SPECIAL REPORT: Despite the closing of many local golf courses, the golf industry stays steady

The trend of closing golf courses and turning them into housing developments has upset a lot of people who moved to those properties because they wanted to live on a golf course.

That’s basically what’s happened in the Deerfield community near Surfside Beach.

Tom Thornton moved there from Pittsburgh in 2005. The next year, the two Deer Track courses closed. And now, 13 years later, what used to be a fairway in his back yard is now a construction site.

“It’s a shame because people who bought to be on a golf course, bought to have open space behind them,” Thornton said. “It’s a shame so many are disappearing, particularly between the ocean and the bypass. I suppose the property is more valuable as a housing development than as a golf course.”

Bill Golden has marketed the Myrtle Beach-area golf industry for 20 years, and he agrees.

“It’s unfortunate,” Golden says, “but as golf evolves and many of these courses were built for real estate purposes in the first place, the game couldn’t sustain the number of golf courses we had.”

He says the same thing has happened all over the country and in many markets where the population isn’t growing as it is here. As for numbers around here, it appears the peak for Grand Strand-area courses, both public and private, was 114, in 2002. Most of those were in Horry County, with the others in Georgetown and Brunswick Counties.

(Note: In the 13-year period from 1988 to 2001, 65 courses opened. In the 18 years since, five opened and none since 2009.)

Since the peak in 2002, the area has seen a net loss of 21 courses, to stand at 93. That’s down nearly 18.5 percent.  During the same time, Horry County’s population has risen more than 61 percent. However, Golden doesn’t feel fewer courses means fewer golfers.

“Assuming some of the courses are closing, there’s no question those rounds aren’t going to evaporate,” Golden said. “They’ll go somewhere else, which will make the overall industry healthier.”

However, the trend has some people in the real estate industry more careful when dealing with golf course properties.

Brittany Collins, with The Collins Team at the Realty One Group, said, “if you want to be in this type of community, do your research, talk to a lot of people and make sure if there’s talk about change happening, that you’re mindful of that.” Among the people to talk to, the HOA and people currently living there. Find out about the course ownership and secure an experienced real estate agent.

Tom Thornton agrees and goes a step further. “I would be concerned if the course, like Deerfield, weaved it ways through the houses. It’s one thing if the course is contained and the homes are around it.  It’s more contained that way.” However, he adds, “now everybody who lives here is impacted, and you don’t up with the kind of area you thought you were moving into.”

When asked if he knew then (2005) what he knows now, would he have moved here, he sighed and said, “probably not.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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