FGI golf courses Grande Dunes, River Hills will be renovated

Founders Group International is closing two of its 21 Grand Strand golf courses this summer for renovations.

The Grande Dunes Resort Course at Myrtle Beach will close on May 16 for a major renovation project that includes rebuilding its greens, restoring and enhancing bunkers, and reconfiguring the interior of the clubhouse.

River Hills Golf & Country Club in Little River SC is slated to close June 20 to replant greens and improve bunkers.

River Hills is expected to reopen on June 21st.

September 15 is the target reopening date for the Resort Course.

The Grande Dunes Project

The 7,578-yard resort course was designed by Roger Rulewich to open in 2001, with designer John Harvey doing much of the work on site. It has six tee boxes per hole and several holes along the Intracoastal Waterway.

Harvey was hired to oversee the renovation work and the team with Max Morgan, FGI’s vice president and head of agronomy. Morgan was also involved in the original construction.

“We want to keep the integrity of the golf course intact, so we want to work with the person who helped lay it out or laid it out,” said FGI President Steve Mays. “Grande Dunes is one of the best golf courses on the beach and we want to take that to the next level and I think this renovation will do that.”

The green project involves the removal of a 3-inch layer of straw that has developed over the years and is affecting drainage and the health of the grass. Installing TifEagle Ultradwarf Bermudagrass.

“In the end there were some challenges that we don’t have everywhere that made it difficult to maintain the standard that we wanted,” Mays said.

The greens are enlarged back to their original size. Bunkers will regain some of their lost definition and some will shrink as ridges have increased in size and affected their definition over the years.

“In 20 years we have lost a lot [of green size] there and that golf course was designed with big greens, so we want to bring them back pretty close to their original size,” Mays said. “This project will allow us to keep the greens in optimal shape.”

The Resort Course opened with bentgrass greens that were changed to Champion Ultradwarf Bermuda in 2012.

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14th hole, par 3 on the Grande Dunes Resort Course. The Sun News file photo

Bunkers are resurfaced with a layer of porous capillary concrete to aid in their drainage and consistency.

“Everything has a life cycle, and for golf courses it’s 20 or a little over 20 years, that’s usually the time frame for bunkers,” Mays said. “Bunkers lose their shape over time, so I think this allows us to go back inside and recover the shapes of the bunkers as they were originally intended.”

The clubhouse has several pillars and arches, some of which will be removed. A glass wall is added to open up the interior. The bar will be moved to the center of the clubhouse and enlarged, the pro shop will be expanded by approximately 300 square feet, and casual lounge seating will be added on the outdoor patio, which will be enlarged.

Multiple televisions and an indoor-outdoor audio system will be installed to give the clubhouse a more festive atmosphere.

Some shrubs and palm trees will be removed or relocated to reveal the 18th green and other areas of the course.

“We’re just going to focus on making it more inviting,” said Joe Dipre, general manager of the resort course and FGI regional manager for the north end of The Strand, which includes River Hills.

“They did a great job with this building, but after 20 years the styles and the way we work have changed. It just makes sense to create a bigger bar and a place for people to relax after their round and watch TV and have something to eat and drink.”

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A golfer tees off at the Grande Dunes Resort Course. File photo from The Sun News

The River Hills Project

River Hills, a 6,923-yard layout that opened in 1988, was designed by Tom Jackson, who will assist with the renovations.

TifEagle Bermuda will also be installed at River Hills and the greens will be enlarged back to their original size, which will roughly double their current area due to the large amount of fairway interference that has occurred.

A less invasive no-till revegetation method allows for a faster reopening of the course than Grande Dunes.

Capillary concrete is also used as the foundation for the bunkers in River Hills, and some are reshaped and/or reduced in size, particularly those located on the game’s periphery.

“It allows us to have a much more consistent playing surface year-round despite the rain,” said Mays, who said FGI now has a partnership with Capillary Concrete. “As bunkers age and the drainage in them ages, those rains hit them harder. Suddenly there is a downpour that rains for a while and you get an inch or two of rain, many of the bunkers will hold water. If we do that with Capillary Concrete, we can avoid those situations.”

The summer project continues recent improvements at River Hills. The clubhouse was renovated in 2019.

“What we want to do as a company is continue to improve our product and invest in our golf courses to make them better and make them the best of Myrtle Beach,” Mays said.

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Ryan Martin of Pretonsburg, Kentucky crosses the 17th hole at River Hills Golf & Country Club in Little River on Friday August 7, 2015. By Janet Blackmon Morgan jblackmon@thesunnews.com

This story was originally published Mar 18, 2022 9:11 am.

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Alan Blondin covers golf, the University of Coastal Carolina and track and field, and numerous other sports-related topics worthy of coverage. The 1992 Northeastern University graduating top student in Myrtle Beach, Horry County and Grand Strand has been a reporter at The Sun News since 1993 after working for newspapers in Texas and Massachusetts. Since 2007, he has received eight Top 10 National Writing Awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors and 20 Top 3 Writing Awards from the SC Press Association.

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