Golf

How an initiative that could impact Grand Strand golf for years is getting off the ground

Bunkers are to the left of the fairway on the 18th hole at Prestwick Country Club, which will host the first series of clinics under the Project Golf program “An Introduction to Golf.”
Bunkers are to the left of the fairway on the 18th hole at Prestwick Country Club, which will host the first series of clinics under the Project Golf program “An Introduction to Golf.” file photo

An initiative that figures to give the game of golf on the Grand Strand a boost for years to come gets off the ground this week with its first sustained program.

Project Golf, a nonprofit initiative that aims to promote and grow the game and make it more accessible, has a free informational meeting on Tuesday night to introduce a program for adults called “An Introduction to Golf.”

Project Golf was created by the Golf Tourism Solutions marketing and technology agency that promotes the Myrtle Beach market.

The meeting is at 6 p.m. in Classroom C at the Reed Rec Center at 800 Gabreski Lane in Market Common and pre-registration is recommended at projectgolf.org, though attendees can register on site.

“We feel the on-ramp for golf needs to change and we’re going to test different scenarios,” said Golf Tourism Solutions Chief Executive Officer Bill Golden. “The invitation and starting golfers through the early part of the process is critical. Having the ability to have access to golf clubs, instruction, the facility – we want to make that as cost-free as possible.

“We’re kind of testing this as we go. We want to get people involved in the game, excited about the game and on the golf course.”

An Introduction to Golf is a beginner’s clinic series for adults designed to provide quality instruction, dispel much of the discomfort associated with starting the game, and create a social network of new golfers.

Each series will consist of six 90-minute clinics and the first will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. Mondays at Prestwick Country Club beginning next week.

The first 20 minutes each week are dedicated to an introductory golf topic and are followed by 60 minutes of instruction – 20 minutes each at three stations – and a 10-minute recap. A rain date is built in on the seventh Monday.

There will be 21 students in each series, so seven will be at each instruction station at a time, and the first series is already sold out. “We’ll learn a lot about it after this first series but we think that’s a good operational number [of participants],” Golden said.

Attendees at Tuesday’s meeting can register for future clinic series. The next will be held at Arrowhead Country Club, likely in mid-May on a different weekday, and there are already a handful of people registered.

“Clearly there is a demand for this type of program” said Project Golf Director Gene Augustine. “I envision multiple site locations for this program across the Grand Strand.”

The cost is $120 for the six-week program and graduates receive a Myrtle Beach Golf Passport for discounted rounds in the Myrtle Beach area.

About 40 people were registered for the meeting as of Monday after Golf Tourism Solutions promoted it through the Nextdoor app, Prestwick homeowners association and a $100 Facebook ad.

“It tells us there is a lot of latent demand in this marketplace and we need to do a better job fostering it,” Golden said. “There is a lack of invitation for people to learn how to play golf.

“. . . We want to treat it as we’re investing in the future of the game and we need to do a better job of investing in the early stage for a beginning golfer.”

Brad Kirkman will run the teaching curriculum for An Introduction to Golf for Beginners. He’s a PGA Master Professional, instructor at the Dustin Johnson Golf School at TPC Myrtle Beach and the past Golf Academy of America national director of instruction and technology.

Augustine expects participants to connect socially and continue to play together, and team tournaments featuring Project Golf graduates are planned. Each group will have a designated social coordinator. “We want it to be a long-term relationship,” Augustine said.

Project Golf’s first event was a Myrtle Beach Golf Cares tournament last summer that raised money for a pair of industry workers who were in need due to medical conditions.

It is developing programs for juniors and disabled veterans. “It will continue to expand in its scope but this is our first initiative,” Golden said.

Augusta opportunity

The Drive, Chip and Putt junior skills competition began accepting online entries in March at www.drivechipandputt.com.

The local qualifier in the Myrtle Beach market will again be held at Legends Golf Resort on July 9, and the entry deadline is July 4.

Local qualifying that is open to boys and girls ages 7-15 has been expanded to 313 sites across all 50 states this year in May, June, July and August.

The top three local finishers in each age/gender category advance to subregional qualifiers in July-August followed by regionals in September. The top 40 boys and 40 girls then earn invitations to the National Finals at Augusta National on April 5, 2020, which is the Sunday before the Masters Tournament.

Local qualifiers from Myrtle Beach advance to a subregional at Fort Jackson near Columbia on Aug. 24, and two qualifiers in each division there advance to a regional at Atlanta Athletic Club on Sept. 8.

Drive, Chip and Putt is a collaborative grow-the-game initiative of the Masters Tournament, USGA and PGA of America.

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Alan Blondin covers golf, Coastal Carolina athletics and numerous other sports-related topics that warrant coverage. Well-versed in all things Myrtle Beach, Horry County and the Grand Strand, the Northeastern University journalism school valedictorian has been a sports reporter at The Sun News since 1993, earning eight top-10 Associated Press Sports Editors national writing awards and 18 top-three S.C. Press Association writing awards since 2007.
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