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Mac Hood, director of golf and general manager of Farmstead Golf Links and Meadowlands Golf Club, laughingly calls himself “the accidental pro.”
You see, Mac did not begin as a golf professional but worked in Wall Street for 10 years, rising to director of operations at Lebenthal & Co., where he supervised a staff of 23.
Last week, Mac and I chatted in his cluttered, busy office at Meadowlands while he told me about his long, winding road to becoming the head of operations at one of the busiest golf facilities in Brunswick County. Last year, Farmstead had more than 110,000 rounds played on its course.
Mac grew up playing baseball and was pretty good at it, but bad vision prohibited him from scholarships or professional aspirations.
“My eyes were so bad that my glasses looked like the bottoms of two Coke bottles,” Mac said. “I could play ball but couldn’t see the ball. I went to West Virginia Wesleyan and majored in history and economics. I got a job on Wall Street after graduation.”
After commuting from New Jersey to New York City for 10 years, Mac had had enough.
“I kissed my son goodbye in the morning and when I came home at night, he was already asleep,” he said. “My wife and I had vacationed in Myrtle Beach and thought that the Carolina coast would be a great place to live and raise our family.”
Mac got a job in real estate sales, but then Hurricane Hugo hit and the job evaporated in its wake. He got another job with a waste management company, but that company was acquired. No job. Finally, he found at job at Colonial Charters Golf Club, working Sundays at the bag drop.
“I took the job mainly because I wanted to learn to play golf,” Mac said. “Before long I loved the game and began playing all the time.”
Don Barnes, the head golf professional at Colonial Charters, took Mac under his wing. Barnes is now director of the Sunbelt Senior Golf Professional Tour.
“Don got me started,” Mac said. “I became an apprentice PGA Pro and he helped me pass the Player Aptitude Test. I went to PGA Business School, and before too long, I had my PGA card.”
Mac became an assistant golf pro at Colonial Charters, then moved to Sandpiper Bay, where he got his first head pro job. From there, he became head pro at Magnolia Greens, where he “started up” golf operations at the newly built course.
Blackmoor Golf Club in Murrells Inlet followed (another head pro position), then in January 2002 he was hired to manage all operations at Farmstead and Meadowlands.
It’s a busy and demanding job, because Mac has the ultimate responsibility for marketing, guest services, administration, retail, food and beverage and golf-course maintenance. The complex is owned by the McLamb family and is managed by Burroughs & Chapin.
“I am a businessman first, not a retired touring pro who manages a golf course,” Mac said. “My business background helps me run a viable business operation that happens to be golf-oriented. I need to keep the McLamb family happy and I need to keep Burroughs & Chapin happy.”
Mac explained the golf industry in the Grand Strand area has changed over the last decade or so.
“Years ago, most of the golfers came here on packages, the same groups of guys came here year after year. Now, those guys have retired and live here. Today, we don’t get a lot of the 30- to 50-year-olds in our golf packages. Those men are married to women who also work, and there’s no way they can stick their wives home with kids while they come down for a week of golf with their buddies.”
The play Mac sees today is divided into three categories.
“One-third of our play is still from golf packages, one third is from our membership and the other third is from locals or folks traveling through who sign up to play golf here,” he said.
With the reduced numbers of packages and the lessening of play all over the Carolina coast, price wars have started between management companies. Some offer free breakfasts and lunches, free beers, range balls and/or free sleeves of balls.
Mac believes sound management practices are the best way to keep a course viable.
“Operating costs are crucial,” he said. “We constantly look at our operations and ask ourselves, ‘Where can we make efficiencies?’ Can we take out some high maintenance flower beds and plantings and still maintain the integrity of the game?
“Two years ago, we evaluated our course with Dave Johnson, who worked with Willard Byrd when the course was originally designed and built. We took out bunkers that didn’t come into play and were costly to maintain. Other bunkers penalized the golfers unfairly and slowed down play. They were taken out too.”
Despite all the pressure of keeping up rounds of play, maintaining the course to an excellent standard, welcoming hundreds of golfers each year and managing his staff, Mac loves his job.
“Our courses are user-friendly and wide open to every caliber of player,” he said. “We have five sets of tees on each course, so we can accommodate everyone. Farmstead’s 767-yard 18th hole is also a big draw. Lots of golfers want to play the area’s only par-6 hole.”
Mac explained several factors have brought success to the Farmstead/Meadowlands complex.
“We have a great staff with very little turnover,” he said. “Golfers like the continuity of the same faces in the golf shop or at the bag drop or the restaurant. We have a great membership—they make my life easy. We have a waiting list now, but will be expanding our membership shortly.”
Mac enjoys mentoring the younger men coming through the ranks, helping them to become PGA golf professionals in the same way Barnes once helped him.
As the head of operations at a busy golf complex, Mac tries not to worry about things he cannot control.
“This past week, with all the heavy rains and winds from Ida, we lost hundreds of rounds of golf in the middle of our busy fall season,” he said. “I can’t worry about it, because I cannot do anything about the weather. I know that 99 percent of the people who come through our doors leave happy, and that’s enough for me.”
Don’t worry about things you can’t control.
That’s good advice for all of us!
GOLF GAB GROANER
A large department store hired a PGA pro to give golf lessons in its sporting goods department. It installed a computerized hitting cage and an indoor putting green. It was all going well and club sales were brisk.
One day, two women approached the pro.
“Do you wish to learn to play golf, madam?” he asked one of the women.
“On, no,” she replied. “It’s my friend who wants to learn. I learned last Thursday.”
Elsa Bonstein is a golf columnist for the Beacon. Reach her at email@example.com.