Golf

This Myrtle Beach golf course operator just purchased another course in Brunswick County

Cape Fear National opened in 2009 and has been purchased by Atlantic Golf Management.
Cape Fear National opened in 2009 and has been purchased by Atlantic Golf Management. Photo courtesy of Cape Fear National

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The management company that has turned around Whispering Pines Golf Club and purchased Brunswick Plantation & Golf Resort in Calabash, N.C., in February 2018 has added another course in Brunswick County.

Atlantic Golf Management, led by managing partner Chip Smith, has purchased and is operating Cape Fear National at Brunswick Forest in Leland, N.C.

Smith has already greatly increased the course’s membership numbers and it will remain semi-private and open to the public.

“I think this is maybe the best acquisition we’ve made with the most possibilities,” Smith said. “It’s the best opportunity we’ve had in the history of our company.”

Atlantic Golf purchased the golf course for $400,000 from Funston Land & Timber LLC, according to Smith and a Brunswick County Register of Deeds filing on Sept. 30. Funston will continue developing the land around the golf course that it owns, Smith said.

Cape Fear National opened in 2009 and features forests of mature oaks, maples, pines and magnolias.

The 7,217–yard, par-72 course was designed by Sunset Beach architect Tim Cate and has received acclaim. It was named one of the Top 10 Best New Courses by Golf Magazine in 2010, and has been ranked among the top 15 courses in North Carolina in Golfweek Magazine’s list of the top public-access courses in each state since 2011.

It includes bunkers that run the entire length of holes 5, 13 and 16, winds through heavily undulating land, and features several bridges through wetlands, three waterfalls, beach bunkers and native wildflowers.

The course owners had contracted in late 2017 with the Billy Casper Golf national management company to operate all aspects of the course.

Smith said the course owner called Atlantic Golf Management to see if it was interested in purchasing the course. “They had it for nine years and wanted to find an operator that could come in and not just manage it but own it,” Smith said. “They have a lot of real estate to sell in that community so they were interested in someone operating the golf course and not losing money on it.”

Brunswick Forest is still growing as a community. Smith said Funston has already sold approximately 2,700 home sites and has another 3,800 or so that it intends to sell on the massive 6,500-acre property around the course, and numerous homes and infrastructure are currently being built.

The course closed for renovations this summer and reopened on Sept. 2 with new Sunday Bermuda greens and renovated bunkers. “Essentially we got a new golf course,” Smith said.

Smith said membership has increased from 71 members to nearly 500, which he said will be the cap. A waiting list for unlimited memberships has already been started.

Atlantic held 18 meet-and-greet events over six nights in September for area residents, during which different membership options were explained. Unlimited memberships are $8,000 per year for families and $4,500 for individuals, and the least expensive membership is a single that includes 60 rounds for an $18 cart fee for $2,000.

“I’m more excited about the potential of this place than I was about TPC,” said Smith, who was a previous owner of the TPC Myrtle Beach. “It has a lot of potential to have a steady stream of memberships over the years.”

Smith said Atlantic has retained nearly all employees, though the head professional resigned and Justin Spann, director of golf at Brunswick Plantation, now also holds that position at Cape Fear National.

The restaurant in the clubhouse called The Forest is popular with residents and is a million-dollar operation, Smith said. “It’s a very captive audience. You have that many homes and people don’t like to leave the neighborhood if they don’t have to,” Smith said. “They have a really good chef and food and beverage director and we were thrilled to get them.”

Smith anticipates keeping the course semi-private and available to outside play.

“What we find in this market is it’s hard to get enough dues off people on an average rate to have a big enough revenue stream to make it totally private so we like to fill in the gaps of times when members aren’t playing as much where there’s outside play,” he said. “It helps to keep dues down to make it where people can still join.”

At Brunswick Plantation, Atlantic has a 27-hole golf course, clubhouse, bar and grill, and a condo rental business with 125 units that allows for stay-and-play packages and other golf packages that can include Whispering Pines. Smith doesn’t anticipate Cape Fear being a large part of packages.

Atlantic Golf Management has been operating Whispering Pines since November 2014 after being awarded the management agreement from the City of Myrtle Beach, and also operates the private Wellington National in Wellington, Fla.

Locals claim 4-Ball

A playoff between a pair of local teams determined the title in the 11th annual Wachesaw Plantation Club 4 Ball Invitational, which was held Friday through Sunday at the private Murrells Inlet club.

The tournament had perhaps its strongest field to date with 62 two-man teams from 12 states, and the title in the championship Mid-Amateur Division for players 25 and older came down to the South Strand teams of Will Akers and Jeremy Pope, and Sammy Truett and Adam Langford.

Both teams finished the tournament at 7-under 209, with Truett and Langford carding the low round of the division with a 66 in the opening round.

After both teams made pars on the first playoff hole, Akers and Pope won with a par on the second playoff hole. Finishing third at 211 was the team of Kenny Francis of Myrtle Beach and Chase Bailey of Roanoke, Va.

In the 26-team Senior Division for players age 55 and older, Duff Wagner of Taylors and Todd Hendley of Columbus, N.C., defended their 2018 championship by six shots with a 19-under 64-67-66–197. Jim Burns and Jim Johnson Jr. of Canandaigua, N.Y. were second and the team of Andy Congdon of Murrells Inlet and Bob Linn of Enfield, Conn., were third at 209.

Joe Inman and Bill Brown of Atlanta won the 24-team Super Senior Division in a playoff over Dirk brothers Alan of Pittsboro, N.C. and Dale of Burlington, Conn., after both teams shot 10-under 206 totals. The winning teams in each division received $1,200 in pro shop gift certificates and more than one-third of the field was paid.

States represented in the scratch better ball 54-hole event field were California, Massachusetts, New York, Florida, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Ohio and Connecticut.

The 12th WPC 4 Ball is scheduled for Oct. 16-18, 2020. For more information email tournament chairman Mike Daniels at parteetime@hotmail.com or Wachesaw head pro Joe Gagliano at wpcgolf@wachesaw.com.

Long victorious

John Long of Murrells Inlet captured the 13th annual Harry Wilson Super Senior Championship at Florence Country Club this past week after a three-hole playoff battle with first round co-leader Tim Pope of Spartanburg and Gus Sylvan of Columbia.

In a final round that featured rain showers and strong wind gusts, Long carded three birdies, 10 pars, four bogies and one double bogey for a 74 and 2-over 144 total, which were both matched by Pope.

Sylvan shot an even-par 71 to get into the playoff in the South Carolina Golf Association Super Senior Championship, and Long earned the win on the third playoff hole.

The tournament consisted of two divisions: the Championship division (age 65-69) and Legends Division (age 70 and over), which was won by Willard Dorriety of Florence with an even-par 142.

Florence Country Club played 5,950 yards for the Championship Division and 5,478 yards for the Legends Division, and there were 98 players entered. The event was created to honor 41 years of service to the SCGA by Anderson’s Harry Wilson.

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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