Finally some good news: Grand Strand getting new course

Sea Gull Golf ClubGrand Strand golfers are getting a bit of good news amongst all the recent bad, with a new course due to open next year. The Myrtle Beach area has lost several courses in recent times, victims of declining rounds and rising real estate values.

But, Classic Golf Group is building a new course, the Pawleys Island Golf Club on the site of the former Sea Gull Golf Club on the island. It will be the first new public course built in the area in the last five years.

"Some people say we're nuts," said Rowland Thomas, one of the owners of Classic Golf Group.

The trend is being bucked because Classic thinks there is an opportunity to draw more golfers to a new course.

"It's a fast-growing, fast-developing area," Thomas said. "It's fairly upscale compared to most other parts of the Grand Strand. This golf course is, competitively speaking, the poorest in the area. It's a nice golf course, it's fun to play on, but it's not up to the level of some of the others.

"Of the nine courses down there, we're the worst. That's because the golf course is old and tired, even though it's in wonderful condition - it's probably in the best condition this year its ever been in."

Pawleys Island is on the Waccamaw Neck section of the Grand Strand, which doesn't have much more developable land.

"There's no room left to build another golf course, there's no property," Thomas said. "That's the reason the property has appreciated so much in the area. We think it's a great opportunity to provide a much nicer facility and be a lot more competitive area and get more of our market share of the business.

"Business is very strong there. There are nine publicly available courses in the area and they're all doing a lot more rounds of golf than we are."

The idea isn't to do a renovation, Classic officials say. It will be a completely new course.

"We're going to really change the whole golf course from the standpoint of the way it looks and the way it plays," Thomas said. "It's an old-style golf course built close to 40 years ago, lots of pines and hardwood, wall-to-wall grass fairways that run from one side of the woods to the other side.

"We're going to change the look of it to make it a more modern-looking course, a lot of natural areas, less grass, more ornamental grasses. So the course will look hard, but we expect from the design it will be very playable."

The course is being designed by Thomas Walker, former lead designer on several Gary Player Design golf course projects. Based in Palm City, Fla., Walker was vice president of Gary Player Design Company, where he worked on more than 20 projects such as Hawthorne Valley at Snowshoe, named as one of Golf Magazine's top 40 resort courses; Olde York Country Club in Columbus, N.J.; as well as three South Carolina courses - Hilton Head National, River Falls Plantation in Spartanburg and Blackmoor Golf Club in Myrtle Beach.

Walker was the designer of Canyon Springs Golf Club in San Antonio, rated among the top 10 golf courses in Texas by Golf Digest.

"To have an opportunity to build a visually stunning and challenging but fun and playable course in such a highly competitive market as Myrtle Beach is a tremendous honor," Walker said in a press release.

Pawleys Island Golf Club is scheduled to open in late 2006 and early estimates for the project begin at more than $7 million with a construction time of about one year. A practice facility with a pitching, chipping and putting area will be included in the complex.

Plans also include a new entrance to the golf club and a new lowcountry-style clubhouse overlooking the 18th green with a wrap-around porch, dining and meeting facilities and second floor office space.

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