Pickleball Takes Center Court

by Martha-Page Althaus

 Mar 22, 2019 at 1:00 AM

It’s the fastest growing sport in the country, and McConnell Golf members have home-court advantage.

Pickleball is a paddle sport, similar to tennis or badminton, but with fewer rules and, some would say, even more fun.

“This year is our test year for pickleball,” says Kyle Thortsen, McConnell corporate director of tennis. “We’re educating our tennis pros on how to play and running demos at clubs, so be on the lookout for more details from your pro shop on upcoming pickleball socials this year.”

Holston Hills Country Club and Country Club of Asheville have seen a big interest in the sport; both clubs have a regular group of players who meet weekly.

“The biggest fans of pickleball are usually those who are aging out of tennis,” says Thorsten. “It’s a slower-paced game with an underhand serve, played on a smaller court. It’s great for tennis players who may have had injuries or can’t take the wear and tear of covering a full tennis court.”

At CCA, Director of Tennis Bill Barber says pickleball is bringing new people to his indoor courts.

“I’m seeing new people out here, which I love. It gets people active, and that’s a great thing. I’ve been shocked at the interest. There’s a very quick learning curve and it’s an incredibly social game. People are watching and laughing at the good, the bad, the ugly shots. It’s almost like adult ping-pong. I love when I hear members say ‘I haven’t laughed this much in years.’” 

CCA member Wayne DiCastri recently moved to Asheville from Minnesota, where he and his wife, Ingrid, played the sport regularly. They didn’t miss a beat when they joined CCA last fall.

“We have a great core group that plays regularly,” he says.

“It was a great way for us to meet new people and get some exercise. There’s less area to cover on the court and all the equipment is here. You just show up and start playing.”  

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Comfort Food

by Martha-Page Althaus

 Mar 14, 2018 at 1:58 PM

Country Club of Asheville provided warm meals this winter.

There's Strength in Numbers for McConnell Golf’s Footprints on the Green program. For a successful outreach, both members and staff come together to support local communities, and that’s exactly what happened last fall in Asheville, when members and staff joined forces for their first Footprints effort.

CCA sent nine volunteers to participate in a meal-prep initiative at ABCCM Steadfast House, a shelter for women and children that provides stability, education, and job training.

Debbie Ponder, the club’s membership and marketing director, was part of the group that spent the day in the kitchen at Steadfast House assembling more than a dozen freezer-ready chicken and rice casseroles. Residents at Steadfast House enjoyed the meals throughout the winter.

“After we finished prepping the casseroles, we had a Q&A with Steadfast House staff,” says Ponder. “We’re hoping to establish a meaningful relationship between the club and Steadfast. We’re located so close to each other, and we hope to be able to do more.”

Member Gail Miller helped with the effort after reading about it in CCA’s newsletter.

“We were spreading freezer pans all over the place and filling them up,” she says. “Big casserole dishes for the residents to pull out of the freezer all winter long.”

For Miller, along with the rest of CCA’s volunteers, the day was about more than just prepping meals.

“It was good exposure. I didn’t even know Steadfast House existed. As a group, we learned more about the community and what’s being offered to help.”

“After that day, we all agreed — we need to do this more,” says Ponder.

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The McConnell Golf Dream 18 Course

by Brad King

 Dec 13, 2017 at 6:44 PM

With the 2016 additions of Providence Country Club and Holston Hills Country Club, McConnell Golf encompasses a dozen 18-hole, private golf courses throughout the Carolinas and Tennessee.

For those of you scoring at home, that’s a total of 225 golf holes in the McConnell Golf portfolio, and they are undoubtedly among the finest you’ll play anywhere. McConnell Golf properties feature courses designed by legends such as Donald Ross, Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, and Hale Irwin. In 2017, as they do year in and year out, McConnell Golf courses dominated the various state rankings.

So picking the 18 “very best” McConnell Golf holes is no easy task. But through nominations from pros and member votes, that’s exactly what we’ve done. We’re pleased to present the final course in the words of those whom know it best.

Head over to Facebook for photos, descriptions and tips on each hole >>

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Wellness Beyond the Workout

by Natalie Clemens

 Nov 28, 2017 at 7:09 PM

New physical therapy and expanded massage therapy offerings enhance the member experience.

There's no doubt that taking the proactive, “apple-a-day” approach to healthy living has gained measurable traction over recent years. But beyond its lighter menus and modern fitness offerings, McConnell Golf is taking further steps in its commitment to wellness. So, what’s next? Massage therapy and physical therapy.

McConnell Golf recently introduced Concierge Physical Therapists to its clubs. Their network of therapists is based on the belief that clients need more than what most high-volume physical therapy clinics can offer. According to Bryan Williams, founder of CPT: “I believe in one-on-one, hour-long appointments with a physical therapist specializing in manual techniques complemented with neuromuscular re-education and exercise.”

Concierge Physical Therapists has grown substantially throughout the mid-Atlantic area and now serves eight private clubs, including TPC Wakefield Plantation and Providence Country Club, with plans to add the service to Sedgefield Country Club, Country Club of Asheville, and Old North State Club soon.

“Club members benefit from several aspects of our service, including the convenience of receiving physical therapy at their club’s fitness center,” says Williams. “Members get high-level service due to our one-on-one intensive approach.”

All of CPT’s therapists hold doctoral degrees or have 20-plus years of experience working with golfers, tennis players, and non-athletes. In addition to physical therapy, two McConnell clubs offer massage therapy — Sedgefield and Old North State. Sedgefield offers treatments Monday through Friday. Members can schedule appointments directly with therapist Lisa Gagnon or with Fitness Director Sherri Tallant. In bringing massage therapy to Sedgefield, Tallant says that her goal was to offer a one-stop shop club experience for members.

“The more amenities we can offer on property, the more convenient for our members,” she says. “Massage therapy is a great idea for golfers, tennis players, and anyone who wants to enjoy the benefits of a relaxing massage.” As Sedgefield member Lynn Burgio affirms, these new wellness additions have been a big hit.

“I have been receiving therapeutic massage for several years now,” she says. “These massages helped my body heal incredibly well from recent knee replacement surgery.” Old North State currently offers 60-minute massages April – September each Saturday by appointment only. According to Chris Callicutt, director of tennis and activities: “We added massage therapy to complete that resort-style feel and to add a spa element to a club with already bountiful amenities. This offering helps reach our goal of holistic wellness for our members.”

ONSC member Lucy Mullen raves about the program. “Men and women alike are enjoying this. The massage therapy room is well-appointed and provides a calm, relaxing atmosphere for each session.”

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Fitting In Fitness

by Jessie Ammons

 Dec 16, 2016 at 7:05 PM

McConnell Golf is thinking creatively to expand and enhance premium fitness facilities.

Resourceful planning has yielded impressive improvements at four McConnell Golf Clubs. Thanks to ingenious use of clubhouse spaces, the Country Club of Asheville and Holston Hills Country Club have brand-new fitness centers; and Old North State Club has significantly renovated its center with Providence Country Club soon to follow suit. Here’s a look at how each property made it happen.

Scenic Workout

In the mountain clubs of North Carolina and Tennessee, there were rooms with a scenic view that no one could appreciate. “We had an old dining space that wasn’t used that often,” says Country Club of Asheville Club Manager Michael Methot about the spark of an idea. “We converted it – completely transformed it – into a fitness center.” Now, the 2,800-square-foot space is decked out with treadmills and resistance weight machines, a “one-stop-shop facility,” Methot says. What’s more, another spare room was outfitted with mirrors and a new floor to become an exercise studio. There, eight group fitness classes happen each week, and members often use it for stretching and personal exercise routines. “We had the facilities, they just weren’t fitness facilities,” Methot says. The center opened in October 2015. “We’ve been able to create a really great center for our members.”

Likewise, one of the first renovations made to the clubhouse at Holston Hills Country Club was a similar extra space overhaul. With new flooring, lighting, and equipment, a former dining room has become that club’s state-of-the-art fitness center.

At both clubs, the new space has opened the door for exciting new programming. At Holston Hills, new activities director Katelyn Graham was brought on board to oversee an active group fitness class schedule and personal training sessions. At the Country Club of Asheville, a robust fitness class schedule has been so popular that they’re now offering unique activities like chair yoga and a multiweek dance class series. At both places, “we have a good mix of equipment and programs for everyone,” says Corporate Director of Member Activities and Wellness Natalie Clemens. Clemens was instrumental in both overhauls, but turned to each club for specific details. “We really took our members’ thoughts and inputs into consideration,” Methot says. “It’s another way to engage and offer them more.”

On the Move

Sometimes small changes can make a big difference. Such was the case at Old North State Club, where the fitness center received a relocation and renovation. “We had a fitness center, so this isn’t new,” club manager Frank O’Hara explains, “but it is new in the sense that it’s a new space.” The former fitness center had been near the pool, accessible but slightly disconnected from the hub of clubhouse activities. Now, it’s almost twice as large and in the clubhouse. “It’s more centralized and therefore offers itself to more of our membership,” O’Hara says. A new location has made existing equipment feel fresh, and a key-fob system allows members 24-hour access (a feature at the Country Club of Asheville and Holston Hills centers, too). “It’s been really well-received,” O’Hara says.

Soon, a similar facelift will be underway at Providence Country Club. “We’re excited to be doubling the footprint of our existing fitness center,” says general manager Howard Murphy. The plan is to swap the locations of the clubhouse’s golf shop and fitness center, and also add a kids’ zone adjacent to the new fitness location. “We’ve never had a kids’ zone before, and we’re really looking forward to that,” Murphy says. Murphy anticipates a late spring 2017 debut for the new center.

 

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Field Trip

by Laura Burkehart

 Nov 10, 2016 at 6:53 PM

McConnell Golf’s tennis program brings all the clubs together.

Each August since 2011, tennis fans have gathered at Wake Forest University for the Winston-Salem Open. The last men’s tournament on the Emirates Airline US Open Series circuit before the US Open, this event draws top pros and a large, enthusiastic crowd.

For the past couple of years, McConnell Golf members have joined in the fun. “It’s a good event,” says Kyle Thortsen, McConnell Golf director of tennis. “We start out with a tailgate in the parking lot. We have a tent, and cornhole, and food, and everyone hangs out until the gates open.”

Member Jill Uttridge agrees. “I attended the WSO with my husband and sons, who are 13 and 9. While the boys enjoyed cornhole in the parking lot, we mixed with friends from our club, Wakefield Plantation, and met members from other McConnell clubs. It was fun to hang with the pros in a non-instructional capacity.” The highlights for the kids? “My 9-year-old loved watching the players practice a few feet away and getting autographs on his big tennis ball. We love the small tournaments because you can really get up close to the players.”

Once inside, the group gathered at center court for a photo. “That was really cool,” smiles Thortsen. “Last year, we had 25 members, and this year we had 50. We hope it will continue to grow and grow.”

The Country Club of Asheville trip took place in the spring, with members from the Raleigh area heading to the mountains. Member Mary Beth Corbin recalls, “We brought a lot of energy and were greeted with sincere enthusiasm. Everyone was so welcoming, and the clinic with the pros was well-designed to meet the levels of the different participants.”

These excursions also involve entertainment and local college players coming out for some sets. An event at Old North State Club in New London, North Carolina happened in November, and it was anticipated from more than just a skill standpoint. Corbin says, “Our group was discussing what our outfits would be — and we asked our coach to have us McConnell-clinic-ready!”

 

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Gather Together

by Jessie Ammons

 Nov 08, 2016 at 6:31 PM

Whether it’s a cup of coffee or an intimate in-kitchen dinner, McConnell Golf’s culinary innovations are hitting all the right notes.

Premium Coffee

When Raleigh Coffee Company wanted to upgrade the quality of its coffee, they knew just where to turn. “Today, anybody can get a coffee roaster, get their hands on decent coffee beans, and roast them up. We wanted to take an extra step and be more genuine,” says Raleigh Coffee Company Owner Joseph Bland. That meant illuminating the face behind the bean — since September, all coffee served at McConnell Golf clubs comes from the same source, Leonel Vindas’ Costa Rican farm. “Through this single-source farming, we’re able to guarantee consistent flavors to members and also consistent business and support for Leonel’s estate,” Bland says.

Raleigh Coffee Company has sourced McConnell Golf coffee for a few years, always with an emphasis on quality. Only in the past year has Bland begun partnering specific farmers to specific accounts. “McConnell Golf is about networking and connection. They’re building their community across the region and three states, and we knew this would be the right program to introduce.”

Single-sourced coffee stands out for its commitment to a particular farmer. In tropical coffee-growing regions, many farmers struggle to make ends meet. Even the fair-trade market is crowded; to keep up, growers have to produce “mediocre coffee,” Bland says, in order to meet demand. The assurance of a large account — like that of a set of country clubs — gives a farmer peace of mind. In turn, Leonel Vindas is empowered to focus on growing practices that result in a premium crop.

“We’re putting people over profit,” Bland says. “It’s just coffee, but many people do consume it every day. For us, it’s about transparency and knowing where your food comes from.” It’s a committed attention to detail perfectly suited to McConnell Golf clubs.  

Wine and Dine

Joseph Bland likens the coffee sourced from Leonel Vindas to fine wine: “A small producer farm is much like an independent winery or vineyard,” he explains. “These are your small, family-owned plots committed to quality rather than quantity.”

At the Country Club of Asheville, members enjoy tastes of fine wine alongside gourmet paired bites at Chef Bruce McIntosh’s dinners. It’s a more informal take on the same attention to detail behind McConnell Golf’s single-source coffee: chef-led cooking demos. “I call them demos instead of classes,” Chef Bruce explains. “I prepare the food in front of members, so they can see what I’m doing and learn from it, but then it’s plated for them to enjoy.”

The dinners began by happenstance and as an extension of the club community. Chef Bruce knew a group of men at the club who wanted to have a special celebratory dinner on Tuesday nights, when dinner service is closed. To make the meal memorable, he thought to utilize the club’s spacious kitchen outfitted with a large wooden block table. Members sat around the table, and Chef Bruce made every course to order right there in the kitchen.

The evening was a success, and the men raved about it enough to spread the word. Soon, another group wanted a private kitchen dinner, and then another. Chef Bruce decided to make it a regular occurrence. “But I wanted to take it a step further,” he says.

Now, demo dinners involve five or six small-plate-sized courses and shared bottles of wine. When they arrive, members receive a printout with the recipes for a few of the courses (never all of them, because “I like to keep an element of surprise for a few of the courses,” Chef Bruce says). There’s also a space to take notes on any tricks and techniques gleaned from watching the chef at work. Some members take ample notes and others sit back and enjoy — both are welcomed and encouraged. “It’s a real social event,” Chef Bruce says. Between the convivial gathering, the quality time with the chef, and the ability to recreate recipes at home, the dinners are truly something special. “We’re enjoying offering something different to our members.”

 

 

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