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Myrtle Beach golf courses gear up for peak fall season with greens renovations

By Jason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

A handful of Myrtle Beach golf courses rebuilt their greens this summer, a positive sign that course operators and owners are willing to spend money on a future that could be brighter than the recent past.

Ocean Ridge Plantation - Lion's Paw golf course
Lion's Paw Golf Links, the oldest course at Ocean Ridge Plantation, now sports MiniVerde greens.
Ocean Ridge Plantation - Lion's Paw golf courseLandShark Bar & Grill - Myrtle BeachBarefoot Resort - Fazio golf courseWild Wing Plantation - Avocet course - hole 14

Stories with a negative tone -- earlier this month, Island Green Golf Club became the first 18-hole course on the Grand Strand to close in nearly four years -- tend to be offset by equally positive news, like Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday hiring Dustin Johnson as official spokesman. Johnson, the world's No. 4-ranked player, owns a home in Myrtle Beach and went to college at Coastal Carolina. He has never hidden his affinity for the area.

"It's where I grew as a golfer and as a person so it's very special to me," Johnson said.

Many golfers agree. The recent Golf.com World Amateur Championship attracted nearly 3,000 amateurs from 47 states and 24 countries to compete on 60 of the area's 90-plus courses. Fall is always an exciting time to tee it up in the region.

"We had a very encouraging spring," said Chris King, communications manager for Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday. "Rounds played were up. That was an encouraging sign. We hope and believe that will carry over into the fall."

Here's the latest news from the Grand Strand:

New greens

Extreme heat has wreaked havoc on bentgrass greens the past two summers, making the decision to switch to ultradwarf Bermuda grasses a no-brainer for some Myrtle Beach golf courses.

Barefoot Resort's Norman Course opened Sept. 3 after a renovation changed its greens from A1 bentgrass to Champion Bermuda. The resort's Fazio Course made the same move earlier this summer, opening in July.

"We are hoping for a similar result with the Norman because the Fazio greens are in magnificent shape," said James Bradley, an assistant professional at the resort.

Myrtle Beach National Co. installed new greens at the River Club, the Myrtle Beach National West Course and on the Avocet Course at Wild Wing Resort. The River Club moved to Champion Bermuda. The greens at MBN West and Avocet Course at Wild Wing are now MiniVerde Bermuda, although the Hummingbird nine of the Avocet remains PennLinks bentgrass. The investment for the greens improvements totaled approximately $400,000. All three re-opened in August.

The Lion's Paw Golf Links, the oldest of the courses at Ocean Ridge Plantation, switched to MiniVerde greens after the success renovation at Panther's Run in 2010.

"Bentgrass has its pros and cons, but in this area, with the heat we've had the past couple of summers, we decided it was time to look at an ultradwarf grass," Bill Long, Ocean Ridge's director of marketing, told GolfHoliday.com.

The Quail Creek Golf Club at Coastal Carolina University is currently closed until "fall," according a phone recording in the pro shop, although the practice range is still open. The course is reportedly changing over from TifDwarf Bermuda to MiniVerde.

Course of the Year honors for the Founders Club of Pawleys Island

Myrtle Beach's newest golf course, the Founders Club of Pawleys Island, is the 2011 Myrtle Beach Area Golf Course Owners Association Course of the Year. The club opened in Feb. 1, 2008, after architect Thomas Walker bulldozed the former Sea Gull Golf Club. Walker built waste bunkers that double as cart paths. Outstanding drainage allows the course to stay open year round.

"To be selected the best among the abundance of golf courses in the Myrtle Beach area is a tremendous honor," Tommy Smothers, general manager of the Classic Golf Group, said in a statement. "Founders Club has only been around for three years and it is always in impeccable condition, so this award is a testament to all of the hard work the staff there has done to earn this award."

Airport update

Golfers should pardon the dust at the airport when they arrive. The Myrtle Beach International Airport is experiencing more construction. The continued expansion of the passenger terminal will add six additional gates, from 7 to 13, a project expected to be completed by spring 2013. These improvements will allow even more regional traffic. In May, Spirit Airlines began new non-stop flights to the airport from Reagan National in Washington D.C.; Plattsburgh, N.Y.; Latrobe, Pa.; Charleston, W.V.; and Niagara Falls, N.Y.

In its second year, Porter Airlines increased its non-stop seasonal service from Toronto, Canada, from two to four trips per week. Direct Air, the community air service with corporate headquarters located in Myrtle Beach, S.C. launched non-stop jet service to Hagerstown, Md.; and Lakeland, Fla., in June.

New hangouts

Several new restaurant/bars have opened within the past 10 months, giving golfers some new choices away from the course. Jimmy Buffett's Landshark Bar and Grill and Landshark Surfshack Retail Shop opened on the new oceanfront boardwalk next to the new SkyWheel Myrtle Beach. The Nacho Hippo Cantina Maximo, which replaced Roy & Sid's American Kitchen located off Farrow Parkway at The Market Common, features cuisine from The Carolinas, with some international influences thrown in. For those with more adventurous tastes, try Mykonos, located at 1002 29th Avenue in North Myrtle Beach, for Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, or Mama Rue's Blues Garden Restaurant & Lounge, located at 9737 Ocean Highway on Pawley's Island, for authentic Jamaican recipes.

Jason Scott DeeganJason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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