"If I could build awful golf courses and make money doing it, I would," says the owner of Mystical Golf, a three-course package (The Witch, The Wizard, Man O' War) that over the past 25 years has carved out its Grand Strand niche. "I love business; golf, I'm kind of so-so (about)."
Pardue's statement is about philosophy, not preference. No owners actually think bad golf can be a money-maker (though there are enough mediocre courses around that you might wonder), but the Burlington, N.C., native says it takes more than good courses to draw players to America's golf Mecca.
Mystical Golf offers good golf - that much was obvious after a recent three-day golf writers' outing, playing its three courses - but Pardue says it takes more to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Previously in the financial services business, he built his first course (Highland Hills in Southern Pines, N.C.) in 1984.
"Every human being buys based on the same decision process: if you think what you're buying is worth more than you pay, you will buy it," he says. "You need to think you're getting a good deal. And you need to think the same thing after you buy it - or you won't come back."
Groups from all over the country, and from many spots around the globe, have been coming back to Pardue's product since 1989, when The Witch held its grand opening (scheduled for the day after Hurricane Hugo hit the S.C. coast, the event was delayed 10 days). He brought Man O' War and The Wizard on-line in 1996. All three were conceived by architect Dan Maples, yet each is unique.
The Witch, built in the eco-sensitive Waccamaw Swamp along the Black River off U.S. 544, is a classic parkland course that incorporates the marshlands into its design. Man O' War (with water on 17 of 18 holes) and The Wizard (a links-style layout) are located 15 minutes from The Witch and adjacent to each other on former International Paper property; the two courses were built on a flat, pine-covered plot of land but then symbiotically altered.
"I decided to build a lake; there were none in Myrtle Beach," Pardue says. Man O' War was constructed "like sculpture: I took away dirt to create the lake, and put the dirt on The Wizard" to form its links-style mounding. Their location, just off busy U.S. 501, makes them easily accessible.
When he began, Pardue says, most Myrtle Beach golf courses were "low-end, with few exceptions." That's no longer the case, but Pardue wanted "to build really nice (courses) but manage it for a lower price." Indeed, all three courses displayed immaculate fairways and greens (Bermuda at The Witch and The Wizard, slick bent at Man O' War).
Packages are Myrtle Beach's stock in trade, and Mystical Golf - partnering with the beachfront Sea Mist Resort for accommodations and the Alabama Theatre for off-course entertainment - offers a wide range of deals. The ProPlay II package, available through June 1, 2014, has three rounds (one per course) and three- or four-night stays (double occupancy) ranging from $243 to $446 depending on length of stay and season. For details, click here or call (800) 732-6478.
What makes Pardue's deals unique, he says, are the extras. The PowerPlay includes welcoming cocktails, a Wednesday oyster roast, a golf hat, vouchers and gift cards for food and merchandise - little things that can make a golf trip stand out.
Pardue, a big, affable host with a distinctive laugh, takes pride in Golf Digest naming his trio a "Best Value in Resort Golf" ranking. "We've maintained quality of product in tough economic times," he says, and given the reality of the golf business in a fragile economy, he figures his business model is the game's future.
"Today you're chasing a harder dollar," he says. "I'm not sure (golf) is ever going to spring all the way back to where it was (in the 1990s) - I'd love if it happened, but I'd be shocked - but sometimes hard times have cleansing results."
It's not just the golf, Pardue says; it's the business. For 25 years, business for Mystical Golf has been booming. For information on the courses, click here or call (843) 282-2977.