The Carolina Panthers have an agreement to buy a public golf course near the new headquarters they’re planning in Rock Hill, South Carolina, viewing it as an opportunity to create stronger ties with the local community.
Waterford Golf Club is about two miles from the Panthers’ potential future home, in a region where the population has more than doubled since 2000. The Rock Hill/Fort Mill area is about 20 to 25 miles from Charlotte and continues to grow, with more and more new housing and ongoing development that includes shopping centers, restaurants, bars and breweries.
Panthers Chief Operating Officer Mark Hart says the NFL team envisions making Waterford, an 18-hole Hale Irwin design that opened in 1997, an even greater community amenity.
“Anything we do we’re going to try to improve it over its current state,” Hart said. “It’s already a great asset, a great course, a great layout. Perhaps if we can do something in conjunction with the development on the (new) site and make it something that’s got a Panthers brand or something that’s even better for the community, that’s something that we look forward to trying.”
The Panthers aren’t just looking at relocating their headquarters from Charlotte and building a small practice facility in the Rock Hill area of York County. The team is eyeing a development similar to what the Dallas Cowboys have done in Frisco, Texas, with plans that include a hotel with conference space, a sports medicine facility, offices, shopping areas, restaurants and a residential component. There would be a 10,000-seat indoor practice facility along with six or more outdoor practice fields.
Waterford Golf Club would likely be another component in the Panthers’ move into the area, a potentially strong connection to the community rather than an amenity for the team itself.
Ty Lefler, the club’s general manager and head professional, is among those excited about the potential new ownership group, having been a Panthers’ season-ticket holder the past four years.
“I can’t find a negative. Everybody here is very excited and upbeat about what’s going to happen,” Lefler said.
According to the NGF’s GolfMAP system, there are 11 other golf courses within a 10-mile radius of Waterford, seven of which are public facilities. Five of those are in the same price point as Waterford, which has a $54 weekend rack rate and a $42 playing fee from Monday through Thursday. There are an estimated 21,587 golfing households within 10 miles of the facility, a total that’s expected to increase by more than 7 percent in the next five years, and the local market does more than 330,000 annual rounds.
Lefler describes Waterford as a shot-makers’ course, with new MiniVerde bermudagrass greens that were installed in 2012. The Catawba River runs down the right side of the second hole and a housing development borders a handful of holes on the second nine.
“It’s a great golf course and is in good shape. I’ve never seen it this good, so they’d be coming in at an ideal time,” Lefler said of the Panthers. “Business has been good and people love it. Plus, everyone here is a Panthers fan, so that would be a bonus.”
Currently, Cowboys Golf Club in the rolling hills of Grapevine, Texas, is the only NFL-branded golf facility. It is about 20 miles from the Dallas Cowboys’ world headquarters and practice facility in Frisco.
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