Changing Face of Magnolia Greens
Story By Bryan Stange
Photography By Megan Deitz
American author Bruce Barton is quoted as saying, “When you are through changing, you are through.” The same can be said of a golf course. A course must continue to be constantly maintained and updated in order to hold the attention of its players. This is especially true with courses in southeastern North Carolina. With so many choices of great courses to play competition runs high between the courses along Highway 17. Those with top designer name tags attached, such as Arnold Palmer’s River Edge, Tim Cate’s Tiger’s Eye and The Thistle, Rick Robbins’ Crow Creek, and Willard Byrd’s Farmstead, dot the highway as one travels south. And then there are courses with holes along the Intracoastal, and/or through picturesque marshes, such as Glen Dornoch in Little River.
This situation is a very good thing for the golfer. Competition keeps standards high, and the courses that stand out in this region do so because they are truly top notch. Courses must change and must be in pristine condition in order to make it here.
Golfers who choose to frequent Magnolia Greens can expect to see their course change a good deal over the coming months and years, and chances are good they are going to really like the changes that lie ahead.
Magnolia Greens came under new ownership in June 2010. The course was bought from the developers of the Magnolia Greens Community by a group called Magnolia Greens Golf Ventures, LLC.
While the community developers clearly took the business of managing the golf course very seriously, they likely also saw the course as an amenity for the community, which would serve as a means of selling homes. The new owners plan to maintain the lofty reputation that Magnolia Greens has achieved as a great golf course, while elevating that image to where players begin to see the course as a very highly advanced golf complex.
The management selected Rick Ferrell to run the course as the general manager and head golf professional. Originally from Burgaw, Ferrell has spent his entire professional career on a golf course. From washing carts part time during the summers at Olde Point to managing Cedarwood Country Club in Charlotte and then River’s Edge in Shallotte, Ferrell has arrived in Leland. The call of home drew him back to his roots, and his professional connection to the new owners provided him the opportunity to take his place managing one of the most attractive courses in the state.
“Most people already recognize it as a really good facility,” he says.
Plans are in place to make it truly great.
Presently, the course is set up with three sets of nine holes for a total of 27 holes. Under the new ownership, the course will be separated into one 18-hole course and a nine-hole “development course.”
For the 18-hole course, Ferrell assures that players can expect the same high standards in regard to the conditions of this course that they have come to expect from the Magnolia Greens course. Marty Walker, who has been with Magnolia Greens for 13 years, will continue to serve as head golf course superintendent and will continue to do the same stellar job of keeping the course in good condition.
The nine-hole course (holes 19 to 27) will be less expensive to play and will be designated for those who may be young players, beginning players or those who may just want to work on a specific skill and therefore want to play a slower round. The idea is that this course will serve to encourage a wider range of people to get out and play.
The new owners are taking this ideal of encouraging new golfers well beyond just setting up a designated nine holes. By working with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and The First Tee of Brunswick County, programs will be developed that will offer golfing opportunities to children of varying demographics as well as to individuals with mental and physical challenges.
The First Tee is a nonprofit organization with programs across the country that allow all types of children, many of whom would not normally have the means to partake in the sport, the opportunity to learn the sport of golf.
One of the main aspects of the program that sets it apart from other youth golf programs is that the program also teaches what it calls, “The First Tee Life Skills Experience.” While teaching golf, the program coordinators also conduct exercises aimed to teach the children things like the value of keeping a positive attitude, setting goals and how to make decisions by comparing the pros and cons.
“The kids get to play golf, develop character and learn good life lessons,” says Ferrell.
Magnolia Greens management realized that the Brunswick County program is already a particularly successful program, and they hope to make it even more successful by supporting it.
Through coordination with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Magnolia Greens will also arrange a program that will allow handicapped individuals the ability to get out on the golf course and play at their own pace.
“The program with UNCW is to promote golfers with disabilities like those with autism or amputees,” says Ferrell. “There’s nowhere around Wilmington that offers them a place to play that is affordable and accessible for them.”
Perhaps one of the most exciting changes to the course is scheduled to take place in the beginning of 2011. The course will become more focused on golf instruction and teaching, and the owners are investing in the latest tools available to achieve this end. A state-of-the-art teaching facility will be constructed on the practice range. This building will have roll-up bay doors so that players will be covered from the elements but can still strike shots just as they would on the course. The structure will be outfitted with video instruction and swing analysis systems so that players and instructors can break down every single aspect of a player’s swing.
“It gets kind of technical,” says Ferrell. “Everything is trackable: how fast the club head is moving through the ball, the spin of the ball as it comes off the club, the angle of the club through the swing.”
Eagle Point, a private course in Porter’s Neck, has this technology, but Magnolia Greens will be the only course in the area to make this experience available to the public.
“This will be available to all caliber of golfers, but the new golfers may not get as much out of it,” says Ferrell. “It becomes more valuable as your skills improve. It really shows them what they are doing [in their swing].”
Magnolia Greens’ restaurant and grill area also will be upgraded. A renovation is planned for the existing grill, and changes will be made to allow the grill to have a little more variety in what is prepared.
The changes scheduled for Magnolia Greens will eventually move the course to a new league.
“When people think of golf in the Wilmington area, we want Magnolia Greens to be the first thing they think of,” says Ferrell.
1800 Linkwood Drive
Leland, NC 28451
The First Tee
of Brunswick County/The Carol S. Petrea Youth Golf Foundation
27 Fairmont Street
Ocean Isle Beach, NC 28469