This 36-hole Grand Strand golf facility will close nine holes at the end of the year

The Pearl Golf Links will drop nine holes at the end of the year and will become a 27-hole facility on Jan. 1.

The Calabash, N.C., property currently features the East and West courses, and holes 3 through 11 on the East Course will be eliminated to create three nines, each with a different par.

The Pearl’s nines will have pars of 35, 36 and 37, creating three 18-hole combinations that will have pars of 71, 72 and 73.

Both the East and West courses opened in 1987 and were designed by Dan Maples, whose other works on the Grand Strand include Oyster Bay Golf Links, Heritage Club, The Witch, Willbrook Plantation and the Maples Course at Sea Trail.

Ownership is also taking a more active role in the management of the course.

Odell Williamson Jr., who is an owner along with other members of his family, has stepped in as the general manager after former GM Bob Gentile resigned last week, Williamson said. Stuart Martin remains the facility’s head pro.

“The family is taking a more hands-on approach with the golf course,” Williamson said. “We’re really wanting to get this golf course back to where it used to be, to where we believe it should be. We love this course. This course is very near and dear to our hearts. My dad helped build this course back in the ’80s and has always had a particular fondness to it.”

Williamson said the nine holes that are being eliminated will likely eventually be redeveloped but there are no imminent plans. “Obviously one day we plan to develop or do something,” he said.

“We have pretty big visions for this course too. Not just the golf course but the development side,” he added. “. . . You can always sell out. A lot of people do. We’ve held on even when times were tough because we were holding onto a grander vision for this place.”

Williamson said The Pearl property encompasses nearly 1,000 developable acres and does not yet include any housing.

The Pearl East is 6,793 yards and the West is 7,006 yards, and both have a par of 72.

The bypass of holes 3-11 means the nine holes that remain on the East Course will have an unusual beginning with holes featuring pars of 5, 3, 3, 5 and 3 before three par-4s and a par-5 to finish.

The West Course holes 10 through 18 and the remaining East holes will comprise a new 18 holes that include a half dozen scenic holes that play along the Calabash River. “It’s going to be a pretty amazing course,” Williamson said. “We’re going from 36 to 27 because we want to be able to pick it back up aesthetically and have all three turning back into the clubhouse to create a unique experience where we can manage the golfers a little better.”

The West Course underwent a renovation project this past summer that included the changing of its greens from bentgrass to MiniVerde ultradwarf Bermudagrass, which is the same grass that’s on the East Course.

Additionally, a few tee boxes were improved, course drainage was addressed in problematic areas, and numerous trees were removed to increase air flow and sunlight around some green complexes. The tree removal also opened up sight lines on a few holes, increasing views of the Calabash River and marsh.

“That was a big step for us because we had just redid our greens on the West about five years ago, so it was kind of a commitment,” Williamson said. “But we really, really care and we want to see our course really shine. “We’re really dedicated to making this happen financially and personally.”

Williamson comes to the course after spending recent years as a contractor and in development and real estate. “That way we can have a pulse on what’s going on here and I can hear day to day what the golfers are wanting and be able to facilitate the best that’s possible,” he said. “We want to make sure if there are issues I’m here, ownership is going to be here.

“We’re tired of telling people change is coming. It’s here.”

Superintendent Jeremy Chamblee, who was overseeing conditions on the West Course, has been elevated to head superintendent over the entire property with the retirement of head superintendent Robert Gamble.

“We’re trying to get back to where we can keep good conditions all the time where it’s not so hit or miss,” Williamson said. “Consolidating to three nines permits us to keep a better eye on things, give a better experience, keep the pace of play right and provide a new experience.”

Williamson said his father, who goes by his middle name DeCarol, was a scratch golfer who participated in the construction of the course.

“It’s not exactly a money-making industry but we love this. There are a lot of people we care about here. We care about our employees, we care about the public, we care about this course,” Williamson said. “We just love the land here. I think there’s something anointed and blessed about it. My grandma, Virginia Williamson, used to walk around this golf course praying over it, for it to be blessed. She was a very spiritual lady.”

No longer trotting

Possum Trot’s 51-year run is over.

The 6,966-yard, par-72 Russell Breeden design in the North Myrtle Beach area closed on Oct. 31 after consistently being one of the market’s popular courses since it opened in 1968, and it will likely be redeveloped in the near future.

The Glens Group’s longtime lease to operate the golf course expired on Sept. 30 and was extended until the end of October.

The 167-acre property is owned by a trust involving dozens of members of the Bell, Edge and Gore families and is expected to be sold to a developer at the end of the year.

A request to the City of North Myrtle Beach to redevelop the course into residential housing and annex it into North Myrtle Beach was withdrawn in late August.

The most recent submission for a project called Tidal Walk consisted of a Planned Development District zoning distinction with 512 total single-family detached homes and attached multifamily units, and eight acres of an assisted living facility with 60 to 80 beds.

Possum Trot’s land is currently zoned SF6, which allows for single-family homes with minimum lot sizes of 6,000 square feet – the equivalent of about seven homes per acre.

Glens Group still operates Glen Dornoch Waterway Golf Links in Little River and holds a lease on the former Heather Glen Golf Links, which closed in November 2017 for redevelopment. Some of Glens Group’s partners also own and operate Shaftesbury Glen Golf & Fish Club in Conway.

Club fitter and club repairman Al Cloyd, who has been based at Possum Trot out of a fitting trailer for several years, plans to move his operation to the Beachwood Golf Club driving range by Dec. 1. He’ll have his trailer and a covered hitting bay there. Former Possum Trot instructor Trevor Muffley is also moving to Beachwood.

A sign directs golfers to the various areas of Possum Trot Golf Course in North Myrtle Beach. Josh Bell
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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.