No fewer than six Grand Strand golf courses will be closing this spring and summer to perform 18-hole green renovations.
Five will be closing all 18 holes simultaneously, and five are continuing the trend of courses replacing bentgrasses with fine-bladed ultradwarf Bermudagrasses following one of the most stressful summers on bent in Strand history.
“If you own the company that redoes greens with Bermuda, you’re going to have a busy summer,” said Wild Wing Plantation head pro Tom Van Hoogen. “[Bent] is great when everything goes well and the weather is good, but it’s a nightmare when you have a summer like we did last year.”
The Wild Wing Avocet Course is one of three courses managed by the Myrtle Beach National Co. that are shutting down this summer. The others are River Club and the Myrtle Beach National West Course.
Wild Wing, which has 27 holes including the Hummingbird nine, will close only nine Avocet holes at a time so they will always have 18 open during a transition from PennLinks bent to Mini-Verde Bermuda, which is already featured at the TPC of Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach National Southcreek course.
The front nine is scheduled to close on June 19 and reopen on July 10, when the back nine will close. The back nine could reopen as early as Aug. 1. The Hummingbird nine, also featuring PennLinks bent, will remain open and unchanged this summer.
River Club, which was scheduled to replace its greens last summer before MB National executives decided to remain open for another year, will close June 23 to transition from A1 bent to Champion Bermuda and reopen Aug. 19. Champion is also featured at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and Long Bay Club.
The West Course will close June 29 to transition from bent to Mini-Verde and reopen Aug. 24.
Quail Creek Golf Club at Coastal Carolina is scheduled to close next Monday to upgrade from TifDwarf Bermuda to Mini-Verde and reopen around Aug. 22, though some paperwork hurdles still have to be cleared.
The Barefoot Resort Fazio Course closed on Monday to change from A1 bent to Champion Bermuda and is scheduled to reopen July 18, and the Barefoot Norman Course is scheduled to close on July 11 to replace A1 with Champion and reopen Sept. 1.
During the shutdown at Wild Wing to sod greens, a few bunkers will be reworked to improve drainage, and because the ninth hole at the Avocet doesn’t come back to the clubhouse, players will benefit from the option of a clubhouse visit after each nine.
The Avocet’s seventh hole has featured Mini-Verde since last summer, when the green was replaced following damage from someone driving on it, and course operators have been happy with its performance.
Closing Quail Creek for renovations is more complicated than closing the other layouts because the course is owned by Coastal Carolina University and must follow state guidelines before construction work can be contracted.
Charlie Thrash, Quail Creek general manager and director of the CCU Professional Golf Management Program, said funding for the project will come from a gift left by General Jim Hackler to benefit the golf programs at CCU.
Thrash said the course has had to follow the state’s formal bidding process that hasn’t come to fruition yet. Companies interested in the work had to attend a pre-bid meeting, and Thrash said 13 companies from seven states attended.
At least eight bids were accepted through May 10, and there is a 10-day waiting period that ends Friday for a references check as well as the filing of any grievances from other bidders protesting the low bid.
“When you’re working with the state, a large governmental body, you have to play by the rules,” said Thrash, who won’t give the name of the company that won the bid until the process is complete.
Designer Craig Schreiner, who is a co-designer of the Members Club at Grande Dunes and handled renovation work at Pine Lakes Country Club, is a consultant on the project.
Thrash said the project will include: renovating or removing bunkers; building a short-game practice area that will accommodate 75-yard shots and include a bunker, green and hitting stations; doubling the size of the practice putting green to about 12,000 square feet; and remodeling work in and around the clubhouse, primarily in the pro shop and snack bar areas.
Some tee boxes will be leveled and reshaped on the 43-year-old Gene Hamm design, and a couple will likely be created. The second tee box may slide left 20 to 30 yards for strategic purposes, Thrash said.
Thrash said the new green complexes “will have a little more personality,” and fairway bunkers that have become somewhat obsolete will be removed. “Our students blow it right past the bunkers,” Thrash said. “The only person that puts it in the bunkers is me.”
The work this summer is in addition to a new irrigation system that was installed in 2007.
“We’ve got a good layout and this will update our greens,” Thrash said. “The routing stays the same but it will be a better conditioned and more playable golf course.”
Course operators grew Mini-Verde on three small greens in front of the clubhouse last summer to test the grass.
The planned closing led to the move of the Class AAA boys high school golf championship Monday and today from Quail Creek to Black Bear Golf Club. The club plans to continue community involvement by again hosting the AAA girls state championship in the fall and the North-South All-Star high school event.