Hilton Head Island's Bear Creek and Dolphin Head golf courses are changing hands, finalizing transactions that will end their private status and open tee times to the public.
Dolphin Head Golf Club is set to become the newest member of Brown Golf Management's expanding portfolio when its sale closes Wednesday. The Gary Player design will become Brown Golf's first course on Hilton Head and its sixth in the area.
"The golf course is very good. I think it's one of Gary Player's best," said Brown Golf CEO John Brown, speaking from an industry conference in California. "I'm so excited to partner with the membership base at Dolphin Head."
Bear Creek took on public play starting last week, as part of its transition to Dallas-based Advance Golf Corp. New rates are slated to go into effect Thursday, along with promotions highlighting the club's new semi-private status. That sale is slated to close Nov. 1.
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"Bear Creek is now a full-on public course with membership attributes," said Jonathan Elliott, Bear Creek's assistant pro shop manager. "We're open to the public and welcome any play."
The transactions will leave all four Hilton Head Plantation courses as semi-private.
"We're excited that they're moving forward," said Peter Kristian, general manager of the Hilton Head Plantation Property Owners' Association. "We know that golf is going through a transition and in some instances, it's been tough times for golf."
Participation rates nationwide were hit hard by the economic malaise of the past several years, though numbers have stabilized in recent months. The National Golf Foundation reports course closings have outnumbered new layouts every year since 2006.
Even so, it has created opportunities for such entities as Brown Golf, which has acquired six golf courses in 2015 and looks to add two more before the year is out.
"We've been working on (Dolphin Head) for the better part of nine or 10 months," Brown said. "It's not an easy transaction. In a gated community, there were a number of groups involved, a number of hoops to jump through. It took time, but ultimately we got to where we are."
Representatives of Advance Golf did not return calls seeking comment.
Bear Creek, a 1980 Rees Jones design, will become the third South Carolina course in the Advance Golf portfolio alongside Legends Golf Resort in Myrtle Beach and Heritage GC on Pawley's Island. Advance also owns or operates two courses in North Carolina, two in Sarasota, Fla., and three in Texas.
Dolphin Head, opened in 1974 as Hilton Head Plantation's first golf course, underwent a Clyde Johnston renovation five years ago. Its acquisition brings Brown Golf up to 28 courses in seven states, including Bluffton venues Pinecrest GC, Rose Hill GC, Island West GC, Eagle's Pointe GC and Crescent Pointe GC.
Follow reporter Jeff Shain at twitter.com/Jeff_Shain.