Wednesday, April 4, 2012

McConnell Golf: Covering Its Bases

Hole No. 16 at Old North State Club

McConnell Golf dominated this year’s rankings of the best Carolinas golf courses, while owner/CEO, John McConnell, joined a list of the most influential figures in golf

(RALEIGH, NC) — Nearing its first decade of existence, Raleigh-based McConnell Golf is also fast approaching its mission to cover all areas of the Carolinas with some of its finest private golf and country clubs.

This according to the North Carolina and South Carolina rating panels, which individually rank the courses in their respective states.

Want to play the best in the North Carolina’s Triangle area? McConnell Golf-owned Raleigh Country Club is No. 1; Treyburn Country Club in Durham is No. 3.

Live in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad? McConnell’s revered Old North State Club in New London is rated No. 1, as always; while Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, home of the PGA TOUR’s Wyndham Championship, is No. 2.

Not to be left out, McConnell’s popular Pete Dye layout at The Cardinal Golf and Country Club in Greensboro rounds out the Piedmont Triad’s Top 10.

Is travel taking you through the Upstate of South Carolina? There you’ll find the hidden McConnell Golf gem Musgrove Mill, arguably Arnold Palmer’s finest design, which the South Carolina golf panel ranks as No. 2 in the area and No. 13 overall in the state.

And of course, McConnell Golf members along Myrtle Beach’s storied Grand Strand are able to enjoy the brilliance of Greg Norman’s The Reserve Club of Pawley’s Island — not only ranked No. 5 in the entire Grand Strand, but which also made the greatest recent leap in the South Carolina rankings, up to No. 35 in the state overall from 46 in 2010.

Little wonder McConnell Golf CEO John McConnell of Raleigh was named one of the North Carolina Golf Panel’s “Most Influential Figures in Golf,” a list compiled every five years that includes North Carolinians who influence the game both in the state, nationally, and in some cases worldwide, whether in the spotlight or behind the scenes.

The panel’s rankings are published annually in the April issue of Business North Carolina magazine, and are detailed on the panel’s Web site (

Along with McConnell, the 2012 list of influential Tar Heel residents included Bobby Long of Greensboro, who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to revive the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield CC while also repositioning the tournament into a regional event with a better date and host course. Also listed is North Carolina resident and renowned golf course architect, Tom Fazio, whose name popularized both state’s rankings.

Throughout its nine-year existence McConnell Golf has operated with a mission of presenting its members the finest possible private club offerings — part of the reason the company has spent millions of dollars upgrading each of its eight clubs around the Carolinas, and why the company’s golf courses and clubs are consistently ranked so high.

Leading the way for McConnell Golf, as it typically does, was Old North State Club, one of the aforementioned Fazio designs and a perennial mainstay among North Carolina’s finest few golf courses — this time coming in at No. 4 in the state behind only Pinehurst No. 2, site of the 2014 men’s and women’s U.S. Open, Grandfather Golf and Country Club and Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, site of the PGA TOUR’s Wells Fargo Championship and 2017 host of the PGA Championship.

Sedgefield CC is ranked No. 20 in the state followed closely by Raleigh CC, the final design in the storied career of golf course architect Donald Ross, which is ranked 21st and Durham’s Treyburn CC, another Fazio stunner up one spot in this year’s rankings at No. 30 — and sure to jump even higher following the extensive renovation of the golf course, which has recently reopened to rave reviews.

Last but certainly not least among the McConnell Golf offerings in North Carolina, The Cardinal Country Club moved up seven spots in 2011 and is now ranked 57th in the state, while the newest acquisition, Hale Irwin’s TPC at Wakefield Plantation in Raleigh, is No. 88.

The North Carolina Golf Panel also rated the “Best Collection of Par 5s” in each region, with variables including variety, risk vs. reward, degree of difficulty and memorability. Again, McConnell courses reigned supreme. In the Triangle, Treyburn ranked No. 1 for par-5s, while TPC at Wakefield Plantation ranked No. 3.

Best par-5s in the Piedmont Triad? Naturally, the top spot belonged to Old North State Club, a perennial rankings favorite.

In South Carolina, The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, which will play host to the PGA Championship this summer, moved to No. 1 in the state rankings, edging The Sea Pines Resort’s Harbour Town Golf Links for the top spot (

“As always, there are so many outstanding golf courses that you’re really splitting hairs,” said Michael Whitaker, executive director of the South Carolina ratings panel.


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