Owning a golf course was never part of the plan—at least not for sisters Sally Burnette McGuire, Leslie Burnette Brown, and Jane Burnette Daniel.
But following the unexpected passing of their father, Bill Burnette, in late 2017, the sisters found themselves the new owners of Hyland Golf Club (formerly Hyland Hills Golf Club) in Southern Pines.
They had never run a golf course. Should they sell it? Buyers were certainly interested. Or maybe they should keep it?
After a lot of soul-searching and weighing their options, the Burnette sisters are in the golf business. Make no mistake—golf isn’t new to the Burnette women.
They each grew up playing the game, learning from their father. Now their children play, too. The business world isn’t uncharted territory for them and their families either.
McGuire and her husband run several businesses, and she is also a successful real estate agent in the Triad area.
Brown is a well-educated teacher and helped her father with the bookkeeping at Hyland for a while. Her son, Zach, is an excellent golfer.
Daniel is an expert in the field of integrative health, but she also worked with her dad at Hyland, helping with the accounting. Her husband, Paul, is a successful business owner and played golf for the University of North Carolina. Golf —and business—is in their blood.
Becoming the new, even if unplanned, owners of Hyland Golf Club quickly became a matter of building upon their father’s legacy, as well as blazing their own trail to take Hyland to a higher level.
Designed by Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame member Tom Jackson, Hyland opened in 1973. The club enjoyed gradual success throughout the years. At its peak in 1999, 43,875 rounds of golf were played on the course.
“More rounds of golf were played at Hyland in 1999 than at any other 18 holes in our area,” boasts Hyland General Manager Doug Thompson.
Thompson is a bit of an institution around Hyland—he’s worked there a total of 22 years. Although he took a break from Hyland several years ago, he’s the first person the Burnette sisters called earlier this year when they began the search for a GM to share their vision.
“Jane’s husband Paul actually recommended giving Doug a call to see if he was interested in coming back,” says McGuire. “We all talked about it and agreed it was a no-brainer—Doug is the person who can help us take Hyland where we want to go. He was instrumental in making Hyland the success it is, and nobody loves this club more. He’s as much invested in this place as we are.”
Thompson, as much as anyone, wants to see Hyland succeed. “I just love the place,” he says. He and his wife Patty live right beside the course. “The charm lingers from a great day at Hyland. This course represents exactly what’s right about the game of golf—uphill, downhill, long, short, a touch of water, generous putting surfaces, multiple strategies for every shot. I love everything about it.”
Thompson’s goal—and also the goal of the Burnette sisters—is to bring the course back to the pristine condition Sandhills golfers came to love and appreciate. Though Hyland has remained successful throughout the years, including when Burnette purchased it in 20XX, the course needed some TLC.
Together with the expertise of course superintendent Ben Monroe, a five-year Hyland veteran hired by Burnette, Thompson believes Hyland can once again be one of the top golf courses in the area.
“We’re located along a great stretch of highway, so plenty of people see us,” Thompson says of Hyland’s advantage. “We’re also sitting on the highest elevation in Moore County, which gives us great views, rolling hills, and just a beautiful location. The course itself is challenging, but not intimidating to the average golfer. We’re also accessible to every golfer—you’ll never spend $100 to play here, but it’ll feel like a premier golf experience.”
Thompson and Monroe are close to realizing their goal of bringing the course back to its prime and even improving upon it. The greens, some of which were damaged during harsh winter weather, are all comprised of Champion Mini-Dwarf Bermuda.
A number of trees that provided difficult-to-contend-with areas of shade have been removed, resulting in a more beautiful landscape and shade in all the right areas. Cart paths have been enhanced, and new ones added, to improve the pace of play and enable easier green access.
Fairway mowing patterns have been adjusted to ensure proper tee strategies provide a golfer with the best results. The club has even purchased new carts for golfers to enjoy. Improvements continue to be made in other areas as well.
“What Doug, Ben, and our entire team have accomplished in such a short time is remarkable,” says Daniel. “We’re definitely on the home stretch with regard to the course enhancements, and I know when people come play at Hyland, they’ll instantly recognize it as the course they’ve always loved.”
The sisters’ long-term vision includes improvements to the clubhouse, too.
“People come to Hyland for the great golf experience, so we wanted to address that first,” says Brown. “The golf will always be the most important. We’ll definitely take care of the clubhouse as well though. There’s great potential there—for meetings, weddings, all sorts of events, really.”
As for their father? What would Bill Burnette think of the changes at Hyland?
“Our daddy loved golf, and he loved Hyland,” says McGuire. “But most of all, he loved his girls. Although my sisters and I may take a different approach to owning this golf course than he did, he would want us to make our own mark on things. He’d be proud.”
Feature photo: Pictured from left to right, Sally Burnette McGuire, Jane Burnette Daniel, and Leslie Burnette Brown.