This article was originally published on Forbes.com and was written by Mike Dojc
Brothers Wesley and George IV, count over 200 thousand subscribers on their Bryan Bros Golf YouTube channel which has been churning out trick shot hijinks, match videos and other golf centric shenanigans for nearly a decade.
The Columbia, South Carolina based siblings learned the game from their PGA professional father George III and have both experienced high-level success in golf. Wesley has a PGA Tour win under his belt and currently competes on the Korn Ferry Tour, while his older brother is a 3 time All-American who played on various mini-tours before finding social media stardom.
The Bryan Bros have added golf course developers to their CV’s after purchasing Indian River Golf Club in South Congaree, just a five-mile drive from Columbia Metropolitan Airport. They plan to revitalize and rebrand the 30-year-old public course that has fallen into disrepair, turn it into a private club and open up a Bryan Bros teaching academy onsite where their pops will serve as employee No. 1.
The idea for the academy was born during the height of the pandemic. George IV was looking for a way to use his platform to go beyond merely entertaining viewers by providing individualized tips to help them play better. Partnering with V1 Sports, a popular instructional application, George IV encouraged followers to send in swing videos for him to analyze and evaluate.
“I thought it would just be five or ten people but hundreds sent in their swings. I thought it was cool and it stirred me to enter the instructional world. It was a fun way to engage with people who watch the videos but also help them try to get better,” George IV enthuses.
“Having Wesley wanting to do this has been a big boost as well. We both want to use the knowledge our father has given us to help people get better at golf. Especially with our brand online, we have a platform, and we might as well use it to do something fun in South Carolina where we learned golf and were given a lot from dad and the junior golf association. This is a way to give back and it’s something cool to do with family,” he adds.
The academy’s emphasis will be as much on learning while you actually play as standing in a bay for an hour honing in on esoteric swing minutia.
“Playing lessons are always going to be equally as important as sitting on a lesson tee. In a perfect world you get twenty minutes working on positions, using drawn lines and V1 PRO , but then go to the golf course for the rest of the lesson, figure out how to play golf and get the ball in the hole,” George IV explains.
The Bryan brothers believe the ability to take a lesson at the teaching facility, head to the practice facility to work on what you’ve learned and then play a round on the course, all in the same day, provides a unique value proposition in the Columbia area.
Wesley and George IV had been dreaming about owning and operating a golf course for the past five years but perusing for sale property listings had been the extent of it. Wesley has earned just over $4 million in career tournament earnings and while the purchase price has not been disclosed, the brothers have stated that they could have purchased Indian River independently but then there would be little funds left for improvements.
“I’m sure Wesley could have afforded this place as it was but that would be the end of it. That’s why we needed to pitch it to a partner to be able to make this become a reality,” George IV says.
Enter Greg Middleton, a Columbia entrepreneur who owns a production brewery along with several restaurants. He shared their vision, brought business sense to the table, and with him onboard as an investor, what was previously only a fantasy suddenly began to become something tangible.
“It’s one of those things you can’t make up because you have to have people crazy enough to have a dream like this meet up, and here we are in the middle of it,” George IV says.
The major endeavor ahead includes putting in brand new irrigation, plenty of tree work and re-grassing the entire golf course. There’s also the matter of adding a practice area, renovating the clubhouse, building the academy and creating new tee boxes to lengthen the golf course by 500-600 yards. They’ve likened the caliber of renovation work in store to the golf version of the old reality show Extreme Makeover.
George III worked at the course when it was brand new in the early 1990s for a couple seasons before starting his golf academy. He described it as a real fun course to play back in its heyday with its undulating greens keeping low-scores at bay. His sons plan to give it more teeth.
“It was very fair before with a handful of easy holes but also some pretty tough ones. The goal moving forward is to host a tour event here, high-level junior golf tournaments and maybe even a Korn Ferry stop one day. You got to add distance and make it a little tougher to do that” George IV says.
Arriving at the decision to turn the formerly public course private was mainly so they don’t have to compromise on their vision to create an exceptional product. Had they retained the public model that would necessitate sky high green fees which would then defeat the whole purpose.
“We just want to be one of the best courses in Columbia and in order to do that we believe private is the way to go,” George IV says.
The course will be rebranded with a new name which will be revealed in the next few months, likely on their channel, as the Bryan Bros continue to release content chronicling the course’s ongoing transformation.
Once open for play, expect to see online personalities pop-in regularly. The course plans to be very accommodating to content creators. The Bryan’s have run up against venues who turned them away and wouldn’t let them film and so making their facility YouTuber-friendly is a core principle.
“We know the struggles that we all face and we want to be a place where if you want to come create and film videos, we have a spot for you, you’re welcome and I think that’s massive. It shows we understand the culture and the climate of golf today and how important content creators are to the game,” George IV says.
To that end a YouTuber Invitational that would bring together content creators from across the world for a competition that’ll double in a way as a promotional vehicle for the club is on the drawing board.