Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – Myrtle Beach golf is many things to many people. Its sheer size—more than 80 courses along 60 miles of coastal plains and a wetland dubbed The Grand Strand—has attracted Canadian and Northeastern golfers since the late 1950s.
And now packaging heaven has added another notch to the proverbial golf belt – a rebirth of sorts after a decade of deflation and terror about where the brand was headed.
With a younger demographic participating in golf, Myrtle Beach has ramped up its digital and social media campaign during the COVID-19 years and now in 2022, opening this spring the new PlayGolfMyrtleBeach.com digital studio, its state-of-the-art multimedia facility located within the Barefoot Resort golf footprint to help Spread the word.
Among the many items, the studio is used to produce the Charlie Rymer Golf Show, which airs on ESPN2, along with interviews with influencers within the golf course community that marketing executives can use on social media and beyond.
Rymer moved from Orlando and Golf Channel to Myrtle Beach three years ago.
“The thing I really like about Myrtle Beach golf is when you start looking at the equation of quality that you get and then you look at the economic aspect that we offer, I’m going to take on anything else in the world,” said Rimmer, who grew up in Fort Mill, South Carolina, and played college golf at Georgia Tech before heading off to the PGA Tour.” “I tell people there are some really great places to go, and I’m going to pick Pebble Beach a bit for a second. If you go to Pebble Beach for a week to play golf, you better be on a company credit card. If you are going somewhere to play golf for a week and are going to your credit card the Myrtle Beach card is very attractive. You can’t beat it.”
The golf capital of the world – as marketers like to call it the region – once made a list of over 110 golf courses. This impressive number started declining rapidly starting in 1999 as developers began plowing after the course for real estate dollars.
“Our land here from a development standpoint has been faltering, sprawling,” says Tracy Conner, president of the Myrtle Beach-area Golf Course Owners Association.
The first development bite was the Gator Hole in North Myrtle Beach, and now that number is over thirty, according to Conner. In fact, one track – Belle Terre – opened and closed in just six years, and the new Interstate 31 devoured it.
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“The Gator Hole had incredible driving range and did an incredible job right on Kings Highway, but this golf course is sold out for retail and some apartment buildings are on the back end,” he says. “What the developers were looking for was location. For them the golf course was an undeveloped piece of land. They looked at this golf course differently than they did in a retail establishment. If a Kmart had been there for 30 years and someone came and stripped it and built something else. Nobody cared about it, nobody thought about it, but there were connections to these golf courses.
“The 38 courses developed since (1999) had little to do with their bottom line earnings or P and L, they had everything to do with their location and zoning. This is what drove the golf course development or not, And not whether they make money or lose money.”
At the same time, vacationers in Myrtle Beach were getting older, which suddenly created a new, exponentially increased golf demographic—local play.
“We were building golf courses in the ’80s and ’90s, and we filled them up every year—the size of golfers was crazy,” Conner says. “Then Tiger came in in the late ’90s to give us another little shot in the arm, and then in the early 2000s, he started to back him up a little bit. It was the result of our best clients who fell year after year who hit retirement age in the Northeast, and guess what, They moved to Myrtle Beach, and that started our transformation. They would land here and join a club or group of clubs, so instead of paying the tourist price now they are locals and paying a lot less than they did in previous years. It wasn’t trivial. It was a massive influx that happened when There was a housing boom that lasted until 2008.”
On average, 44 people now commute to Horry County, South Carolina—the meat of the Grand Strand—every day, Conner says, and he thinks the shrinking golf course has leveled off. And in an odd way, it did really well for the golf course in the area.
“The growth is more inward and the golf business is getting a lot stronger, so if you own a golf course in a great location and customize it properly, it’s not the time to sell,” Conner says. “Suppose a 150-acre golf course was worth $10 million at the time, it might be worth $12 million today, but if you could wait another 10 years, it would probably be worth $25 million.”
“During the golf boom, people were building golf courses left and right here, and in hindsight it was way too much,” adds Kyle Holland, director of digital marketing at Golf Tourism Solutions, the marketing arm of Myrtle Beach Golf. “The courses that had to be closed have closed, and that’s not necessarily the worst thing, maybe a lower level course that hasn’t been played as much and now you’re taking those rounds and putting them on another course. We see more people wanting to play, more people wanting Visiting Myrtle Beach, and more people coming from different areas that we haven’t seen before, like from the Midwest and the West. Southwest Airlines just came to our airport over the past year, which is huge for us. More access creates more opportunities.”
There’s also another phenomenon happening with Myrtle Beach golf this summer.
“The great thing about Myrtle Beach is that we’re on a one-day drive from 60 percent of the population in the United States,” Conner said. “When gas prices go up, tourism goes up historically in Myrtle Beach and that doesn’t make any sense, but what happens is our friends in the Northeast and Canada who go to Florida can cut the price in half and just stop in Myrtle Beach. We don’t want to jump over our skis, But we are very optimistic and all the signs are looking forward to enjoying a very good golf season in 2022.”