Construction work is under way on the Kyle Franz renovation of Raleigh Country Club in North Carolina, the final golf course designed by Donald Ross.
Earlier this year, McConnell Golf – owner of Raleigh CC and many other golf courses in the Carolinas and Tennessee – announced to the membership that Franz would oversee a restoration. The architect has been involved in many high-profile projects in the state already, including his 2013 renovation of Mid Pines, assisting Coore & Crenshaw on the renovation of Pinehurst No. 2 prior to the 2014 US Open, helping Kye Goalby bring Ross characteristics back to Pinehurst No. 3.
In a letter to the membership, owner John McConnell said the focus of the project is to produce an improved course for all levels of players. “Many different ideas were discussed and reviewed with the architect, contractors and our staff to finally get to a design that was in our budget, would be a major improvement for the course and member play, and would benefit maintenance and turf conditions going forward,” he wrote. “I believe that the plan being implemented keeps the integrity of the course that Donald Ross first designed and built but allows more challenges for the long-hitting players in vogue today.”
Greens will be expanded for more pin locations and strategic shotmaking. “Our superintendent assures us that he can maintain these bentgrass greens in perfect condition during the hot months of summer,” said McConnell. “Some green complexes, such as hole five, will be softened, but the overall greens challenge that we enjoy today will remain.”
New bunkers will be built to provide greater visuals and improved drainage. The number of bunkers will be increased from 56 to 78.
Approximately 350 trees are being removed. “So far, the course looks much better as we thin those out,” said McConnell. “The tree that we all love hanging over the eighth fairway remains, as well as that awesome pine near the green on sixteen.”
New tee boxes will be constructed on certain holes that will extend the course to more than 7,200 yards. “With our rolling hills that will make the course play even longer,” said McConnell. He added that new forward tees will be introduced for shorter hitters.
Native grasses will be planted during the next few years to give the course a more dramatic look. A new irrigation system will be installed and many of the natural drainage areas across fairways will be changed.
Some cart paths are being rerouted or removed on certain holes to give the course a more natural feel.
“Our goal is always to create a member-focused club that is not overcrowded on our fairways or at the pool; and we will manage to that plan,” said McConnell. “Our architect has developed this plan with much attention to detail and has been on property numerous times to ensure that Donald Ross’s last gem will be elevated to a whole new level.”
The club closed the course in February and the plan is to reopen in early October. McConnell Golf estimates the cost of the project to be approximately $5 million.