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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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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Experience of a Lifetime

by Jessie Ammons

 Jul 26, 2016 at 6:02 PM

Holston Hills Country Club golf shop manager Tom “Tee-time” Seymour recounts a memorable Masters

One of my bucket list items was to be at a Sunday round in Augusta. I didn’t know I was going until the Tuesday before the Masters - tickets fell into my hands. Our head golf pro, Chris Dibble, encouraged me and assistant golf pro Jordan Fairbank to go. We stayed about two hours away the night before and drove in on Sunday morning. I didn’t sleep at all the night before, not a wink. I was so excited. I’m 55 years old and I’ve played golf since I was five. It’s always been my passion. I grew up watching Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino and Arnold Palmer at Augusta.

On Sunday, we had been following the crowds all day; but right as Jason Day teed off, I decided to go over to hole 16. I got there five minutes before Shane Lowry knocked his hole-in-one in. He hit it exactly where you need to hit it on Sunday in Augusta.

At the time, there were probably only 300-400 people around the hole. It wasn’t super crowded. Of course, by the time Louis Oosthuizen came later, people were going insane. But first Davis Love came up. When he hit his hole-in-one, he hit it behind the hole. Everybody thought it was going to be 10-15 feet away, but the ball stopped for a second and made a U-turn by the water.

Nothing can compare to Louis Oosthuizen hitting his ball off of J.B. Holmes. I almost missed the holein- one because after Oosthuizen hit Holmes, I looked over at Jordan to get his reaction. He screamed at me to look back at Oosthuizen and I saw the last six inches of the ball go into the hole. The crowd was going absolutely crazy.

All I wanted was to hear that roar of a crowd on a Sunday at the Masters, and I got to hear it three times. It was incredible.

What are the odds on this? They’ve got to be in the billions and trillions that there are three hole-in-ones, on the same hole, and I get to see them all because I’m at the Masters on a Sunday. It was almost a religious experience.

The next day at work in Knoxville, it was all Jordan and I could talk about. I’ve probably told the story to every member at the club. I’ve been there 17 years now, and the people at Holston Hills have become my family: It felt like coming home to tell all my brothers and sisters what had happened.

The only thing that would be better than this is if I actually get to play the course one day, which I know is never going to happen.

Although, I never thought I’d get to be at a Sunday round, either — never say never in golf. But I don’t think it’s going to happen. I will definitely try to get down to Augusta again. If I don’t, it’s all good. I just wanted to be there one time for that final round. It was amazing.”

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The DR40

by Matt McConnell

 May 18, 2016 at 7:36 PM

The legendary Donald Ross designed four beloved McConnell Golf courses, and each one is easily accessed from Interstate 40. Since Interstate 40 is often called “I-40” in conversation, we like to call this trail of courses the “DR-40.” Here’s a look.

At exactly 400 Donald Ross Drive, just outside of downtown Raleigh, DR-40 begins at Raleigh Country Club. Established in 1948, the club boasts the last course designed by Ross. This walker-friendly property ranks among the best in North Carolina, and is just the beginning of an impressive and historical journey.

90 miles west in Greensboro, North Carolina, the most challenging Ross designed course along DR-40 is Sedgefield Country Club. A true work of art with fast championship Bermuda greens, the course is a test for expert golfers but still fun for beginners. Built in 1926, Sedgefield hosts the annual Wyndham Championship — currently the only Ross-designed course played regularly on the PGA Tour. If you want to play where golf’s greatest, including Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, and most recently Tiger Woods, have played then Sedgefield is a must-stop on DR-40.

An easy drive from Greensboro, the next stop along DR-40 is in the Blue Ridge Mountains at The Country Club of Asheville. Considered the oldest private club in North Carolina, The Country Club of Asheville was founded in 1894 and is McConnell Golf’s only mountain course. Recognized as one of “The First 100 Clubs in America,” this track is the shortest course along DR-40 at 6,673 yards. However, it is definitely the most elevated, offering incredible views of the surrounding mountains. No doubt the best view is on hole 15. After you continuously hit uphill onto the green, you’ll feel compelled to pause and enjoy the vista as you overlook downtown Asheville. Besides appreciating the gorgeous scenery, you’ll enjoy the abundant wildlife: turkeys, deer, and even black bears, that the golfers here have said are friendly.

After a scenic drive through the mountains, the last stop on DR-40 is at Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tennessee. This gem of a course has been well-preserved since Ross created it in 1927. Every tee and green at Holston Hills is still located exactly where it was originally built, allowing golfers a pure experience to play the course as it was intended. Holston Hill’s Country Club is consistently ranked in the top 50 of Golf Week’s “Top 100 Classic Courses in the United States.” Bordered by the Holston River with the Great Smoky Mountains as a backdrop, the rustically bucolic property has a Scottish feel with tall natural rough and a classic clubhouse.

What the DR-40 courses have in common are small undulating greens and rolling fairways, but each course is unique. The only way to know for sure is to see for yourself; the entire drive takes five-and-a-half-hours, and the trip makes for a perfect golf vacation. Plan your trip along the DR-40 today, and let us know how we can help.

Sample the Region's Best

McConnell Golf extends a warm welcome to those traveling to the Southeast from overseas or across the country. In bringing our members the best in golf, dining, sport amenities and on-site lodging our "pure golf" philosophy has forged a trail linking thirteen tracks from Myrtle Beach to Knoxville. Previously only available to our members and their guests, the golf experience is now extended in part to travelers whom reside a minimum of 100 miles from any club location and wish to link a minimum of three properties to create their trail. Learn more about the McConnell Golf Trail.

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When Technology Intersects Tradition

by Casey Griffith

 Apr 22, 2016 at 4:30 PM

I'm sitting in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona on a third-story patio admiring the purple glow of the McDowell Mountains. Chatting with friends over pulsating music and a cadence of “whoosh … ping” on the perimeter, I order appetizers and a round of cocktails. Moments later buffalo chicken sliders, crab cakes, and a myriad of margaritas arrive for the group.

Turning my attention to the “whoosh … ping,” I watch our host settle into his stance and send a golf ball soaring toward a netted outfield. It lands on its target, and a microchip within the ball instantly pings distance and accuracy data to a nearby monitor. The group cheers  and jeers as points are assigned and a new champion emerges on the leaderboard.

NEW FRONTIER

At this point, I’m half expecting a spaceship to cruise by on a routine connection between Sky Harbor airport and Mars. What strange planet is this? “It’s fun,” a friend tells me as she chooses from a color-coded rack of clubs, “but it’s not really golf.”

First arriving from the UK in 2005, TopGolf describes this scene as “golf entertainment,” and it has quickly become a popular urban hangout. (One can draw parallels to the evolution of the arcade hall that Dave & Busters spearheaded in the ’90s.) Though certainly not for everyone, it caters to the shorter attention spans of this modern “Age of Instant” and offers a new opportunity for entry into an otherwise less approachable sport. 

Whether mixing elements of the game into an altogether new experience, or amplifying teaching tools with video and Doppler radar, there’s no question that technology has crossed paths with our beloved, age-old sport.

MODERN ENHANCEMENT

Let’s travel now to a more utilitarian setting, the Golf Learning Center at TPC Wakefield Plantation in Raleigh, North Carolina, where Director of Golf Josh Points puts his tenured teaching methods to work. Lined up across from a television screen, a student swings purposefully while a nearby camera records the motion. They review the footage together, and Points uses slow-motion to provide precise instruction.

“Our Learning Center lets us focus on improving longstanding fundamentals in a technology-forward environment that creates the ultimate student experience,” says Points. “Visual learning is by far the most efficient way to improve any type of motor skill, and we see it in practice every day with our students’ growth.”

Also equipped with FlightScope® technology, Raleigh Country Club and The Reserve Golf Club of Pawleys Island, South Carolina are able not only to enhance lessons, but also help golfers determine their best set of clubs based on the club head speed and ball speed data it generates. Both Ross and Dye courses at Sedgefield Country Club and Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tennessee use the TrackMan system for swing analysis. On the mobile front, members and pros across all McConnell Golf clubs use the V1 app on their phones or tablets to improve their game.

A GAME FOR THE AGES

So, what will a golf club look like in the future? Will a set of monitors showing member’s daily scores illuminate the walls? Will a hole-in-one become a push notification on our mobile devices instead of an in-person celebration at the 19th hole? Maybe someday.

But I don’t see anything replacing mankind’s 500-year-old passion for the game itself. At the heart of golf lies a connection with nature’s simplistic beauty and the physical and mental contest between a player, the landscape, and himself. These classic elements need no improvement.

“McConnell Golf is always looking for technology that brings our members real value. From operational efficiencies to learning tools, we focus on advancements that embody the spirit of the game and enhance the service we are able to provide,” says McConnell Golf COO Christian Anastasiadis.

 

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Connecting the Clubs

by Brad King

 Apr 04, 2016 at 10:28 PM

McConnell Golf’s recent purchases of renowned Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville and Providence Country Club in Charlotte mark inaugural ventures into a pair of new markets — while also tying together the membership network of 12 private golf club properties in the Carolinas and Tennessee. In mid-February, McConnell Golf made its long-awaited arrival to the Charlotte market when Providence became the 12th private golf club property in the McConnell Golf stable, which now includes a total of 225 holes around the Carolinas and Tennessee. Two months earlier, in December 2015, McConnell Golf added to its legacy with the purchase of venerable Holston Hills in Knoxville, a 1927 Donald Ross design that marks the first McConnell Golf club located outside the Carolinas. In line with the wellness initiative, both golf courses are easily walkable, a feature regularly taken advantage of by the membership.

HOLSTON HILLS COUNTRY CLUB OF KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE 

“Our new relationship with McConnell Golf has been wonderful,” says Holston Hills Director of Golf Chris Dibble. “We’ve been truly overwhelmed by the welcome we’ve gotten from every other club in the McConnell Golf family — their entire staffs. Everyone has reached out offering to help in any way. It’s been really nice. We are very excited about the future.” Donald Ross was the most prolific golf course architect in history, with more than 400 designs bearing his signature. Yet today very few Ross golf courses exist as they were originally designed. Most have been altered through the years and lost much of the genius that Ross characteristically imparted on a course. One Ross design that has remained nearly untouched through the years is Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, which in December 2015 became the first McConnell Golf Course located outside the Carolinas. 

Holston Hills opened in 1927. Located just east of Knoxville near the foothills of the Smoky Mountains on 180 open acres of rolling old farmland tucked into a bend in the Holston River, Holston Hills immediately became recognized as the finest course in the state. Accordingly, it hosted every major regional tournament, including a PGA Tour event.

“If someone blindfolded you, you might think you were playing a golf course back in the late ’20s or early ’30s, playing the golf course the way Ross designed it,” McConnell Golf Director of Golf “Boomer” Kittler says. “You don’t find that much these days. You can stand on No. 16 green at Holston Hills and see all the way to the green of the fifth hole. No matter where you are on the golf course, you can see ten-plus holes without batting an eye. It’s pretty cool. The greens remind me of Sedgefield. 

“I’m kind of a ‘Ross guy,’” Kittler says, “but I think Holston Hills will be one of McConnell Golf’s best courses, if not the best.”

Founded by members of Knoxville’s prestigious Cherokee Country Club — itself a 1910 Ross design — where overcrowding had become a problem, Holston Hills further bolsters McConnell Golf’s reputation for having the names of the game’s greatest architects attached to its courses. “Holston Hills is the fourth McConnell Golf course designed by Donald Ross,” says McConnell Golf Chief Operating Officer Christian Anastasiadis. “We are particularly excited to be part of the Knoxville
community. We look forward to doing in Tennessee what we have done at some of the finest private clubs in the Carolinas.” Though relatively low-key and unknown, Holston Hills has been ranked among the country’s greatest classical (pre-1960) golf designs in the United States. The co-founder of the Donald Ross Society and noted golf architecture critic Michael J. Fay has said that he would rather play Holston Hills over any other golf course in the South on a consistent basis. 

The beloved untouched Ross layout takes on a broad, fan-shaped formation, with both nines returning to the clubhouse sitting on an upslope along the north side of the property. Holston Hills features more than 100 bunkers scattered across the property, with very few houses or other visual distractions taking away from the links-style playing experience. A 1937 aerial photograph hanging in the clubhouse shows that every tee and green is located just as they are now, and virtually every present-day bunker is accounted for in the image.

Perched on a hill with breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Holston Hills clubhouse overlooks the golf course and showcases bay windows, elegant arched doors, and a central ballroom with large cathedral ceilings and exposed wood trusses. An outdoor terrace on the south side of the ballroom offers members a space to relax and take in the view, while a magnificent centerpiece terrace surrounds the clubhouse, with its comfortable Tudor architecture.

“We think Holston Hills is a pretty special place, and we are excited to be a part of the McConnell Golf team,” says Dibble. “Holston Hills is neat because every hole is right in front of you. It’s very fair. There are no tricks or hidden hazards. [Noted golf course architect] Tom Doak says Holston Hills is the closest golf course around to what Ross originally left.”

PROVIDENCE COUNTRY CLUB OF CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

Given the strategic location of McConnell Golf clubs throughout the Carolinas, the Charlotte market has long been the missing piece. The Queen City is as vibrant as it has ever been and the golf-crazed city stands geographically as a centerpiece destination connecting many of McConnell Golf’s 11 other golf properties around the Southeast. McConnell Golf’s February purchase of Providence Country Club changes all that.

Located in southeast Charlotte, Providence Country Club was established in 1989 and has developed a reputation as one of Charlotte’s premier family country clubs. Providence’s pristine 18-hole Dan Maples layout, redesigned by Mike Gleason in 2006, measures 7,021 yards and plays to a par of 72. As it relates to the McConnell Golf family, Maples is the son of longtime Donald Ross protégé Ellis Maples. When Ross passed away in 1948 during construction of Raleigh Country Club, the elder Maples finished the job and served as Raleigh Country Club’s original superintendent and head golf professional. Together, the team of Ellis and Dan Maples helped create 17 outstanding courses including Grandfather Mountain in Linville, North Carolina, and the Country Club of North Carolina Dogwood Course in Pinehurst.

McConnell Golf owner and CEO John McConnell says he has long sought to acquire a country club in the Charlotte market and that the Providence acquisition connects the proverbial dots. “Along with giving us a truly outstanding club in a fast-growing urban area, Providence provides close proximity to several of our other courses including Club of Asheville. Plus Providence is only 90 minutes from Musgrove Mill,” McConnell says. “This deal ties together our entire network of clubs, particularly our corporate memberships.”

McConnell Golf plans to spend the next few years renovating the course using an expert architect, while also providing numerous other substantial improvements around the club. Providence’s extensive amenities include 14 tennis courts and state-of-the-art aquatic facilities, with three swimming pools and a newly constructed outdoor bar and dining area with a fire pit.

“We are planning major improvements during the next several years, totaling around $4 million,” says McConnell Golf COO Christian Anastasiadis. “We will focus on new fitness and activity areas, along with the clubhouse and the golf course with a top recognized architect firm. We expect Providence to be the best club in the area.”

From tee to green, Providence is considered one of the most pristine and challenging golf courses in Charlotte. The layout provides a unique test to the accomplished golfer without polarizing the novice. The originality of Maples’ design equates to five par-5s (three on the back nine), five par-3s (three in the first six holes), and eight par-4 holes, which are always complex and exciting. The uniqueness and beauty of each hole, with bent grass greens and Bermuda fairways, complement five-tiered tee boxes designed to accommodate all skill levels. Practice makes perfect and Providence has it all; multiple first-class putting greens, two short-game practice areas and a full-swing driving range.

“Our club is very family-oriented. We have a lot of young members and a lot of kids,” says longtime Providence Director of Instruction Leslie Elmore, who spent four years after her college career at N.C. State trying her hand on professional tours in Europe and Asia. “We’ve got a very active membership. I give a lot of lessons. We have a warm, welcoming membership. People are very down-to-earth, not pretentious at all.”
A true neighborhood country club, the membership roster is mostly comprised of residents from nearby developments Providence and Providence Crossing.

“The Providence property reminds us a little bit of Wakefield, because it’s very big,” says McConnell Golf Director of Golf Boomer Kittler. “Big membership, big neighborhood, nice clubhouse, good swimming, and tennis facilities. Now it’s just a matter of what we can do to enhance it. Providence has the potential to be really good with the work we are going to do to the golf course. There are some incredible clubs around Charlotte that are tough to compete with — when you think about Quail Hollow, Charlotte Country Club, Myers Park, and places like that — but we think Providence has the ability to take it from a Big Four to a Big Five type deal.”

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