Part 3: Tom Van Hoogen - GM and Head Pro at River Club and Founder's Club

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In December 2018, the Golf Shop Radio Show aired its interview with Tom Van Hoogen of Founders Club at Pawleys Island, one of 12 award-winning courses that are part of the Waccamaw Golf Trail. Below is a transcript of that interview.

Mark: Welcome to the Golf Shop, brought to you by Antigua, one of the nation’s leading designers of golf apparel under the distinguished Antigua brand, and the official apparel company of the Golf Shop Radio Show, order online at shop.antigua.com. I’m your host, Mark Greenhalgh. Joining me as always.

Jake: Hey, Greeny!

Mark: Jake Myers.

Jake: Jakester.

Mark: We got a lot going on, big show. First segment’s brought to you by Red Bridge Golf. It’s all about the greens. You want them pure, fast, and consistent. You get it all at Red Bridge Golf and Country Club in Locust. Log onto redbridgegolf.com, book a time. You’re going to be impressed.

So, you know, now we’re going to start talking our weekly segment, the Waccamaw Golf Trail down in Myrtle Beach.

Jake: This is fun. Yeah.

Mark: All the different courses. You know, we’ve talked about TPC Myrtle Beach, and –

Jake: Caledonia.

Mark: Caledonia Golf and Fish Club.

Jake: Fish Club, yeah.

Mark: Yes, about our fishing expertise. But this week, we’re going to talk a little Founders Club at Pawleys Island. He’s here to join us now. Joining us now, it’s Tom Van Hoogen of the Founders Club at Pawleys Island, talking a little Waccamaw Trail. Tom, welcome to the Golf Shop.

Jake: Good morning, Tom.

Tom: Hey. Thank you for having me.

Mark: Alright. So, you know, last weekend up here in the Charlotte area, we had snow and ice. Now we’ve got rain. You guys are probably just gorgeous down there in Myrtle Beach, aren’t you?

Tom: Yeah, yeah. We’re going to be better today. We had a little bit of that rain yesterday, but we’re drying out today, and courses are starting to look good.

Mark: Alright. So tell me a little bit about the Founders Club at Pawleys Island. What kind of layout are we talking about here? You know, we’ve seen some tree-lined courses, we’ve seen some courses on this trail with some water hazards and bunkering. Give us a feel for what we’re going to find at the Founders Club at Pawleys Island.

Tom: Well, the Founders was actually redesigned from an older course 10 years ago, and it completely changed it up. It was a traditional golf course, kind of like what you’re saying. Just tree-lined, smaller greens, bunkers around it. They went in and totally revamped it 10 years ago and made it totally different. Instead of, we have cart routes around the greens and tee boxes, but the rest of the way, it is called waste area.

Mark: Awesome.

Tom: It’s a lot of awesome natural sand. They took the natural environment down there in the Waccamaw area, which is kind of sand-based, and we’ve got some generous fairways, because if you missed a fairway, you might be in one of those waste areas hitting in, and they did a lot of mounding there. So, even though you might have a straight shot on, you have to navigate some mounds, some really small little pot bunkers, and just really made it a very interesting design.

Mark: I’m looking at it now that this was, again you said opened in ’08, and it was designed by Thomas Walker, who was a lead designer for Gary Player Design. This used to be what was called the Sea Gull Golf Club, from back in the ’60s. So, you know, a $7 million renovation project, that’s a huge undertaking. It’s just interesting that, it seems like a lot of the courses on this trail have done some kind of renovation. It’s a bold move, isn’t it?

Tom: It is. It is, yeah. They’ve really redesigned it. People that have played it, that come to play the golf course now and are like, “I haven’t played it since Sea Gull,” don’t even recognize it.

Mark: Yeah.

Tom: You know? It’s obviously still under some of the footprint of the old golf course, but to the point where it doesn’t look anything like it. And they did change up some of the holes, you know. Maybe a hole that was a par five, they redesigned it, made it a very interesting par four. But really moved a lot of dirt, a lot of sand, elevated greens, but still kept a very natural environment. You know, the Waccamaw Trail is a very natural place. Huge pine trees, huge live oaks, very at one with nature. So they kept the footprint of the golf course and made it very natured, but the actual golf course, you wouldn’t even be able to tell it’s the same course.

Jake: Tom, I’m looking at the history of the club. It was surprising to me. I did not know this, and I think the listeners will find this interesting, that Pawleys Island is really the oldest seaside resort in America. That’s amazing to me, that it was the first ever developed.

Tom: Yeah. When you come down there and visit, you can tell. You know, they obviously have some newer shops, but then there are some amazing cottage-type shops, and buildings, for South Carolina that look very old, very natural. You can tell it’s the original buildings from way back in the day. It’s got a very nice vibe to that, you know?

Jake: Well, you’re in my favorite portion of the beach. I mean, Pawleys Island to me is the whole thing.

Mark: It looks like, it says … it kind of does. I’m looking at, evoking comparisons to Pinehurst No. 2.

Jake: Yeah.

Mark: Looking at the pictures, when you start talking about these waste areas and stuff like that, I mean, it is still tree-lined, there are waste areas. It does kind of look like a little bit of a Pinehurst look and feel to it.

Jake: Yeah, it does. And I love the fact that they don’t have car paths going along the fairways. I mean, that bugs me so badly when you have a golf cart going all the way up the fairway.

Mark: Yeah, and Tom, I’m looking at estimated tee time rates for today. I could tee off this afternoon around noontime for about $46. Give our listeners a feel for the rates out there.

Tom: Yeah, well obviously right now we’re kind of in our off-season, so the rates are very, very available for play in a sense where, you know, I mean, winter time we get a little bit of traffic during the weekdays and weekends. But right now, for the way the course is, the conditions are, it’s an amazing price. So especially if you’re dealing with the snow up in your area, or Northeast where it’s challenging, it’s a great weekend getaway. You know, let’s hop in the car Friday, come down, get great value for golf courses, not spend a lot of money, and get a couple of rounds in on the Trail.

Prices are really, really good right now, and Founders, they are really good with their pricing all year round. You know, we try to be fair when it comes to the pricing, so I think you can come out and get good value at our golf course, any time of the year.

Mark: Yeah, and the other thing too is, 7,007 yards with a course rating of 74.2 and a slope of 142 from the back tees.

Jake: Tough. Tough.

Mark: That’s everything you want from the back tees. If you want to play up a little bit from the white tees, 6,394 yards from the whites, with 71.2, 133. Then seniors … I’m almost a senior, Jakey B.

Jake: Well, welcome. I’m glad you’re here.

Mark: I might be able to play a couple … about a year, a little over a year, I’ll be able to move up to the senior tees. 5,500 and the ladies’ at 4,805, so definitely an opportunity no matter what your game is, to have an enjoyable experience out there.

Tom: Yeah. When they designed it, those back tees are extremely challenging. You know, we don’t get too many people that want to play from back there. But any skill level you play from, and I’m a big proponent of, like, play it forward, so whatever tees you feel comfortable with, don’t go by what the color of the tees are. Go by the distance, you know? And say, “Hey, I only drive the ball 210 yards. I should be playing from 5,500 to 5,800 yards at tee boxes.” … But, no matter what tees you play from, it’s a fair golf course. But you know, those tips are very challenging.

Mark: Again, Tom joining us from the Waccamaw Trail down in Myrtle Beach, the Founders Club at Pawleys Island. Alright, so the real question is, and I know this is always something that I deal with, is no matter what golf course I play on, it seems like you have your favorite hole, but then you also at the same time have that one hole or that one shot that, man, you just dread all day long that you’ve got to hit. So for you, what’s your favorite hole in the course, and what to you is that most difficult shot in the course?

Tom: My favorite hole in the golf course is the par five of the back side. It’s the 12th Hole. It’s off the tee. It’s a split fairway. Right down the middle you’ve got these mounds with bunkers in it, and you go either side of the fairway. And from there, you have a carry to the green. It’s an elevated green, so it’s beautiful. Nice, big natural lake right in front of the green, and generally how I play that hole is I aim right for the middle of fairway, figuring I’m either going to pull it or block it. Then I end up in one of the fairways. I rarely hit it straight.

I like to play that hole. But that’s just a really gorgeous hole. We have some great pictures online about it. It’s gorgeous. But then for the one that I dread when I come to would have to Number 9. It’s a par five that’s just water all on the left-hand side, and it is a … it’s a bowling alley for the fairway. You have to hit, you know, two great shots. You have to hit a great drive to get into the fairway, and then your layup is equally challenging because you have a very small landing area. But if you can navigate that, the rest of the hole is okay. But standing on that tee box, I’m just praying that I can get it somewhere out there where I can hit a second shot.

Mark: Yeah. I’m looking at the picture from the green back online, and dude, I’m with you on that one. Logic tells you that maybe you just want to hit, like, five iron, five iron, eight iron or something like that, two putt, maybe one putt make your birdie, but definitely two putt, make your five, and get out of there. But you know what? Your ego is just telling you, “You know what? I can get there in two.” But man, that’s a tight-looking hole. There’s really no bailout, is there?

Tom: No, there isn’t. If you play it right off the tee, you know, you get the waste area over there, and then actually the trees start to come into play with your layup shot, so you’re limited where you can actually lay up. It’s like, “Okay, now I can’t lay up to 150, I have to lay up to, like, 175.” And left is, you don’t want to go left. That’s a steep waste bunker right into the water, so you’ve got to play it right, if anything, and just hope for the best. But yeah, for some reason that one’s challenging for me.

Jake: Tom, I’m looking at the membership options you have online. It’s interesting. $1,000 for a single? That’s a heck of a deal, man. With no initiation fee. How are the memberships going? Then I see the full cart membership fees that are just really affordable, and a heck of a deal really.

Tom: Yeah.

Jake: Is that something that’s really taken off, at the Founders Club?

Tom: Yeah, we’ve had tons of interest in it, just because it is so price-conscious for people out there. We understand there’s a lot of people that move down here, and they are on a certain budget they want to spend within. We just find that’s a fair value for people. You know, it’s two ways. You can do the cart membership, where maybe if you’re not going to play as many rounds of golf but you really, really want to be a member of the golf course to get that socializing and be part of a great golf course and a great company, and the Founders Group, it’s a way to go, and very small cart fees you come and pay in. Then we have our locals who will play three, four times a week, and you can’t beat that full membership. You know, it’s all included. Your cart fee’s included. So the more rounds of golf you play … the less each round of golf costs you.

We do have members that play a lot. It works out really well, and we have just a great, great membership out there, and just a great local group that comes out to play.

Mark: Well Tom, man, we really appreciate you coming on with us. Remind everybody where they can go to get more information, or book some tee times.

Tom: Yeah, if they want to just book some tee time, they can just call us directly. The phone number at the Golf Shop is (843) 237-2299. We’d be more than happy to help you book that, or if you want to book any package rounds we can certainly relay you over to some great providers that can help you book multiple rounds, if you’re coming down here on vacation.

Mark: Alright, well Tom, we appreciate it, man. Thanks a lot.

Jake: Thank you, Tom.

Tom: Alright. Thank you, gentlemen.

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