Beaufort News

Golf academy plans to build $8 million campus in Bluffton

The Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy has asked the town of Bluffton to approve a new $8 million campus at Old Carolina. The barn on the property, pictured above, would become a golf training center.
The Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy has asked the town of Bluffton to approve a new $8 million campus at Old Carolina. The barn on the property, pictured above, would become a golf training center. Jay Karr, The Island Packet

The Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy has applied to build its new campus -- with an indoor golf-training complex, one outdoor driving range, classrooms and student housing -- in the Old Carolina community in Bluffton.

The campus, estimated to cost $8 million, could open by next fall if the town approves it.

The expansion follows record growth at the academy, according to Peter Orrell, CEO of the academy's parent company, Junior Sports Corp.

Another subsidiary of the corporation -- the Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy that opened this spring on Hilton Head Island -- might also spill over to the new campus. A tennis complex with 10 courts is requested in the development application, although Orrell said growth at both academies might eventually lead to the Bluffton campus being devoted to golf while the Hilton Head campus is reserved for tennis.

Students at the year-round golf academy, ranging in age from 13 to 22, are expected to continue practicing at the neighboring Pinecrest golf course because of an ongoing contract, according to Pinecrest club manager Martha Burleson.

The nine-hole Old Carolina course, which has an entrance off Buck Island Road, would remain open for public use. Currently, golf academy students commute from housing scattered around southern Beaufort County to play on courses in Bluffton. The academy's administrative offices, an indoor practice facility and the Heritage Academy, where students take classes, are all in different locations on Hilton Head, Orrell said.

If Bluffton approves the development plans, students would be housed in a 48-unit townhouse complex to be built at Old Carolina. They would attend classes on the property and train in a new fitness center. A cafeteria and meeting center also would be built.

An 18,000-square-foot horse barn now used as a golf pro shop and for storage would be converted to a golf training center, according to the application submitted to the town.

A consolidated campus is popular among current and prospective students and their families, Orrell said.

"We're getting high levels of demand, especially as they find out about this plan," he said.

Orrell estimated enrollment would increase by 40 percent for the 2012-13 school year. This year, about 150 students are enrolled.

The tennis academy has 13 students, with enrollment limited to a few more spots in the spring, Orrell said. Tennis students would continue to practice at the Port Royal Racquet Club and attend the Heritage Academy on Hilton Head after the new campus opens, Orrell said.

The town's growth management staff is reviewing additional application materials submitted by the project's developer, Hope Ventures LLC, department director Marc Orlando said.

To be approved, the application must be passed to the Planning Commission and then to Bluffton Town Council for two readings.

Tom Dardaris, treasurer of the Traditions at Old Carolina homeowners association, said the expansion would bring welcomed stability to the residential golf community. Changes in the community's ownership over the years resulted in closing the original 18-hole course, which was reopened as a nine-hole public course by the current owner.

Homeowners at Traditions, which has 132 properties, recently voted 70-2 to change the community's bylaws to allow the campus, Dardaris said.

"It puts money into the course and facilities here and enhances our values and our future, in terms of living here," Dardaris said. "It's a win for the community and, really, for the whole town."

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.

Related contentIvan Lendl opening tennis academy on Hilton Head Island, June 3, 2011Hank Haney IJGA explores expansion options, June 2, 2011

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