Wesley and George Bryan IV — the Bryan Bros, as they’re known on social media — have come a long way since their days as standouts on the Gamecock golf team, but their careers have taken some unexpected turns.
Both played golf at Dutch Fork High School. Both played golf at USC. And both know what it means to go viral, thanks to the YouTube channel they initially launched in 2014 to show off Wesley’s uncanny knack for trick shots.
Both brothers also turned professional, with Wesley enjoying the most success at that level, winning three Web.com (now Korn Ferry) Tour titles in 2016 and the 2017 RBC Heritage.
Now, they are embarking on a brand-new venture — and they’re doing it their own way, capitalizing on the social media following they first built through their banter-filled trick shot videos. They even announced the project with a banter-filled YouTube video titled, wait for it. . . “We bought a golf course??”
When the Bryan brothers purchased West Columbia’s dilapidated Indian River Golf Course this spring, they went all in. They plan to turn the long-vacant property into a private course and state-of-the-art golf academy run by their father, George Bryan III, himself a former golfer at USC and longtime local golf instructor.
And as their YouTube announcement video explained, they’re going to chronicle the course’s rehabilitation start-to-finish via their favorite platform: social media.
Golf Channel commentator Steve Burkowski would love to say he saw it all coming. But the success of the YouTube golf channel now known as Bryan Bros surprised him as much as — well, anyone who knows Wesley and George Bryan IV.
Burkowski was just breaking into sports radio in 1997 when he met the brothers, then ages 9 and 7, at the Columbia station where he hosted a Sunday morning golf show. George Bryan III was Burkowski’s co-host and would bring the boys along to listen and learn.
“George III would bring his little guys into the studio and tell them, ‘Sit still and don’t say a thing,’” Burkowski says, laughing. “After the show, we’d go play nine holes at Hickory Ridge and then get pancakes.”
He might have guessed the brothers could become serious golfers: “One day, Wesley’s ball was on a sandy path, and I told him, ‘You can get relief from there.’ He just looks at me, pinches a shot off the path and onto the green, 8 feet from the flag — like, ‘I don’t need relief.’ George III and I looked at each other and laughed. I guess those days were their introduction to golf and to media.”
George IV (who goes by the nickname G4) was a three-time All-American at USC, and Wesley has that Heritage title under his belt, but it was via social media — specifically, YouTube — that the pair earned fame. Starting in 2014, they created a series of trick shot and instructional videos that garnered more than 200,000 subscribers to their “Bryan Bros Golf” YouTube channel.
“That died down some when Wesley got to the PGA Tour, but three years ago, we gave it another go, and it’s turned into a powerful model,” says G4.
That model also shifted, in large part due to the pandemic, which gave the brothers time to revisit their business plan.
“During COVID, the world shut down and we were bored,” says Wesley. “We still want it to be entertaining, but with instructional we’ve added a more sustainable layer of helping people get better.”
The former Indian River course is at the center of their new endeavor. Renamed Solina Golf Club — “Solina” is a contraction of “South Carolina” — the course will also host future golf videos produced by the Bryan brothers and others.
“When Lake Murray Golf Center went up for sale, we thought about building our academy there,” says Wesley, referring to the nine-hole par-3 course he and his brother played growing up. “Then Pops brought to our attention that Indian River could be acquired.”
The site felt right for a host of reasons — George III was even the club pro there at one time. They just needed some additional backing. Enter Columbia restaurant/brewery owner Greg Middleton, who once took golf lessons from George III. With his help, the brothers began giving virtual tours of the property via YouTube and explaining their vision this spring. Their aim? To create one of the best layouts in the Midlands.
“We could’ve bought it ourselves, but we wouldn’t have had the money to do much to it. In Greg, we found a partner who had the same vision as us. He said, ‘I can do all this stuff'” — handling the business end — “and y’all use the Bryan Bros platform to grow the brand.’”
The brothers, as usual, complement one another on the project. As a PGA Tour veteran, Wesley has seen some of the best golf courses in the world — “And I’ve always had more of the architectural side than my brother,” he says. “My idea is to make it a championship golf course but also playable for average players.”
That means adding yardage and reconfiguring holes. That means adding bunkers and other features. George III will relocate from the Chapin teaching facility he has operated since 2006 to head up instruction, from range to on-course. “The academy is going to be cool to do with the instructional side,” says G4. “Our dad is one of the best in South Carolina, and it’ll be awesome for him to have a facility like this.”
Meanwhile, G4 will spearhead social media, though he admits it’s an ironic twist since he was “the shy one” growing up. “Wesley was more outspoken, loud . . . annoying,” he says with laugh. Now, G4 is more the entertainer, Wesley the technical wonk. “In high school, I figured I’d be the one on YouTube, and George would be on the Tour,” says Wesley.
Longtime Bryan followers are bemused but not surprised by the brothers' latest act. Chris Miller, director of golf at the Country Club of Lexington, coached both in high school “I kind of knew G4 would morph into an instructor rather than a player,” he says. “He has an innate ability to communicate and be a good instructor. Now, Wesley will tell you, ‘I’ll never be a good teacher,’ but they both want to give back to Columbia and the game.”
USC golf coach Bill McDonald, who also coached both and recruited Wesley, agrees. “They and their dad have such energy for golf in the area," he says. "They’ve been through ups and downs, but their passion for the game never wavers.”
The project could be well-timed for Wesley, who has suffered several nagging injuries since his 2016-17 success, though he’s not yet ready for a total career change. “I’m still able to compete on the Tour, that’s my lifelong dream,” he says. “Maybe 20 years from now I’d rather design courses than play.”
Whatever the future holds, the brothers' styles and personalities mesh, according to G4. “I enjoy putting videos together, telling the story — and Wesley gets all the benefits of being the pretty face.” He pauses, then laughs. “Our personalities thrive off each other. You can tell we’re brothers, on- and off-camera. It really is fun, doing all this with him.”