MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- The Signature Golf Group is hoping it can turn mush into magic again.
The South Carolina-based management company, just months into running Heron Point Golf Club, is already well on its way to rebounding what could have been easily another horror story. Slowly, but surely, Signature believes it can bring the golf course back from the dead.
In the early part of 2011, Heron Point wasn't a pretty picture.
"Our play has increased a lot," said Assistant Professional Landon McIntosh, who started around the same time Signature did. "When I first started, we were doing 40 rounds [per day]. Now, we're up over 100. The grass is actually green. We had sprinkler heads that were broken. There were parts of the course that were brown. ... The greens were patchy."
"People are coming back," he said.
The road to recovery hasn't been an easy one. Heron Point, tucked behind a neighborhood off the beaten path in the southern part of Myrtle Beach, doesn't receive a lot of foot traffic. At the same time, it's been a blessing. It's given the people in charge time to slowly correct the problems it had in the past.
Heron Point isn't going to blow your mind visually. Tree-lined fairways are the majority, and all those trees often hinder the rest of the landscape around it.
It's had a direct impact on tee boxes and fairways.
"The people were nice," Pennsylvania native Bill Thomas said during a recent round. "The golf course itself, it needs a little work. It has possibilities. But all in all, I would not say it's a top-echelon golf course in Myrtle Beach at this time. They need to dress it up a little bit. The tee boxes, they need some grass on them. The greens are too fast for the slope."
Course employees welcome the commentary; they believe more opinions equal more improvement. Besides, it's not like it's the first time they've heard it anyway.
Heron Point, a par 72, plays 6,500 yards from the tips down to 5,300 from the gold tees. The women's tees are set at 4,700 yards. What the course lacks in length, though, it makes up for in strategy.
Heron Point has deceptively slim fairways that can turn into a nightmare for players suffering from the slightest case of a slice or hook off the tee box.
Both nines are set up with the par 5s coming on the two of the last three holes, leaving big scoring opportunities for the end of the round.
In the future, Signature is planning on removing many of those trees that cause so many problems in terms of strategy, but also in the look of the turf.
Two tee boxes -- No. 6 and No. 18 -- had virtually no grass on them. The trees block sun light and have become a bit of a headache. In time, though, they'll be gone, and the hindrance off the box or along the edges of the fairways will be reduced.
Like the course itself, Heron Point will soon have a new-look clubhouse as it adds to the Southern Antebellum building already in place. It houses the pro shop and a full-service snack bar with reasonably priced items.
The course holds a small putting green and lightly used driving range.
Lessons are available through William Currin, the head professional, and McIntosh, and they range from 45-minute periods all the way up to full-blown playing sessions complete with video swing analysis.
Thomas, who had not played Heron Point Golf Club in several years, was critical yet hopeful of Heron Point's future.
"The course has potential," Thomas said. "It just needs a little more money into it."
History suggests Signature's most recent project can have brighter days. After all, it wasn't that long ago that sister course River Oaks was called dilapidated. Within months of Signature being brought onto the scene, River Oaks' popularity and membership rates have soared.
At Heron Point, they're hoping for similar results.
"We know that it's going to be process; we know that it's going to take time," McIntosh said. "Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say. We're moving in the right direction."
October 10, 2011