Calhoun Country Club: A Certified Golf Course Superintendent's Perspective

Mike Holt, a Certified Golf Course Superintendent (CGCS), is a resident of Calhoun County and has been in the golf industry for 27 years, 6 of those at Calhoun Country Club.

He would like to see Calhoun Country Club remain open and in great shape. But, as a golf course manager, Mr. Holt states that if “it's not going to be maintained to the standards of local, well known, golf facilities then the county will just be owning it for the value of the land.”

“It is proven that golfers will pay for the experience of playing a nice facility,’ says Mr Holt. “The layout at Calhoun Country Club is one of the best in the state and if it's managed properly,…” he is “sure it can be an asset for the county. If not managed properly, it will be closed in short order.”

He further states, “You can not have debt on a golf course and only charge $20 per round while providing a below average golf product. These types of facilities are closing every day because they can not break even much less be profitable. If you don't believe me, the CCC [Calhoun Country Club] is a perfect example to back up what I just mentioned, which is why it is in the position that it's in right now.”

“If it's managed by the right people, I think it would not only NOT be a tax burden but actually an asset for the county. The problem is upfront capital.”

In reference to the County’s expected initial investment to improve the facility, Mr. Holt asks, “Minimum of $88K to a maximum amount of what? The county does have some purchasing power and resources that not all golf courses have, so what they can do with $88K is more than what a privately owned course can do. I would just like to know what it includes and who gave them the $88K figure.”

He further outlines what he believes is the actual needs to bring the golf facility back into “great shape.” These items and estimated costs are:

  • A new irrigation system: +/- $200K

  • New bunkers and new grass variety on the greens: +/- $100K

  • Cart path repair: $100K up front

  • TOTAL: $400,000

“You could fix some things and let those improvements fix other problems, the way it should have been done when the clubhouse was built. Put some money into it, revitalize it, get it profitable and then it'll pay for the other repairs. It's an easy property to maintain but it has to be operated comparable to other courses in the area that are doing well and with only an $88K upfront investment, I just don't see it.”

Per Mr. Holt annual operating costs will be approximately $300K a year in outside operations and payroll and $50K a year for a minimum equipment lease package or purchase package. He further states, “I operate one of the best local courses and these numbers are very representative of what a good quality, reputable golf course will spend in outside operations, double that amount with the amenities that CCC has in the clubhouse.”

Mr. Holt reiterated, “If the repairs I mentioned are done and there is a "Grand Re-opening", I would almost guarantee sustainability. Golf is an industry like no other. Most recreation is not an industry and it takes a different kind of mind to run and manage a golf course. You can not cut cost and survive in today's golf market, you literally get back what you put into it. In life that's a cliche, but in golf that's sustainability. With that layout and proper management, it can be one of the best in the state. But people that think they know how to manage a golf facility will have to step out of the way and let someone who actually knows how to run it, run it.”

“I'd love to see it prosper. Travelers still ask about it and say "if it was only in good shape.” There are a lot of public golfers in Columbia, Orangeburg and down 26 toward Charleston that are looking for good golf courses. More people would play it if it was in good shape...”

“With 2 golf package companies in Santee, and a very unique layout compared to any course in between Columbia and Charleston, it could make it if it were in the condition of these courses in Santee. All that it takes is knowledge of the industry of golf, water (irrigation), turf knowledge, and proper financial management.”

Mr. Holt even suggests, “I could look at the proposed operating budget, that the county should have already, and tell you whether it will survive or not. In the 6 years that I worked there,… Brian Cooper and I had that place headed in the right direction.”

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