The FGI Grande Dunes and River Hills golf courses will be renovated

Founders Group International is closing a pair of its 21 golf courses on the Grand Strand for refurbishment this summer.

The Grande Dunes Resort course in Myrtle Beach will close May 16 for an extensive renovation project that includes rebuilding its greens, restoring and improving bunkers, and reconfiguring the clubhouse interior.

The River Hills Golf & Country Club in Little River SC is scheduled to close on June 20 in order to re-grass the greens and improve the bunkers.

River Hills is scheduled to reopen on August 21.

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

The Great Dunes Project

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

Harvey was hired to oversee the renovations and team up with Max Morgan, FGI vice president and director 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 build it or made it happen,” said FGI President Steve Mays. “Grande Dunes is one of the best golf courses on the beach and we want to elevate it even further, and I think this renovation will do that.”

The green project will include the removal of a 3 inch layer of thatch that has built up over the years which is impacting drainage and grass health. TifEagle ultradwarf Bermudagrass will be installed.

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

The greens will be enlarged to their original size. Bunkers will regain some of their lost definition and some will see their size shrink as edging over the years has added to their size and taken away from their definition.

“In 20 years, we have lost a lot [of green size] there and this golf course was designed with large 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 condition.”

The resort course opened with bentgrass greens which were replaced by Champion ultradwarf Bermuda in 2012.

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The par-3 14th hole of the Grande Dunes Resort course. news from the sun file photo

The bunkers will be redone using a layer of porous capillary concrete, which should facilitate their drainage and consistency.

“Everything has a life cycle, and for golf courses, just 20 years or just over 20 years is usually the time frame for bunkers,” Mays said. “Over time, the bunkers lose their shape, so I think this will allow us to go back and get the bunker shapes back as originally intended.”

The clubhouse has several pillars and arches, and some of them will be removed. A glass wall will be added to open up the interior. The bar will be relocated and expanded near the middle of the clubhouse, the pro shop will gain approximately 300 square feet, and casual seating will be added to the outdoor patio, which will be expanded.

Several 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 open up views of 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 Resort Course and FGI’s regional manager for the north end of the Strand, which also includes River Hills.

“They’ve done a great job with this building, but after 20 years the styles have changed and the way we operate has changed. It makes sense to create a bigger bar and a place for people after the tour to hang out. and watch televisions and have a meal and drink.

Resort route
A golfer plays on the course at Grande Dunes Resort Course. Sun News file photo

The River Hills Project

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

TifEagle Bermuda will also be set up at River Hills and the greens will be expanded to their original size, which will roughly double their current size due to the large amount of fairway encroachment that has occurred.

A less invasive no-till re-grassing method will allow the course to reopen faster than Grande Dunes.

Capillary concrete will also be used as the foundation for bunkers in River Hills, and some will be remodeled and/or reduced in size, especially those on the outskirts of the game.

“It allows us to keep a much more consistent playing surface year-round, despite the rain,” said Mays, who said FGI now has a partnership with Capillary Concrete. “As the bunkers age and the drainage ages, these rains hit them harder. All of a sudden you get a downpour that rains for a while and you get an inch or two of rain, lots of bunkers will hold water. Doing this with Capillary Concrete allows us to not have these 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 improve them and keep them the best in Myrtle Beach,” Mays said.

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Ryan Martin of Pretonsburg, Ky., walks through the water on the 17th hole at River Hills Golf & Country Club in Little River on Friday, August 7, 2015. By Janet Blackmon Morgan [email protected]

This story was originally published March 18, 2022 9:11 a.m.

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Alan Blondin covers golf, Coastal Carolina University, and track and field, as well as many other sports-related topics worth covering. Familiar with Myrtle Beach, Horry County and the Grand Strand, the 1992 Northeastern University Journalism School valedictorian has been a reporter for The Sun News since 1993 after working at newspapers in Texas and Massachusetts. He has won eight national Associated Press Top 10 Sportswriter writing awards and 20 SC Press Association Top Three writing awards since 2007.

Michael C. Ford