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Monday, May 23, 2011

Myrtle beach Courses Re-Doing Greens

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.

Dunes in documentary 

A film crew was at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club this past weekend, filming for an hourlong documentary that is expected to air sometime in early 2012 on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
The Dunes Club director of golf Dennis Nicholl, who was interviewed for the documentary, said the subject is essentially: the development of the game through 14 course architects who have changed the way golf courses are designed over the past 100 years or so.

"That's going to be great for the club to be part of that documentary," Nicholl said. "Any time they put you as one of the prominent golf courses that changed golf course architecture in the world, we're certainly proud to be part of that."

The Dunes Club, which opened in 1948, is considered one of Robert Trent Jones' best designs.
Nicholl said the six-month filming project will include visits to at least 30 courses and also feature architects A.W. Tillinghast, Donald Ross, Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Tom Doak, and the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, among others.

Four Dunes Club members were equipped with microphones and filmed while playing the back nine Saturday. They were Tommy Brittain, a member of the board of directors; son Preston Brittain, head of the club's men's golf association; Jack Bonner, a board member who knew Jones; and past club president David Gravely.
The film crew was also used for Golf Galaxy and Dick's Sporting Goods commercials that will feature The Dunes Club.

Free lessons in May

Several area professionals are participating in the 14th annual PGA Free Lesson Month in May and will be providing free 10-minute lessons and/or family clinics this month.

The entire list of pros who have registered for the promotion can be found at Brad Redding of Grande Dunes Golf Academy, one of Golf Magazine's top 100 instructors in America since 2001, is among them and will be offering free 10-minute lessons from 3-6 p.m. Saturday. Reservations are recommended.

Every golfer who takes a free lesson in the U.S. can enter a sweepstakes at to win a two-day golf getaway to The PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and two runners-up will receive a set of Nike clubs.
Veterans storm area

More than 400 current and former members of the U.S. military from more than 30 states and the District of Columbia are expected to participate in the 12th annual 54-hole Veterans Golf Classic next Monday through Wednesday.

The two-person team tournament will be played on 12 courses, features a different format each day and is flighted based on the combined team handicap. Members of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars will compete for the Carolina Cup while members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard will battle for The Branch Challenge.

In 2010, the VFW retained the Carolina Cup for their sixth victory in the last seven years, and the Air Force captured the Branch Challenge. For more information call 1-800-833-8798 or visit
Rivalry renewed

A group of 24 golfers from Ireland is in the midst of a two-week golf trip to the Grand Strand that includes a rematch with members of Island Green Golf Club.

The teams first played during the Irish group's trip two years ago and organized a rematch this past Saturday, won again by the U.S. team 7.5-5.5. The Irishmen's itinerary also includes Wachesaw East, Litchfield Country Club, TPC, Wild Wing, Long Bay Club, River Oaks and Tradition.

Demo day upcoming 

Steve Dresser Golf Academy at True Blue Plantation will be hosting a demo day from 2-6 p.m. Friday featuring products from Titleist and Cobra. Free soft drinks and snacks will be provided.
The Dresser Academy is also staging a pair of three-day golf schools from June 12-19 in Vermont at Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa and Stowe Country Club that includes 12 hours of instruction, two rounds of golf, accommodations and nine meals for $995 per person.

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