SAPELO HAMMOCK GOLF CLUB:
NOW THRIVING, AFTER SURVIVING

Story by: Mike May

The Comeback Kid’ of Georgia Golf.  That may be the best way to describe the Sapelo Hammock Golf Club, which can be found in the coastal community of Shellman Bluff, Georgia.  Surrounded by tidal marshes, saw palmettos, and live oak trees, dripping with Spanish moss, this golf course is in terrific shape and its greens are a reflection of this club’s commitment to excellence, according to Alan Cale, Sapelo Hammock’s Director of Golf. 

In the late 1990s, Sapelo Hammock – a par-72 layout, measuring nearly 6,700 yards from the tips -- opened its doors to the general public.

It might be fair to say that the story about this golf course’s current condition, design, and beauty may be overshadowed by  the course’s survival during some turbulent financial times in the last 20 years.

In the late 1990s, Sapelo Hammock – a par-72 layout, measuring nearly 6,700 yards from the tips -- opened its doors to the general public.  Local golfers from McIntosh County loved playing this golf course and revenues exceeded expenses.  In 2002, a group of local developers purchased the club and it continued to prosper.

Business for Sapelo Hammock (1354 Marshview Drive, NE; Shellman Bluff, Georgia) continued to be strong until the recession of 2008.  Financially, times quickly became tough and the club was forced to close its doors in the summer of 2010.  It didn’t take long for weeds to dominate the landscape of this scenic 171-acre piece of property.  Fortunately, the club received a helping hand, courtesy of a group of local golf-loving investors – Shellman Bluff Acquisition, LLC – which purchased the course.  After months of cutting, fertilization, watering, and repair, the course re-opened for play in July 2011. 

According to Cale, the quality and playability of the course has continued to improve.  Word spread quickly about the condition, quality, appeal and value – less than $50 a round – of Sapelo Hammock.  Golf Advisor gave it 4.5 stars.  But by 2017, the club needed a better financial formula in order for the golf course to reach its true potential.  Admittedly, financial times were tough in American golf as more than 200 U.S. golf courses closed their doors in 2017.  But the golfers who played Sapelo Hammock were determined that their course would not be a statistical closing, added Cale.

“The local golfers who have volunteered their time to weed eat, trim, and pick up trash represent the commitment to excellence of the golfers at our club,” said Cale.

That team spirit by the membership is much appreciated by the superintendent.

The course is in great shape because of the many volunteer hours by our members in recent years.

“Our course is in great shape because of the many volunteer hours by our members in recent years,” said Chris Hankey, superintendent, Sapelo Hammock.  “But, we also have a great crew.  I’m only as good as my crew.  As a super, I’m part-time plumber and part-time electrician.”

Hankey and his crew must be doing a great job because he is hearing positive comments from the members and daily players.

“Our members say our greens are the best in the coastal area of Georgia,” added Hankey, who has worked at Sapelo Hammock for six years and a total of 20 years as a golf course superintendent.

In December 2017, a new financial idea was unveiled that would secure Sapelo Hammock’s future.  The plan was to sell preferred stock to individual investors.  This idea was quickly implemented and the financial response from local residents was overwhelming positive.  Enough money was raised to pay off the existing debt and to put money in the bank.  After a review of its business plan, the club realized that its long-term survival was going to depend on generating business from golfers outside of McIntosh County.  To accomplish that feat, a task force of marketing minds was formed to create an advertising and marketing campaign to publicize Sapelo Hammock Golf Club’s existence.  The new initiatives included placing brochures at official state welcome centers; building a new website; utilizing social media; joining the local Chamber of Commerce; creating different tiers of membership; promoting the club as a venue for special events; and joining the Georgia Golf Trail.  These new marketing approaches are working and the club is now on solid financial footing. 

“The Sapelo Hammock Golf Club is a welcome addition to the Georgia Golf Trail,” said Doug Hollandsworth, Founder of the Georgia Golf Trail. 

“The Sapelo Hammock Golf Club is a welcome addition to the Georgia Golf Trail,” said Doug Hollandsworth, Founder of the Georgia Golf Trail.  “The success of this club is a reflection of the spirit of determination of the local golfing community.  It’s great to know that the course is attracting business from outside of McIntosh County.”

Another appealing aspect of the Sapelo Hammock golf experience is access to first-class on-site stay-and-play opportunities which range from the Eagle’s Nest in the clubhouse, with views of the 18th green, to several two and three-bedroom condo units which overlook the 4th fairway.

It’s now time to play Sapelo Hammock: ‘The Comeback Kid’ of Georgia golf.  Alan Cale and his associates await your arrival (912-832-4653; www.sapelohammockgolfclub.com).

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