The management and marketing firm for club properties centered in the Myrtle Beach, S.C. area has given up majority ownership to Zealandia, which is based in Asheville, N.C. The arrangement will provide ECGM with the capital resources needed to improve and expand its portfolio, according to President Mike Buccerone.
One of the largest golf course management and marketing companies on the “Grand Strand” of the Myrtle Beach, S.C. region has given up majority ownership of its business to a company based in Asheville, N.C., The Sun News of Myrtle Beach reported.
East Coast Golf Management (ECGM) has partnered with the Zealandia Holding Co., which has become the principal owner through the agreement that took effect in May, The Sun News reported.
East Coast Golf Management President Mike Buccerone told The Sun News that he and partner Rob Mosser remain partners in 49 percent of ECGM, while Zealandia has taken over 51 percent of ownership.
“It gives us the capital resources to grow, establish what we want to do in Myrtle Beach, and gives us an opportunity to add more value to our partners here at the beach and outside,” Buccerone said. “We’re excited about where things are going.”
East Coast manages three Grand Strand courses—Rivers Edge Golf Club, Diamondback Golf Club and Wachesaw East Golf Club—has a maintenance and marketing agreement with Brick Landing Plantation Golf Club, and has a marketing/consulting cooperative that includes more than 20 Strand courses, The Sun News reported.
It also has management and coop agreements with a few courses outside the area, and ECGM has also moved its headquarters from Indigo Creek Golf Club to Wachesaw East Golf Club in Murrells Inlet, S.C., The Sun News reported.
“We needed more capital resources, employees and more of the infrastructure at the back of the house to grow,” Buccerone told The Sun News. “That was always the vision, and how do you get there? We’re able to have an infrastructure in place with resources from an accounting side, [human resources] side, [and] payroll [all]done out of the home office in Asheville.”
The addition of Zealandia also gives ECGM an opportunity to expand, Buccerone said, with the company looking for courses within about a four-hour drive from Myrtle Beach.
“We are looking for other facilities that fit in our business plan that we would look to manage,” Buccerone told The Sun News. “Now that we have additional resources we can look at that. We can create more of that stay-and-play environment and get those people coming to the beach. That’s part of our management philosophy. They get the benefits of what we do here at the beach.”
Since 2001, Zealandia Holding Co. has acquired or invested in 22 companies predominantly in resorts and real estate, The Sun News reported. ECGM is its first golf course management company.
Buccerone said the partnership gives East Coast the opportunity to pitch its benefits to Zealandia’s other properties, and he recently gave a presentation at Zealandia’s leadership conference in Atlanta, The Sun News reported. He believes there is an opportunity to tie golf vacations to Myrtle Beach into the benefits of time-share properties and resorts owned or operated by Zealandia.
“They serve as that support role for us and capital resources, and part of our long-term plan is to look at their other resorts around the country and try to grow that business with their resorts,” Buccerone said.
ECGM has also merged with Worldwide Golf Marketing, which was owned and operated by A.J. Gohil, who had been a longtime marketing executive with Myrtle Beach National Co. and National Golf Management (NGM), following Myrtle Beach National’s merger with Burroughs & Chapin Golf Management in 2012, The Sun News reported.
Gohil created his own marketing company after Founders Group International acquired NGM in 2015, and is now ECGM’s vice president of sales and business development.
East Coast has also hired Chris Hendrick as Vice President of Operations, The Sun News reported. Hendrick, a former Director of Regional Operations for NGM, had been working heavily with the Myrtle Beach Area Golf Course Owners Association through his company, Summit Golf Services.
“We did it because it brings stability to the company and gives us the opportunity to put resources into experts in the golf business, to be able to get them on our team,” Buccerone told The Sun News. “And getting [Zealandia] involved, they’re putting in those resources for us to grow.”
East Coast Golf Events, which owns the National Father & Son Team Classic that is held on the Grand Strand in July, remains a separate entity owned by Buccerone along with Mosser, who is also General Manager of Wachesaw East GC, and former East Coast Golf Management partner Chuck Hutchinson, The Sun News reported.
Zealandia has ownership interest in several businesses, including Wachesaw East GC, the Festiva Resorts time share company, Festiva Sailing Vacations in the Caribbean and Greek isles, and Patton Hospitality Management, The Sun News reported.
Festiva Resorts has operated the vacation property Ellington at Wachesaw Plantation East for several years, and it became the sole owner of the golf course in January 2017.
The relationship between Zealandia and ECGM began four years when Wachesaw East joined the East Coast co-op, The Sun News reported.
Mosser, ECGM’s Executive Vice President, became a partner in ECGM three years ago, and was the one who initiated talks with Zealandia, The Sun News reported.
Buccerone said he met late last year and early this year with Zealandia co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Butch Patrick and Chief Financial Officer Dennis Patenotte, leading to the purchase agreement.
Properties in ECGM’s marketing cooperative include Blackmoor, Whispering Pines, International Club of Myrtle Beach, Indigo Creek, River Oaks, Beachwood, Eagle Nest, Crown Park, Crow Creek, Brunswick Plantation, Farmstead, Meadowlands, The Pearl East and West, Thistle, Sandpiper Bay, Brunswick Plantation, Lockwood Folly and Carolina National, The Sun News reported.
Buccerone said some of those courses are expected to drop out of the co-op in 2019.
ECGM also manages Grand Harbor Golf & Yacht Club in Ninety-Six, S.C., Hunter’s Creek Golf and Country Club in Greenwood, S.C., and includes Timberlake Country Club in Chapin, S.C. in its co-op, The Sun News reported.
The marketing cooperative features a Platinum player membership program, vendor agreements, revenue management tools, golf package promotion and concierge services.