Mitchell Wilkerson grew up around golf – his childhood home sat next to Lancaster Golf Club in Lancaster, S.C. As director of golf and grounds maintenance at Moss Creek Golf Club in Hilton Head, S.C., Wilkerson ensures that the club’s natural low country beauty is put on full display for visitors to enjoy. We chatted with Mitchell about his 25-year career at Moss Creek.
What sparked your interest in the golf course industry?
When I was a teenager, I played in the South Carolina junior golf tournaments. By my senior year of high school, I realized I wasn’t going to play golf any further. I wasn’t as good as I thought [laughs]. But I’ve always loved the golf course – every job I’d ever had was associated with golf, whether it was working in the pro shop, at the snack bar, or on the course itself. I decided to study turfgrass management at Mississippi State University. While there, I had the chance to work at Jack Nicklaus’ house for two semesters, which really got me interested [in golf course design]. I built courses in Fort Worth, Texas, and New Orleans before coming to Hilton Head, where I helped renovate and build golf courses on Daufuskie Island. I worked at the Melrose Resort, built a course called Bloody Point, and helped finish the Golf Club at Indigo Run. In 1999, I was hired at Moss Creek, and I’ve been there ever since.
What is the biggest industry change you’ve noticed in the last 25 years?
The labor pool has changed quite drastically. Each generation is different and is motivated by different things. I’m fortunate that I have someone on staff who’s worked here 34 years, his brother has worked here 44 years, and another person who’s been here 28 years. Then I have three or four people who have been here over 15 years. That’s very unusual, because typically you get two-and-a-half years on average from someone. It’s important because you can have all the funding and the best equipment, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a solid team.
What are your most notable accomplishments at Moss Creek?
In 2012, we received our Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP) certification. Moss Creek is a great club to work for because they always want to strive for better. Even with the setbacks from COVID-19, we were still investing in our community. We’ve renovated both of our two courses – we just finished the South course, and the North course is due for a second renovation soon. It’s nice to be able to see that continued improvement over time.
What distinguishes the golf courses at Moss Creek?
Moss Creek has a very natural look that reflects the low country environment. We have traditional style golf courses with small greens and tons of natural beauty; that’s the reason so many people move to the Moss Creek community.
What is your favorite type of equipment to work with?
I enjoy hopping on a fairway mower or a rough mower. I love to use them when we’re renovating so I can shape things up. I don’t get the opportunity very often, but when I do, it’s very relaxing; probably because I can’t hear my cell phone [laughs].
What do you enjoy most about your career?
I love coming to work every day. I enjoy being outdoors. I like getting to mentor people of all types and ages – I learn as much from them as they learn from me. You spend a lot of time with the people you work with, so I’m very grateful to have lots of wonderful people.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I don’t play golf as much anymore. My wife, Debbie, and I spend a lot of time with our grandchildren. If we’re not on the boat, we’re doing work around the house. I’m lucky to have a strong wife or I would not be able to do what I do; I’m very blessed.
Kyra Molinaro is an award-winning writer and editor based in Richmond, Virginia. She manages donor communications in the Advancement Office at the University of Richmond.