The Holloman family bought Northgreen Country Club eight years ago, not long before the economy tanked and unemployment in this area soared.
Ed Holloman and his son, Wayne, acknowledge that it’s been a struggle keeping the business going through the recession.
Established in 1974, Northgreen was designed by golf pros Bob Toski and Peter Gibson. It has played host to the Atlantic Coast Conference golf tournament multiple times.
But while other courses have closed, Northgreen has endured, an accomplishment in and of itself, Wayne Holloman said.
“We’ve had good years and bad years,” Wayne Holloman said.
The Hollomans bought Northgreen from Florida resident Jim McCumber, who had tried to run it while living in Florida.
“We feel like we’ve kind of come in here and salvaged the course by being here locally,” Wayne Holloman said.
But it hasn’t been easy. In the down economy, the Hollomans were forced to cut rates, and that left fewer dollars for course maintenance. The course fell into a state of disrepair, they said.
But in recent months, business gradually has been increasing as word has gotten out about how the course’s condition has improved, Wayne Holloman said. The men hired Brantley Sapp, who has extensive golf course maintenance experience, to upgrade the greens and fairways.
It’s taken time for word to get out, Wayne said.
“Negative stuff spreads like wildfire, but when you do something good, it takes forever to get the word out,” he said. “It’s not fair, but it’s the way it is.”
But golfers seem to have gotten the message, Wayne Holloman said.
“I’ll be the first one to sit right here and admit we’ve had some tough years,” he said. “We’ve made some mistakes. We’ve made some decisions that haven’t worked. We’ve had to adjust. We have bumped our head a time or two.
“Fortunately, we’ve been able to recover from them and take the necessary steps to recover and get back. I’d say right now we are as confident as ever that 2013 is going to be just a banner year for us. We are just stoked as far as that goes. We just had a weekend where we ran out of golf carts.”
Q: What products or services do you provide?
A: Wayne: An 18-hole championship golf course with one of the best layouts on the entire Atlantic Coast. We also provide golf equipment – any type of merchandise, caps gloves clubs balls – anything we can get at rates better than the big-box stores.
We also have our upstairs (to the clubhouse), which is available to rent out for weddings receptions, parties, whatever people may want to do,
Q: Who are your key leaders?
A: Owners Ed Holloman and Wayne Holloman and golf course superintendent Brantley Sapp.
Q: How many people do you employ?
Q: What is your business philosophy?
A: Ed Holloman: Our philosophy is to give people an excellent product. We are a service as a golf course. We try to give extremely good service for a reasonable price. Give them all the bang for the buck.
Wayne Holloman: To provide people with the best possible experience on a golf course they can have, and to be the type of business where the owners are seen, are involved, are there to get people’s feedback on a daily basis. We’re very involved with our customers. We’re not the kind of people who sit back and pay people to do the job. We’re here. It gives us the opportunity to know our people, know what they want, what they need, so that is what we focus on, and delivering the best possible playing condition, just making people feel like they are home when they are here. We want people to feel like they are part of our family.
Q: What makes your business unique?
A: Ed Holloman: I think being family run (business), local. We hear so much from the Chamber (of Commerce) saying “shop local,” and we are local. That makes us unique in the sense that it’s a family owned business. We were all born and raised here.
Wayne Holloman:It’s not often you come across businesses where you know the owners and you really feel like you are a part of their family. People feel comfortable here. I think we create that kind of family atmosphere. There are not many business where you feel like you know the owner. You have his personal email and cellphone to contact anytime. You get that special touch. I think we have the best layout of any golf course around here. I’d put our layout and our condition up against anybody. You can’t beat this golf course, this layout, for the price point. As of now, it’s $20 every day (for 18 holes with cart).
Q: How has your business grown last few years?
A: Ed Holloman: Slowly. We got off to a really good start. We’ve gone through 21⁄2 droughts, and everybody knows the economy (has been down). I can’t say it’s grown, but we’ve survived. That’s probably progress. The course from what the golfers tell me is in as good a shape as it’s been in 10 years. Just a few years ago, most everybody who made a comment was very negative. In the last six months or so, people will go out of their way to say something positive.
Wayne Holloman: I would say obviously in this economy you have to be really frugal and tight and make the best decisions possible. I think what has allowed us to stay doing well is the fact that we are here. We are so closely involved, and obviously, the economy has forced our hand. We’re seeing our competitors, other golf courses, having to do the same thing. Everybody is having to cut back and make adjustments. Things are not like they used to be. What I’ve seen particularly in the last year is we have a very credible staff. Brantley has come in here and completely turned the place around. With the economy, obviously there are always things you wish you could do. But you can’t get around to doing them. He’s done a phenomenal job on a shoestring budget. You have to guard your decisions. You have to work as a team. You have to lean on each other’s expertise and advice. Sometimes, there is obviously risk involved. You just hope it works.
Q: What kind of growth do you expect in the coming years?
A: Ed Holloman: I genuinely anticipate this year doubling our rounds from last year. I really do.
Wayne Holloman: I see 2013 as a year that this is going to be the place to golf in this area. Our greens are just in phenomenal shape. Our fairways are in great shape, sand traps are improving. I see people coming here and enjoying it. It is a perfect price point.