Investors are pouring money into making Sea Trail Golf Resort & Convention Center in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, a vacation destination.
A team of owners plans to build a hotel with about 150 rooms, several new housing communities and commercial sites for new restaurants and resort-like amenities.
The upgrades include reopening Sea Trail’s Convention Center and renovating the three golf courses. The investment group is set to finalize a deal to buy the golf courses at the end of October.
Sea Trail is home to the Rees Jones Golf Course, Willard Byrd Golf Course and Dan Maples Golf Course.
Sea Trail Golf Club is located at 75A Clubhouse Road in Sunset Beach, N.C.
Hill said Riptide has already spent “well north of” $50 million on residential developments such as new single-family and townhome communities. Hill added part of the expense is improving community amenities too. All residential housing units are owned by Riptide alone.
Building the new hotel could cost more than $30 million, Hill said. He added that acquiring and remodeling Sea Trail’s Convention Center has cost more than $5 million.
The convention center has been closed since 2018 Hill said. He added the center’s upgrades will be completed by mid to late September.
While the deal to buy them is still not finalized, Hill said there are big plans for Sea Trail’s golf courses. Renovations to the links and clubhouses will also cost between $10 to $12 million.
Here’s the plan for renovating Sea Trail’s golf courses
Sea Trail’s three courses need an upgrade. Course improvements include fixing cart paths, bunkers, irrigation and greens.
“All the good bones are there,” Smith added. They’ve been maintained ... but they need a shot in the arm with some upgrades. For some aspects, It doesn’t take much.”
Hill added the Maples Clubhouse needs to be rebuilt or renovated. The Jones-Byrd Clubhouse will also need “substantial renovations.”
One of the people tasked with designing the improvements to Sea Trail’s three courses happens to have experience in the industry.
Tim Cate designed and developed Thistle Golf Club in Calabash, N.C.; Ocean Ridge Plantation in North Carolina and many other courses. He’s also familiar with the Sea Trail area.
“I used to play The Maples Course there a lot, and I enjoyed it quite a bit,” Cate said. “Of course, it was in much better shape back then.”
He previously worked for Willard Byrd too, the designer of Sea Trail’s Byrd Course, and has 35 years of experience in the field.
“The golf courses are going to need a lot of detail work, and I’m really, really good at details and things like that,” Cate added.
The goal is to keep the original design of the course.
“You can’t really destroy a design like that,” Cate said. “The design intent on all those golf courses is good, so it wouldn’t want to be altered.”
Some of the courses need more work than others though. The Jones Course doesn’t need much work, Cate said. Parker Smith added that he had spoken with the Jones Course designer Rees Jones too.
“(Jones’s) super interested in perhaps getting involved and kind of freshening up the golf courses for sure,” Smith said.
Several new housing projects will also be accompanying the upgrades to the links.
New housing developments at Sea Trail too
Hill said The Sea Trail area will have about 450 multi-family units. The units will be two and three-bedroom condos for families and golf groups playing the resort’s golf courses.
Two townhome communities will be a part of the increase in housing. Hill said work on The Townhomes on Eastwood Bluff began 18 months ago. The 88-unit area has about 12 units left to finish and less than five still to sell, he added. Eastwood Bluff homes prices have ranged from $500,000 to about $630,000.
Sawmill Townhomes is another community coming to Sea Trail and will have 27 units. Hill predicted the townhomes would be finished sometime during the first quarter of 2024.
Two single-family home communities are also either completed or planned. One such community in Sea Trail is Byrd Watch.
Byrd Watch’s 49 lots of single-family homes have already sold and are complete. The average sales price was between $500,000 to $600,000, Hill said. The other single-family home community is Gulls Landing, and is expected to have 93 units. Hill added Gull’s Landing should be completed by the summertime of 2024.
The new housing developments will try to meet the golfer demand for the courses. Parker Smith is also the president of Golf Trek, a golf vacation packaging company, and he said the current short-term rental housing is insufficient to house the number of vacationers who want to play at Sea Trail.
“The best way to put it is that there are not enough rooms to satisfy the demand of the traveling golfer,” Smith said.
The Sunset Beach town council approved the hotel and short-term rental projects July 10. For Parker Smith, the goal is to make Sunset Beach a relaxed destination spot for vacationers and golfers.
Sea Trail will also be an all-encompassing resort. The ownership group plans to announce who they will partner with in October to run the hotel, convention center and golf courses as a community.
Hill said the different Sea Trail projects will not be split up. The entire project also holds extra significance for Hill.
“Myself and (Riptide Builders co-owner) Donald Bean, we live here in Sunset Beach. We know, our friends, family, our kids grow up here,” Hill said. “It’s more important to us than just another build or development. There’s some personal touches there.”
The Sea Trail site is also an investment opportunity in the future. Sunset Beach and Sea Trail are located in Brunswick County, NC, one of the fastest-growing counties in America during the past couple of years, according to the US Census Bureau.
“Look at the supply and demand, there’s hardly any restaurants, there are zero hotels, there are very, very few condos that can be rented anywhere in this area,” Hill added. “So I think the opportunity to investors is quite clear.”
Plans are in the works to change that. Sea Trail’s several commercial sites will have resort-style facilities like restaurants, pools, spas, a short golf course practice facility and other entertainment amenities, Hill said.