The rejuvenated Midlands Golf Course Owners Association adopted an age-old philosophy to create a different outlook, and results of the plan paid dividends in its first year.
“Hopefully,” president Greg McBride said, “this is just the start.”
Indeed, the idea of cooperating with competitors was hard to swallow in some quarters, but McBride pointed to the truth of the adage that a rising tide floats all boats.
“Working together is a win-win for the owners and the players,” he said. “Courses reduce expenses, and players get improved conditions.”
The year’s success story included increased sales of the organization’s passport book that offered preferred rates, and the purchase of six golf carts members could use at no charge.
The passport books not only got players onto courses, but also generated $3,500 for the South Carolina Junior Golf Foundation. The golf carts saved clubs untold dollars.
“Look at it this way,” said McBride, professional at the Spur at Northwoods. “If a club has an event and needs extra carts, it’s about $1,000 to rent 10 carts and have them trucked in from Augusta. Our members can use our carts at no charge and add 12 more players.”
The cart-share plan worked so well that plans for 2017 include the purchase of a stump grinder, a wood chiper and a root pruner that, again, member courses can use at no charge.
“Equipment like that is the first thing to get cut in figuring budgets,” McBride said. “Now, for $150 (membership dues), clubs will have use of equipment they would have to rent for far more.”
Course owners see the logic, and membership is on the rise. Down to 11 at the start of last year from a one-time high of 24, the organization added two clubs in 2016, and McBride expects 17 or 18 will be in the fold for 2017.
“One owner told me, ‘you have a good thing going; just send me the bill’ for dues, McBride said. “We’ve also had interest from the Aiken area.”
McBride will continue as president and Dian Berry from Golden Hills will again be vice-president and secretary. Chris Bennett, superintendent at Forest Lake Club, takes over the treasurer duties. Clem King, Country Club of Lexington, and Tom Mason, Par-Tee Golf Center, are directors at-large and SCGA executive director Happ Lathrop is consultant.
“It’s no secret that the boom of a few years ago is over and some clubs are struggling,” McBride said. “The initial rationale for a struggling club is, ‘I’ll battle by myself.’ I won’t tell anyone what to charge, but saving money on things like golf carts and maintenance equipment helps the bottom line, and the result is good for everybody. We spend (the association’s) money to benefit the group.”
Among initiatives in the coming year will be added emphasis on junior golf. A tournament is already scheduled for the Members Club’s Woodcreek course, and another is planned for a start-up to the high school spring season.
“The tournament will be open to team and individual play,” McBride said. “Coaches will have the opportunity to see how players compete under tournament conditions, and at the same time we hope we’re developing golfers for the future
“We have some momentum, and if we keep going like we have been, everybody wins.”
Two of Sea Pines Resort’s courses – the Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III and Heron Point by Pete Dye, will reopen this week, with Harbour Town Golf Links scheduled to be available for play later in November. Following cleanup after Hurricane Matthew on Hilton Head Island, Atlantic Dunes reopens Monday and Heron Point on Wednesday. Harbour Town’s availability remains to be decided. … In Stage II of the LPGA qualifying school in Venice, Fla., current USC All-American Katelyn Dambaugh, competing as an amateur, and former USC star Justine Dreher advanced to Stage III. Columbia native Lauren Dunbar, who played at Wofford, and former Gamecock Sarah Schmelzel missed the cut. … The South Regional Preview, which provides a look at the 2017 NCAA Division II Women’s South Regional, will be played Sunday through Tuesday at the Members Club’s Woodcreek Course. The regional, hosted by Newberry, is scheduled for May 8-10 at Woodcreek.