Chinese tee up in golf haven

Updated: 2015-05-06 11:16

By Paul Welitzkin in New York(China Daily USA)

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Chinese tee up in golf haven

Founders Group International, a Chinese investment group, has purchased several golf courses in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, area including TPC Myrtle Beach (above). PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

It's known as the "seaside golf capital of the world" because it has more than 100 golf courses, and now with their latest purchase, an investor group from China is the largest operator of golf courses in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Founders Group International last month acquired the majority of the assets of National Golf Management, which had been the largest owner/operator in the area with 12 courses and an additional five operated through management

Founders has not been alone in acquiring courses in the area. Other Chinese groups, families or individuals have purchased golf courses and related assets. According to the Charlotte Observer newspaper, investors from China have purchased 27 of the area's 80-plus public courses since June 2013. Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, estimates that the Chinese now own about 25 percent of the region's golf industry.

In addition to its mild climate and beach access to the Atlantic Ocean, the Myrtle Beach area, also known as the Grand Strand, many of its golf courses are the work of top designers. It also claims to be the miniature golf capital of the world with its 50 miniature courses.

Founders Group International is mainly owned by Chinese investor Dan Liu and New York resident Nick Dou, who is also the president of Founders Group. Prior to this latest purchase, Founders had acquired several other courses in the area.

"I was attracted by the golf, Myrtle Beach's close location to the ocean and the wonderful weather," Dou told China Daily.

Dou acknowledges that not too many Chinese were familiar with Myrtle Beach. "They had heard of and in many cases visited San Francisco, New York and Florida," he said. "But almost no Chinese knew about Myrtle Beach. I told them it was a diamond in the rough and then brought them to visit."

National Golf Management employs about 700 people according to Dou. "We have invested over $100 million in Myrtle Beach and we provide jobs and pay taxes," he said.

Dean said locals began to notice the increasing Chinese presence about a year ago. "There was some curiosity and even though we are a top tourist destination (with more than 6 million visitors annually), the vast majority of our tourists are domestic, with most coming from the East Coast and the Midwest," he told China Daily.

Dean said the community is eager to see what the Chinese will do with the investments.

"We certainly hope this means an increase in tourists from China. After the Chinese have visited New York, Las Vegas or Orlando (Florida), we think Myrtle Beach can become a top destination on their subsequent visits to the US," he said.

To promote the area in China, Dean said a program touting Myrtle Beach has run on China Central Television.

"We want to bring more tourists from China to Myrtle Beach," said Dou. "We believe that once they experience the area they will tell their family and friends back in China."

Jane Zheng became a Myrtle Beach resident over 10 years ago.

After deciding to change careers from working as research scientist for a pharmaceutical company in New Jersey, she visited Myrtle Beach and decided to pursue career in real estate in the area.

"I bought some properties and then encouraged other Chinese investors from New York and New Jersey to invest as well. Later on more investors came over from China came over," she said in an interview.

Zheng said the Chinese community in Myrtle Beach is small but thriving.

"We have professionals like doctors, professors who teach at local colleges and business owners."

"Chinese golfers have been coming to our amateur tournaments in August. At first it was only five or 10 and now it is 20 to 25 who come," Zheng said.