Large Myrtle Beach area golf course management and marketing group has new owners

Wachesaw East Golf Club in Murrells Inlet is one of three golf courses on the Grand Strand that is managed by East Coast Golf Management.
Wachesaw East Golf Club in Murrells Inlet is one of three golf courses on the Grand Strand that is managed by East Coast Golf Management. File photo

One of the largest golf course management and marketing companies on the Grand Strand has given up majority ownership of the business to a company based in Asheville, N.C.

East Coast Golf Management has partnered with the Zealandia Holding Co., which has become the principal owner through the agreement that took effect on May 15.

East Coast Golf Management president Mike Buccerone said he and partner Rob Mosser remain partners in 49 percent of ECGM, while Zealandia has taken over 51 percent of ownership.

“It gives us the capital resources to grow, establish what we want to do in Myrtle Beach, and gives us an opportunity to add more value to our partners here at the beach and outside,” Buccerone said. “We’re excited about where things are going.”

East Coast manages three Grand Strand courses – Rivers Edge Golf Club, Diamondback Golf Club and Wachesaw East Golf Club – has a maintenance and marketing agreement with Brick Landing Plantation Golf Club, and has a marketing/consulting cooperative that includes more than 20 Strand courses.

It also has management and coop agreements with a few courses outside the area, and East Coast has also moved its headquarters from Indigo Creek Golf Club to Wachesaw East.

“We needed more capital resources, employees and more of the infrastructure at the back of the house to grow,” Buccerone said. “That was always the vision, and how do you get there? . . . We’re able to have an infrastructure in place with resources from an accounting side, [human resources] side, payroll done out of the home office in Asheville.”

The addition of Zealandia gives East Coast an opportunity to expand, and Buccerone said the company is looking for courses within about a four-hour drive from Myrtle Beach.

“We are looking for other facilities that fit in our business plan that we would look to manage,” Buccerone said. “Now that we have additional resources we can look at that. . . . We can create more of that stay-and-play environment and get those people coming to the beach. That’s part of our management philosophy. They get the benefits of what we do here at the beach.”

Since 2001, Zealandia Holding Co. has acquired or invested in 22 companies predominantly in resorts and real estate. East Coast is its first golf course management company.

Buccerone said the partnership gives East Coast the opportunity to pitch its benefits to Zealandia’s other properties, and he recently gave a presentation at Zealandia’ leadership conference in Atlanta.

He believes there is an opportunity to tie golf vacations to Myrtle Beach into the benefits of time share and resorts owned or operated by Zealandia.

“They serve as that support role for us and capital resources, and part of our long-term plan is to look at their other resorts around the country and try to grow that business with their resorts,” Buccerone said.

East Coast has also merged with Worldwide Golf Marketing, which was owned and operated by A.J. Gohil, who had been a longtime marketing executive with Myrtle Beach National Co. and National Golf Management following MB National’s merger with Burroughs & Chapin Golf Management in 2012.

Gohil created his own marketing company after Founders Group International acquired NGM in 2015, and is now ECGM’s vice president of sales and business development.

East Coast has also hired Chris Hendrick as vice president of operations. Hendrick, a former NGM director of regional operations, had been working heavily with the Myrtle Beach Area Golf Course Owners Association through his company Summit Golf Services.

“We did it because it brings stability to the company and gives us the opportunity to put resources into experts in the golf business to be able to get them on our team,” Buccerone said. “And getting [Zealandia] involved, they’re putting in those resources for us to grow.”

East Coast Golf Events, which owns the National Father & Son Team Classic that is being held on the Grand Strand this week, remains a separate entity owned by Buccerone, Mosser, who is Wachesaw East’s general manager, and former East Coast Golf Management partner Chuck Hutchinson.

Zealandia has ownership interest in several businesses including Wachesaw East Golf Club, the Festiva Resorts time share company, Festiva Sailing Vacations in the Caribbean and Greek isles, and Patton Hospitality Management.

Festiva Resorts has operated the vacation property Ellington at Wachesaw Plantation East for several years, and it became the sole owner of the golf course in January 2017.

The relationship between Zealandia and ECGM began four years when Wachesaw East joined the East Coast co-op.

Mosser, ECGM’s executive vice president, became a partner in East Coast three years ago and he initiated talks with Zealandia.

Buccerone said he met late last year and early this year with Zealandia co-founder and chief executive officer Butch Patrick and chief financial officer Dennis Patenotte, leading to the purchase agreement.

East Coast’s marketing cooperative includes Blackmoor, Whispering Pines, International Club of Myrtle Beach, Indigo Creek, River Oaks, Beachwood, Eagle Nest, Crown Park, Crow Creek, Brunswick Plantation, Farmstead, Meadowlands, The Pearl East and West, Thistle, Sandpiper Bay, Brunswick Plantation, Lockwood Folly and Carolina National.

Buccerone said some of those courses are expected to drop out of the co-op in 2019.

East Coast also manages Grand Harbor Golf & Yacht Club in Ninety-Six, and nearby Hunter’s Creek Golf and Country Club in Greenwood, and includes Timberlake Country Club in Chapin in its co-op.

The marketing cooperative features a Platinum player membership program, vendor agreements, revenue management tools, golf package promotion and concierge services.

Father-Son teeing off

Family Golf Week, which features the 21st annual 54-hole National Father & Son Team Classic and Parent & Child Team Classic, will tee off Thursday with 700 registered players.

There are 333 Father-Son teams and 17 teams in the Parent-Child tournament.

There were fewer than 650 players last year, before East Coast Golf Events purchased the event from founder Robert Harper and his Southern Dunes Inc. golf management and marketing company. East Coast hired the Golf Tourism Solutions marketing and technology agency to assist with tournament operation and marketing.

“When we first took it over we thought 300 was our number,” Buccerone said. “So it has been very encouraging to see.”

Buccerone said nearly 30 percent of participants this year are new to the event. “We’re very pleased where we’re going with this event,” he said. “I feel strongly next year we’ll continue to see growth.”

Seven courses will host approximately 100 players each round. Participating courses are TPC Myrtle Beach, Arcadian Shores Golf Club, Rivers Edge Golf Links, Barefoot Resort Love Course, Crow Creek Golf Club, Wachesaw Plantation East and Legends Resort’s Heathland Course.

Benefiting causes include the Veterans Golf Association, Folds of Honor, Gene’s Dream Foundation and The First Tee Coastal Carolinas. “That’s a big part of what we’re doing,” Buccerone said.