RALEIGH, North Carolina – Raleigh Country Club, which opened in 1948 here just east of downtown Raleigh, has completed a major renovation of its historic golf course – the final design of legendary architect Donald Ross. Golf course architect Kyle Franz oversaw the RCC restoration, which began this past February.
The freshly restored RCC will debut for member-only play beginning Nov. 6.
“We closely followed Kyle Franz’ plan and vision,” said John McConnell, president and CEO of McConnell Golf, which purchased RCC in 2003. “It’s going to be better than any of us ever anticipated. I’m just amazed at (Franz’) artistic ability and how the course has turned out. RCC greens are well-known as being very demanding and I am highly confident that our reputation will remain in place.”
The McConnell Golf portfolio includes three other classic Ross designs in addition to RCC — Greensboro’s Sedgefield Country Club, which annually plays host to the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship, Country Club of Asheville and Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tenn.
McConnell Golf is the only individual golf course proprietor in the world that owns four Ross-designed courses.
With the recent addition of Porters Neck Country Club in Wilmington, N.C., McConnell Golf also has three Tom Fazio designs. McConnell Golf’s complete portfolio within the Carolinas and Tennessee includes course designs by legends Pete Dye, Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, Hale Irwin and Ellis Maples, and now totals 288 golf holes.
The RCC renovation cost was approximately $5.5 million, funded entirely by McConnell Golf, making it one of largest recent privately funded investments in East Raleigh. There were no member assessments.
“We’ve all been counting down the days to the reopening,” said McConnell VP of golf operations Brian Kittler. “It’s been neat to see Kyle’s vision take shape. The golf course is definitely going to be a bit more challenging. The fairway corridors are a bit wider; greens are a bit bigger and members will have an opportunity to hit to other pin locations that previously were not available. With all the trees gone, it gives the holes much better views and better pin locations on some holes. It’s got a good vibe going.”
Franz played a key role creating several of the most innovative and acclaimed courses built recently, while also helping enact the restoration plans of several classic courses. That list includes a pair of North Carolina-based Ross designs: the highly-profiled restoration of Pinehurst No. 2, where Franz assisted Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw prior to the 2014 U.S. Opens, as well as his 2013 restoration work at Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club, which earned “Best U.S. Resort Renovation of the Year.”
“Being such a huge Donald Ross fan, for me working on Raleigh Country Club has been an unbelievable opportunity,” Franz said. “Having worked on some of his most personal work in North Carolina, with Pinehurst No. 2, Mid Pines and Pine Needles, RCC is a really great opportunity to make it a legacy project for Ross.”
At RCC, an entirely new irrigation system was installed. New technology is one of the major benefits in improving bunkers and turf conditions, while creating less erosion and eliminating bare spots near the tree lines.
Green complexes have been enlarged for more pin locations and improved, strategic shot making.
On the greens, McConnell Golf elected to use a new variety of bentgrass called Pure Eclipse, which allows improved heat tolerance from older varieties. RCC becomes the first course to seed this grass on all 18 holes anywhere in the region.
New tee boxes have been constructed on certain holes that have extended the course yardage to nearly 7,400 yards.
New bunkers have been constructed that provide greater visuals and improved play for golfers, as well as much improved drainage with the material used in the traps.
“We’ve tried to vary out the scale of the bunkers quite a bit, to where it’s reflective of the best stuff of Ross that I really like here in North Carolina,” Franz said.