Final Donald Ross design will reopen November 6 following modern-day reimagining by golf course architect Kyle Franz. Raleigh Country Club owner McConnell Golf is the only individual golf club proprietor in the world offering 4 Ross-designed courses.
RALEIGH, N.C. (November 2020) — Raleigh Country Club (RCC), which first opened in 1948 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 in February.
The freshly restored RCC will debut for member-only play starting Friday, November 6. Club owner McConnell Golf announced that RCC’s longest tenured members — Jim Barnes III, Robert Carroll, Cecil Davis Jr., and Dick Parent — will be the first golfers to tee off when the course reopens, prior to a celebratory weekend.
“We closely followed Kyle Franz’ plan and vision,” said McConnell Golf President & CEO John McConnell. “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.”
In 2003, McConnell purchased RCC to help preserve golf’s historic 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 boasts 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 garnered “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.”
For McConnell Golf, the focus of the project was to produce an improved course for all levels of players — retaining the integrity of the course that Ross first designed and built, but allowing more challenges for today’s long-hitting players. Among RCC’s numerous enhancements:
- 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, while also benefiting female, junior and senior golfers. RCC’s rolling hills make the course play even longer.
- 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.
- Approximately 500 trees were removed to improve air movement and turf quality.
- The new irrigation system allows for native grasses to be planted during the next few years that will give the course a very dramatic look. Many of the natural drainage areas across fairways have been changed, to help the course better absorb rainfall and create more strategic shot making opportunities.
- Some of the cart paths were rerouted or removed substantially on certain holes to give the course an even more natural feeling as to how the land lies. McConnell Golf is the first to utilize this new process called soil stabilization.
“A machine tills whatever is existing, be it old path, soil, roots, and incorporates cement and water to create a soil surface,” said McConnell Golf VP of Agronomy Michael Shoun. “The final product is 8 to 10 inches of a soil surface that takes on the natural look of the material tilled. It’s call ‘natural path’ — not meant to be a perfectly smooth surface, more like a hard soil path.”
While the RCC golf course was closed, the club’s practice facility remained open and McConnell Golf arranged numerous reciprocal opportunities at local clubs for its members, including all McConnell Golf locations.
A renovation video with footage and interviews further describes the project.
About McConnell Golf
McConnell Golf (McConnellGolf.com) memberships include privileges at more than a dozen 18-hole, private golf courses, one semi-private and one nine-hole course throughout the Carolinas and Tennessee. McConnell Golf’s stable of prestigious clubs consists of Raleigh Country Club and The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation in Raleigh, N.C., Sedgefield Country Club and The Cardinal by Pete Dye in Greensboro, N.C., Providence Country Club in Charlotte, N.C., Old North State Club in New London, N.C., Treyburn Country Club in Durham, N.C., Brook Valley Country Club in Greenville, N.C., Country Club of Asheville, Porters Neck Country Club in Wilmington, N.C., The Reserve Golf Club in Pawleys Island, S.C., Musgrove Mill Golf Club in Clinton, S.C., and Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tenn. McConnell Golf also operates the 27-hole public Raleigh Golf Association, and manages the Grande Dunes Members Club and Ocean Club in Myrtle Beach for Freehold Communities.