One More Shot

by Sep 1, 2022North Brunswick, Sports

The former site of The Chicken Coop in Winnabow is set to become The Golf Barn, a golf utopia with family fun, professional instruction and much more.

On Highway 17 southbound in Winnabow, at the corner of Bell Swamp Connection NE, a 7-foot chicken named Hennifer Lopez guards a miniature golf course under construction. And the white, yellow and red fiberglass chicken is stuck. Two predecessors flew the coop and bit the dust, says Brad Phillips, one of Hennifer’s caretakers, but this bird will not budge.

“She’s here to stay. She’s been reinforced,” he says.

Hennifer’s 15-acre domain is about to become The Golf Barn, a family entertainment venue with minigolf, a driving range, professional instruction using Toptracer technology, evening games with glow-in-the-dark golf balls, along with a restaurant and a fire pit.

Winnabow NC Golf Barn

Phillips, a PGA Class A professional, which means he can teach golf and run a golf facility, is director of the venue. He and partners Ed Burnett and Burnett’s son, Edwin, plan to open the facility by September.

Ed Burnett, 71, has owned 70-plus acres at the site for several decades. Edwin, 27, and Phillips, 28, were childhood best friends growing up in Brunswick County.

Which brings us to the 7-foot chicken.

“She’s keeping the legacy,” Burnett says.

“We grew up in Southport and Oak Island, and this is before Oak Island exploded (in population), and we were working and had the beach and a boat, and that’s pretty much what the area had, the water,” Edwin says. “So, we needed something else to do.”

Golf Barn Winnabow NC

Seeing a long, Wilmington-to-Myrtle gap in “something to do,” Burnett opened The Chicken Coop in 2017 as a family fun place with a pumpkin patch, a corn maze and hay rides. A giant chicken stood guard over the former soybean fields but, Burnett says, “It got stolen. It inexplicably went missing.”

Burnett bought a replacement, a 9-foot metal chicken, at a garden center in Wilmington.

“We painted him gold, and people loved seeing him out there, but he rusted out and went head-first into the dirt,” Burnett says. “We took him inside but told people he was vacationing in Florida.”

Hurricane Florence wiped out The Chicken Coop in 2018. And that’s when golf came into the picture.

Phillips played high school golf at South Brunswick and attended Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina. He studied golf management and is a certified personal trainer and certified nutritionist. “That’s where golf is going right now,” Phillips says. “Those PGA Tour guys spend a lot of time in the gym.”

Winnabow NC The Golf Barn

“I always knew I wanted my own space to teach, because most of your traditional country clubs don’t allow personal trainers and nutritionists with golf coaching,” Phillips says. “So, I partnered with the Burnetts, and they had all this land, so we thought why not make it not just a driving range but a whole golf utopia? So that’s how we got from Point A to Point B.”

Edwin attended UNC-Chapel Hill, where he was a management and society major, which focuses on the inner workings of companies. He thought he might follow his dad into the real estate business.

“I came back home after college,” Edwin says, “and got my real estate license, but I’ve been working on The Golf Barn. We have a good idea of what it’s going to look like, even though it isn’t completely laid out yet. We are going to include a fireplace and some picnic tables where people can sit out and enjoy the atmosphere, play some corn hole and listen to live music.”

Burnett sold much of the land to a housing developer, but saved 15 acres for The Golf Barn.

The trio plans to build about 20 bays on a 360-yard driving range, with 15 equipped with Toptracer. If you don’t know what that is, think graphics that follow a tee shot with a colored line in the air displayed on a screen, showing a golf shot’s ball speed, height, hang time and other stats.

“Serious golfers can aim for pins 300 yards away and, similar to a bowling experience, the names and scores will be lit up on the screen above them. It’s very interactive,” Edwin says.

The range, they emphasize, will aim for the trees, not Highway 17.

Golf Barn NC

The restaurant will be a burgers-chicken-fries-onion rings type place, though the ink isn’t quite dry on the menu.

The golf segment will have memberships available, Edwin says. “It’s not completely nailed down, but we plan some type of memberships in which people can get unlimited balls for the driving range or discounts on the Toptracer.”

“The Toptracer is by the hour,” Phillips adds, “so members might get unlimited balls for the range, and half-price per hour for Toptracer.”

Children can utilize Toptracer, as well.

“Aside from tracking golf balls, which is what the serious golfer wants, the technology also allows you to play mini games like Go Fish, because each driving bay will have a little screen on it,” Edwin says, “and kids can see different fish swimming around and different targets lit up.”

The Golf Barn will have a little of everything for a family-oriented day or night out, reminiscent, in a way, of The Chicken Coop.

Which explains the logo. The Golf Barn’s main building, behind the minigolf, has a logo above the lettering, a small circle with a winking chicken, keeping its one opened eye zeroed in on Hennifer.
Making sure, this time, the bird is there to stay.

Photography by Glenn Guiao