Myrtle Beach has built its beach town reputation on being family friendly.
That approach extends to the golf market as well, and that will be evident over the next couple months.
More than 50 courses are taking part in a longstanding Kids Play Free program on the Grand Strand this summer, which allows a junior to play a free round when accompanied by a paying adult.
“It’s an opportunity for us to promote the game of golf and make it easier for juniors to play and create that environment,” said Justin Binke, director of marketing for Founders Group International, which owns and operates 22 Strand courses.
Course operators see the program as mutually beneficial. It can help grow the game, can potentially create customer loyalty, and can build a future customer base when the juniors become paying adults themselves.
“It’s a program for everybody,” Binke said. “I think it’s beneficial all around. It’s good to see juniors playing golf, that’s exactly why we have that program. It’s a good family opportunity.”
Some participating courses run the promotion seasonally in off-peak times such as the summer, though many take part in the program all year long, including all FGI courses.
“We just make it easy and have it year-round, though the big majority of the kids who play free are in the summer months when the families are here and kids are out of school,” Binke said.
A few of the participating courses are closed for all or part of the summer for renovations, but there are still plenty of options, which include some of the market’s high-end offerings.
Participating courses include the four courses at Barefoot Resort, Tidewater Golf Club, Rivers Edge Golf Club, Tiger’s Eye Golf Links, Legends Resort, and FGI properties the Grande Dunes Resort Course and Myrtle Beach National King’s North Course.
Courses that are limiting the program to tee times after noon are Barefoot, Prestwick Country Club, Beachwood Golf Club, Possum Trot and the two courses at The Pearl.
The program is generally for juniors ages 16 and younger, though individual courses set their own policies.
Barefoot Resort, for example, includes all juniors under 18 and is running the program from June 11 through Sept. 5. The club adopted the program in the summer a few years ago.
“The philosophy for a number of years has been to grow the game,” Barefoot head pro Mike Ross said. “We wanted to dip our toe in that pond and take part in that. And these young kids in 10 or 15 years will be our targeted customer.
“It’s one of those things where a father finds out about it and always wanted to take his kid to Barefoot. Those people are coming back now. It has become residual and it has grown.”
Some courses offer additional deals with the promotion, such as a second junior for half price with the paying adult, and many courses that don’t participate in the Kids Play Free program still offer discounts to juniors at least seasonally.
A list of courses participating in the Kids Play Free program is available online.
First Tee gets grant
The United States Golf Association has awarded a prestigious Player For Life grant of $10,000 to The First Tee of Coastal Carolinas youth development organization, which has programs in Horry, Georgetown and Brunswick counties.
Only 35 of more than 150 chapters nationwide received the grants.
The USGA’s Player For Life awards reward First Tee chapters that are achieving significant results by retaining and progressing participants in the program. In particular, the USGA focuses on chapters that provide youth with a variety of playing opportunities and utilize different golf facilities for their playing and learning experiences.
The First Tee of Coastal Carolinas impacts 16,000 Grand Strand youth annually and delivers life skills, golf skills and leadership development through an array of programs including school-day and after-school programs, tournaments, clinics, golf camps, and intensive leadership development at the Carolinas Leadership Academy located at its Cinghiale Creek headquarters in Shallotte, N.C.
The grant will help the organization expand playing opportunities for its participants including Par 3 Play Days, tournament sponsorships, Future Generations fundraising tournaments and other events that will help advance their games and chances of playing high school and college golf.
The First Tee’s 2018 Future Generations Tournament at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club on July 24 will feature Golf Channel personality Charlie Rymer and former LPGA Tour member Kristy McPherson. Cinghiale Creek is also hosting summer camps and Leadership Academy sessions this summer.
Christopher Fortenberry of Myrtle Beach, a rising senior at Carolina Forest High, finished second this past week in the 67th Grant Bennett Florence Junior Invitational at Florence Country Club.
Fortenberry, who won the individual title in the Patriot Invitational hosted by Fort Dorchester High in March, shot a 4-under 138 to finish two strokes behind Nicholas Mayfield of Rock Hill. Mayfield is also a rising senior who has committed to South Carolina.
Disc event a success
After the 2018 Myrtle Beach Open attracted 87 players from seven states, the Myrtle Beach Disc Golf Club is already making plans for the 2019 event.
The disc golf tournament was played June 23-24 at the Socastee Recreation Park course on Butler Road and featured six divisions and players from the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Michigan, Massachusetts and West Virgina.
The open pro division was won by Austin Turner from Charlotte, N.C., who was the 2017 Disc Golf Pro Tour Rookie of the Year and is ranked 20th in the disc golf world rankings, according to Myrtle Beach Disc Golf Club president Chad Sullivan. The club is a non-profit created to promote the game of disc golf in the area.
Turner won $400 for his three-round total of 21-under par. He birdied the final hole for a one-shot win over Martin Young of Douglasville, Ga. The tournament entry fee was $60 for pros and $50 for amateurs.