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Story by Ian Guerin
LONGS, S.C. | Old-school golf works well in some parts of the world. At Aberdeen Country Club, it was time to advance its secondary market. The course, which originally opened in 1989, closed its doors temporarily after flooding stemming from Hurricane in 2016. And when it re-opened after the nearby Waccamaw River water tables returned to normal levels, there was a kicker. Now, complete with a new-age, 4,000-square-foot clubhouse serving as the center point of the 27-hole Tom Jackson design, the course is giving players reason to visit the north Grand Strand course all over again.
“A big part of what we’re trying to do in Myrtle Beach and golf in general is get that younger crowd in there, into golf and stay comfortable with the clubhouse,” Head Golf Professional and General Manager Corey Bowers said.
“At a few of the golf courses I’ve worked at, it’s dark and gloomy. It’s old-fashioned golf where the good ol’ boys are sitting in there having a cigar and a drink. Nowadays, with the newer generation, we’re finding they want to go out to the sports bar after the round and watch the game and hang out and have a good time. To have a clubhouse that’s very light in the back, have more high-top tables and TVs to watch the games and a nice bar up front, it’s been perceived very well.”Even before players reach the pro shop, an updated logo - in the shape of a red dragon - greets those making the drive up the property. And in the span of a year, those two items have signified change.
In part, they’ve probably also helped reinvigorate play.
Bowers said rounds have increased dramatically in the 12 months since the course reopened. More players are tacking playing the Meadows, Highlands and Woodlands nines all in the same day, and a fair share are taking advantage of that bar and grill before going out for another full 18. In the case of Western Pennsylvania resident Smokey Burdin, he had chased a recent round with a booked foursome for the next day. He noted that although it was his first round of the year, the layout was welcoming and free of gimmicks. “It’s enjoyable because it’s different. I expected to see a lot more trees out there. I haven’t hit any trees, so obviously they did something wrong,” Burdin joked. “But I think it’s a pretty open course and the greens are good.” Burdin’s reaction to his first visit to Aberdeen is the goal for Bowers and Co., who want to expose as many players as possible to the course. What they’ll find is one that has fought off some of the negative stereotypes associated with the hurricane-related closing.
“People see that we were closed after the storm [and think] ‘It’s wet, it’s underwater. It’s always going to be cart-path only.’ It’s not - it’s actually one of the driest courses I’ve ever worked at,” Bowers said. “We have tons of compliments rolling in about course conditions. The number of rounds we have coming in here versus what we had in the past is a tell-tale sign of those course conditions.”
Much of them can be attributed to a high-tech pump system that drains or increases water on the course and is updated daily. It allows the course to bounce back from heavy downpours quicker than most, even though a good portion of it was built into natural wetlands. Bowers is finding that putting it altogether has been a huge plus. “Having that installed and working properly day in and day out makes the golf course all that much better,” he said. “It’s probably helped make us one of the best values in Myrtle Beach as far as what we offer.”