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September 2018

The Growth Factor

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Eagle Nest is growing in size, scope and technical capabilities

By Steve Donahue

Eagle Nest Golf Club, a popular family-run operation on the Myrtle Beach scene since 1971, is keeping its family ties intact, strengthening key personnel and adding course changes that make it South Carolina’s longest layout.

The facility in Little River was founded and built by popular South Carolina state senator Dick Elliott, who died in June 2014. Dick’s son, Rick, and Rick’s mom, Anne, have owned Eagle Nest ever since, with Rick running daily operations until this year, when they hired Jim Kane as director of golf operations and revenue manager.

“The daily operations fall on me now,” says Kane.

Eagle Nest is making big news, literally and figuratively, with its new “Perch” back tees, which were expected to open for play by late July or early August. The elevated tees resemble bird nests, surrounded by wire, cord and sweet grasses and will provide the course an 8,100-yard measurement from the tips, making it the state’s longest course and one of the nation’s longest.

“Obviously, the golf course, with the equipment and balls are growing in length, we have the opportunity to grow with it as well,” Kane says. “Since we have the space for it we went ahead as we were able to accommodate it on the longer and shorter ends for the growing generations to come.”

Rick Elliott has said publicly that the Perch tees probably won’t open to public play most of the time, but would be available for potential tournaments, with occasionally some holes open for the general public to “give it a go,” like the 266-yard, par 3, 18th hole over water.

Kane concurs.

“Given the opportunity it would be an operational nightmare if folks who weren’t capable to play those long tee sets were out there playing a six-and-a-half-hour round,” he says. “That’s the last thing we were looking to do, but we’re certainly looking to put on tournaments out there to accommodate PGA members and professionals as well.”

The course is also adding Super Senior and U.S. Kids tees, giving Eagle Nest seven tee-box options from 3,900 to 8,168 yards.

“The 3,900-yard teal tees accommodate our super seniors, lady golfers, new golfers and juniors,” Kane says. “It gives us the most playable golf course anywhere in the Carolinas.”

Because the Perch tees and their length will create most of the buzz, the staff will go out of its way to make sure golfers are aware of the fact there are seven sets of tees, with the shortest set being very short and fair.

“It’s something we try to do daily,” says Kane. “We do it to every person who calls on the phone, taking queries I get on the website, yeah, we try to promote that every way possible.”

The unique Perch tees represent the potential for marketing, perhaps with a logo on various shop merchandise, menu items, etc., but management is being patient on that front.

“At this point, being in the grow-in phase,” says Kane, “we’re going to see how much we put [the Perch tees] in play before we co-brand those tees with our original logo.”

The final stages of the club’s improvement project involve fairways and greens drainage repair with updated technology; cart-path rebuilding using limestone crushed rock that began last June; and bunker work that commenced June 1. Eagle Nest has also finished building a brand-new, 6,500 square-foot practice facility.

“We completely dug out our previous practice area,” says Kane. “We put in sand and built it to USGA regulations.”
Many courses owned for a long time by the same family or operator tend to get set in their ways. It appears Eagle Nest is heading in the other direction.

“Without a doubt,” says Kane. “Anytime, as a golf-course operator, you have to bring in the best and the brightest, whether it’s software, new ideas for development programs, which I’ll certainly bring a lot to, given my nature. Those are always things that you’re always doing to grow the game and grow the number of golfers that frequent your golf course. I’ve always found developmental programs useful. Anytime you can create a new program you’re better off than you were before.”

Kane also is excited for the technological possibilities the new practice facility offers.

“As we’re growing our practice facility we’ll love to bring all the technology for the simulators and Trackman to see how far the golf ball is going,” he says. “Also, implementing technology in the teaching aspect would be huge for this facility to grow.”  

Steve Donahue is a Connecticut-based freelance writer.

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