Though Waterway Hills Golf Club owner LStar Management says it initially planned to keep the course open at least through next March, the company no longer finds it advantageous and will close the iconic 40-year-old course on June 30.
The course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, is known for its aerial gondola ride that transports golfers from the parking lot off U.S. 17 South in the Restaurant Row area of Myrtle Beach to the clubhouse across the Intracoastal Waterway. Jones’ only other Grand Strand layout is the iconic and heralded Dunes Golf and Beach Club.
In an email confirming the closing through George Johnson, the company’s Coastal Region Division Vice President, LStar stated:
“When LStar Communities purchased the North Myrtle Beach course this past March, it intended to operate the course for at least another year. However, when Myrtle Beach National sold the majority of their golf course assets, they notified LStar that they would no longer be available to manage golf course operations at Waterway Hills. Efforts to find a viable alternative management company were unsuccessful.”
The course had been managed by National Golf Management until the company sold most of its assets to the Chinese investment company Founders Group International in April. NGM was formed in March 2012 as a merger of most of the golf-related assets of Burroughs & Chapin Golf Management and Myrtle Beach National Co., which had been a longtime manager of the course.
Since NGM’s sale of 12 courses and other assets in April, Waterway Hills has been operated by Strand Golf Management, the surviving golf course management company of NGM that also assumed in April the management contract at Arcadian Shores Golf Club, which it still operates.
Strand Golf Management is still overseen by the former NGM board of directors and includes president and chief executive officer Bob Mauragas, who held the same positions with NGM. He said Thursday via text message that Strand Golf Management has no comment on the pending closing.
Johnson said LStar managing partner and general counsel Steve Vining spoke to Mauragas about the course’s continued management.
“The whole picture was considered from an operating viability standpoint (based on the available options),” Johnson wrote.
LStar expressed an apology in an email to those who will be unhappy or inconvenienced by the course closure.
Waterway Hills was closed Monday through Wednesday for maintenance to the tram and reopened Thursday for a 13-day last hurrah.
The course has 27 holes and is a relatively short layout as none of the three 18-hole combinations exceed 6,500 yards. It’s picturesque, with a few holes running along the Intracoastal Waterway.
LStar has numerous properties throughout the U.S. and purchased the Grande Dunes development from Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc. in 2013.
The company confirmed in an email in March that it acquired Waterway Hills and an adjoining tract that total more than 240 acres combined. The sales price was a combined $17.8 million, according to Horry County records.
Waterway Hills was annexed into North Myrtle Beach in October 2008 as part of a 1,363-acre Planned Development District called the Parkway Group PDD that was created by the owners of six parcels of land. The PDD is expected to become numerous neighborhoods.
Though LStar officials have discussed with North Myrtle Beach city officials expanding the Grande Dunes residential development onto the adjacent Waterway Hills property, Vining said in March the company has no imminent redevelopment plans.
Vining said in March: “We acquired this land to protect the northern boundary of Grande Dunes. We have no plans for development at this time and will take a very cautious and measured approach to planning in the future.”
The full connections of the apparently LStar-affiliated companies that purchased Waterway Hills and the adjoining 61 acres are difficult to determine. NGD Property I LLC and NGD Property II LLC are registered with the South Carolina Secretary of State as foreign companies incorporated in Delaware and have an address in Newport Beach, Calif., associated with their sales agreements.
That address is the headquarters of Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO), a large global investment management firm that is a subsidiary of Allianz Asset Management.
Of the purchasing companies, Johnson said, “We do not comment on the ownership structure or investors in our projects.”
Waterway Hills will be the fourth area course to close in the past two years – the third 18-hole course – joining the 2014 closures of Cypress Bay Golf Club, Heron Point Golf Club and the nine-hole Carolinas Golf & Country Club.
Cypress Bay was purchased and closed by a housing developer, Heron Point closed because of poor business and the owners of Carolinas G&CC retired.
Cypress Bay was the area’s first 18-hole course to close since 2007. Approximately 20 courses closed between 2005-07, dropping the Strand total to about 100 between Georgetown and Southport, N.C., as homebuilders scooped up large tracts of land prior to the housing crash and recession.