Over the past several months Chinese investors have been buying Myrtle Beach golf courses, and there are rumors that more will follow. Thus far,the three courses at Sea Trail Resort in Sunset Beach, NC, Black Bear Golf Club in Longs, SC, , Crown Park Golf Club in Longs, Burning Ridge in Conway, Indian Wells in Garden City, and The Founders Club in Pawleys Island, SC have reportedly sold, or are in the process of being sold. In each case, it is initially apparent the new owners intend to keep the courses open.
Many courses in the area have struggled over the past few years due to a (nationally) weak golf economy and the most recent blow delivered by the recession. As everyone associated with the game focuses to create new and renew old interest, areas like Myrtle Beach that may have overbuilt during the good times face competitive pressures that have lowered revenues and in some cases increased costs. Those circumstances have some owners looking for any sort of higher and better use for the property. The area’s John Daly Signature course, Wicked Stick has been reportedly listed for sale, and has a potential buyer (reported by the Sun News) who would use the property for residential and/or commercial development.
The Myrtle Beach golf industry has seen better times , but has potential to rebound as the nation’s overall economy improves and consumer confidence helps spur discretionary spending. The area stacks up well against other golf destinations with an abundance of golf course variety, virtually limitless accommodations, restaurants, attractions, entertainment, and…the beach, of course. The golf industry in general has bigger issues. Time has become one of golf’s toughest challenges, and has forward-thinking course owners creating shorter round offerings such as three, six, nine, and twelve hole programs. Some say the expense to “gear up” and play the game is also one of its biggest challenges. Others add the game’s difficulty as a hurdle. The good news…all this has the attention of the entire golf industry.
One of the most positive moves in recent history was the addition of the Drive, Chip, and Putt youth event at this year’s Masters. The interest from young golfers and their parents skyrocketed after this event. Getting more youth involved in the game is a huge benefit, but retention is still the biggest challenge. Finding solutions for retaining golfers during their family and career building years will require a significant creative effort.
Myrtle Beach, and its solid tourism industry, should prove to benefit area courses most as international interest in American golf rises. The obvious solution for Myrtle Beach is to grow its market share while the overall golf industry sorts through all the challenges it faces in the coming years. Collectively, the courses in Myrtle Beach along with all the associated businesses and marketing organizations, have a global marketing advantage if the right synergy can be accomplished. The recent golf course purchases by Chinese investors is proof the international interest is there. More international play should follow.