myrtle Beach, which shares a common owner with Thistle.

East Coast Golf Events, an offshoot of ECGM, plans to include Thistle in the Father-Son course rotation in 2019.

ECGM also manages five courses on the Strand and two outside the market.

Byrd drops from top

Zack Byrd of Murrells Inlet entered last week’s Eye of Africa PGA Championship on the Sunshine Tour leading the South Africa-based tour’s Rookie of the Year standings.

But a missed cut by Byrd with a 3-over 75-72–147 and win by fellow rookie Matias Calderon of Chile with a 17-under 271 has dropped Byrd to second in the race.

Calderon has earned 285,178 Rand in 19 tournaments while Byrd has earned 278,643 – the equivalent of $23,361 U.S. dollars – in just 13 tournaments as he has spent more time at home to see his family and save funds. No one else in the top 10 of the Rookie of the Year standings has played in fewer than 15 tournaments.

The Rookie of the Year honor comes with the Bobby Locke trophy at season’s end. Byrd is 48th on the tour’s overall Order of Merit.

The Sunshine Tour’s 2017-18 season has only four events remaining before the season-ending Tour Championship from March 14-17.

Byrd is entered in this week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt golf resort in George, South Africa, and next week’s Cape Town Open, and he said he is currently the sixth alternate in the March 1-4 Tshwane Open, a European Tour co-sanctioned event with a hefty purse of 15 million Rand – nearly $1.26 million.

Earning a spot

Eric Berggren of Windermere, Fla., and Ahra Ko of Suwanee, Ga., won the boys and girls qualifiers on Saturday at the Wild Wing Avocet Course for the third annual Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship to gain entry into the field. The prestigious junior tournament will be played Feb. 23-25 at TPC Myrtle Beach.

Berggren fired a 3-under par 69 to win the 69-player boys qualifier, and George Duangmanee of Fairfax, Va., tied for second with a 72, then won a three-person playoff to earn the final spot in the field. Duangmanee, a sophomore who has verbally committed to the University of Virginia, birdied the second hole to win the sudden-death playoff.

Ko shot a 76 to win the girls event. She has signed a letter of intent to play at Northern Illinois in the fall.

Players from 21 states and five countries will be participating in the 54-hole tournament, which has attracted 13 of America’s top 100 junior boys and seven top 100 junior girls, as well as nine of the top 10 boys in South Carolina and seven of North Carolina’s top 10.

The field features 30 players who have signed letters of intent to play collegiate golf, including four to Clemson University and five to SEC schools. Skylar Thompson, a Buford, Ga., resident who has signed to play at South Carolina, will return to defend her crown.

The Grand Strand will be represented by Coastal Carolina commitment Holden Grigg of Myrtle Beach in the boys competition and South Carolina commitment Smith Knaffle of Murrells Inlet in the girls competition. Coastal signee Brady Hinkle of Lancaster is also entered.

Alan Blondin: 843-626-0284, @alanblondin