Raleigh Country Club in North Carolina, the final golf course designed by Donald Ross, will reopen for members on 6 November following a renovation by Kyle Franz.
McConnell Golf purchased the club in 2003, its first club in a portfolio that now numbers 14, across the Carolinas and Tennessee. The focus of this $5.5 million project was to produce an improved course for players of all abilities. McConnell wanted to retain the integrity of the course that Ross designed and built in 1948, but provide more challenge for today’s long-hitting players.
Work began in February, with the seven-month project covering all elements of the course.
“We closely followed Kyle Franz’s plan and vision,” said John McConnell, president and CEO of McConnell Golf. “It’s going to be better than any of us ever anticipated. I’m just amazed at his artistic ability and how the course has turned out.”
The renovation has seen green complexes expanded for more pin locations and strategic shotmaking, and greens re-grassed with Pure Eclipse bentgrass. “RCC greens are well known as being very demanding and I am highly confident that our reputation will remain in place,” said McConnell.
New bunkers have been built to improve visuals and drainage. “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,” said Franz.
“Being such a huge Donald Ross fan, for me working on Raleigh Country Club has been an unbelievable opportunity. 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.”
Along with work on bunkers and greens, Franz has also restored a number of creek and barranca features that were eliminated from previous renovations.
Watch: a video featuring drone footage, with insights from Franz and McConnell.
Approximately 500 trees were removed to improve air movement and turf quality. “With all the trees gone, it gives the holes much better views and better pin locations on some holes,” said Brian Kittler, vice president of golf operations at McConnell Golf.
Other aspects of the renovation include the addition of teeing areas to help extend the course to nearly 7,400 yards, the installation of a new irrigation system, changes to natural drainage areas across fairways.
Some cart paths have been removed or rerouted, and the club has used a new process to give paths a more natural look. “A machine tills whatever is existing, be it old path, soil, roots, and incorporates cement and water to create a soil surface,” said Michael Shoun, VP of agronomy at McConnell Golf. “The final product is eight to 10 inches of a soil surface that takes on the natural look of the material tilled. It’s called ‘natural path’ — not meant to be a perfectly smooth surface, more like a hard soil path.”
“We’ve all been counting down the days to the reopening,” said 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. It’s got a good vibe going.