The three-course Sea Trail Golf Resort & Convention Center in Sunset Beach, N.C., will be undergoing an estimated $1.3 million in renovations this summer, highlighted by the installation of new greens on its Jones Course and renovation of its Magnolias Restaurant.
More renovations are planned in the next couple years, as well.
The Jones Course is scheduled to close on June 27 and reopen on Sept. 6, and the restaurant will likely be closed about the same dates.
The 6,761-yard Rees Jones design that opened in 1989 has L93 bentgrass on its greens but will be receiving Champion ultradwarf Bermudagrass, which is already featured on the resort's Byrd Course. The Jones Course received cart path and bunker renovations last year.
Resort operators hope to implement a renovation project on the Byrd Course next year and the Maples Course, which still has bentgrass greens, might undergo a green-changing renovation project in a couple years.
To help oversee and implement the improvements, Sea Trail hired Raymond Crabb in January. Crabb has been involved in hotel and resort management on the Grand Strand since 1985. He worked 12 years at the Landmark Hotel, a few years at Ocean Drive Resorts in North Myrtle Beach and most recently spent 16 years as the director of regional operations for Myrtle Beach National at Litchfield Beach & Golf Resort.
“I think over the next three to five years there is a lot we can get done here,” Crabb said. “We have a plan, we just have to execute the plan year after year.”
The 2,000-acre community was purchased in June 2013 at a Chapter 11 bankruptcy auction for $8.5 million by a Chinese businessman known as Mr. Pan, and has had a lot of turnover at key positions since.
Crabb hopes stability has arrived.
Andrew Galbraith, who spent several years as a pro with ClubCorp, has been at Sea Trail about 18 months and was promoted to the head pro position last October.
In February, Sea Trail contracted with A.J. Gohil’s Worldwide Golf Marketing company to increase its marketing and package play. Gohil has 23 years of golf course marketing experience with Myrtle Beach National and National Golf Management, and has eight courses under his umbrella.
In addition to its three courses, Sea Trail includes two golf clubhouses, a 50,000-square-foot convention center, hundreds of stay-and-play villas and rental units, single-family and multifamily homes, unsold lots and undeveloped land.
“Ultimately we want the same standard throughout the resort that the convention center sets,” Crabb said. “The Jones Course is an important part of that, then hopefully we’ll be moving on to the Byrd next winter.”
Magnolia’s Restaurant, which is located in the main Byrd/Jones clubhouse, will receive a complete redesign that includes an enhanced entry, outdoor patio dining with a fire pit and tropical landscaping, and an interior featuring cool slate, natural wood and stone surfaces.
The restaurant will have an open kitchen and buffet line. Theme dinners are planned and Crabb wants to attract meals from convention goers.
“We’re trying to give the homeowners a better dining experience, and you blend that together with what the golfers want … so you’ve got something for everybody, and we feel there are opportunities for local dining,” Crabb said. “Calabash has some restaurants but there’s room for more. So we’re hoping to hit all those markets.”
Food and beverage will be available this summer at the Maples clubhouse and through an expanded beverage cart operation.
Crabb said Sea Trail has supportive homeowners with strong men’s and women’s golf groups. “There are a lot of people who want it to succeed, so with that impetus and with some capital investment we can get back to where we should be,” Crabb said.
“Mr. Pan is an astute businessman and he’s very patient and he’s looking at the investment and return.”