A Matter of Course

by Brad King

 Mar 22, 2019 at 3:30 PM

Fresh off a $3 million renovation, the course at Providence Country Club debuts to rave reviews.

In Late August 2018, McConnell Golf unveiled the renovated golf course at Providence Country Club in Charlotte just seven months after work began and ahead of schedule.

To the original Dan Maples layout, Kris Spence Golf Design moved and added sand traps, reconfigured several holes, and transitioned the greens to Champion Bermuda. Kevin Reardon, director of golf at Providence, says Spence took a previously flat, straight golf course and “really put some character into the place.”

On the par-3 sixth hole, the Greensboro-based architect altered the direction from the tee to bring a lake into play. On the par-5 10th hole, a bunker in the center of the fairway near the green was eliminated in favor of other traps to the side, which Spence named “principal’s nose” and “catcher’s mitt.”

Spence maintained the delegation of holes — five par-3s and five par-5s. In addition, he added about 30 yards to lengthen the course to slightly more than 7,000 yards.

McConnell Golf’s goal with the renovations was to create a course that would please its membership.

“The members have a course that they can be proud to show their friends and guests that is significantly different than their neighbors in the Charlotte market,” says McConnell Golf founder and CEO John McConnell.

Providence members are enjoying the recent course facelift.

Patrick Reynolds has been a member of Providence for 15 years. He is a 5 handicap and has played every one of  McConnell Golf’s properties. Reynolds calls the renovated course “familiar, yet refined.”

“No one will come to Providence and not recognize the course, but the new green complexes and the bunkers are a fantastic upgrade,” says Reynolds. “The course is like an old Ping putter that has been updated and refined. Spence and McConnell Golf changed it from an old Anser, to a shiny Scotty Cameron Newport. The course is definitely more difficult than before. The driving lines are easier, but you must maneuver around the bunkering. The green complexes can be diabolical with the numerous pin placements. The shop has been kind to us, but there are some pins that you just can’t get to if you miss the greens. There is a much higher premium on hitting greens in regulation.”

The fact that Providence Country Club is a member of the McConnell Golf portfolio also assisted in elevating its status among local golfers. Its roster now boasts 800 families, and club membership is in high demand.

“The membership roster swelled while we were closed,” says Reardon. Providence member Tom Richards says that overall, the renovation is quite an improvement on what he felt was a good golf course before the renovation — but one hampered by small issues beyond just the maintenance problems that prevented him from telling folks it was a great golf course.

“I used to tell people, it was the easiest hard golf course you’ll ever play,” says Richards. “Now, it truly is a harder course, but still fair. I now have to look at the course from the green backwards versus just blindly hitting a tee ball. It’s important to know where the pin is on the green, as that will dictate the placement of the tee shot in some cases. I’m not saying I’m skilled enough to do it, but I do think about it. On the par 5s, the second shot used to be a no-brainer decision with any club you wanted to hit. Now, your second shots into holes 8, 12, and 18 require distance control and accuracy — or you can put yourself in a really bad situation.”

Richards adds that visually, the course is much improved. He admires the way Spence’s team built and remodeled the bunkering, which has enhanced the look of each hole from every tee.

“This new strain of Bermuda is very playable with less grain than the older styles,” he says. “Putts roll very true and chipping requires a whole new level of thought and strategy versus just flying a chip to the hole and stopping it on the old greens. The new contouring of the greens is subtle enough that they can be cut to roll incredibly fast. Next summer should be very interesting.”

In September, a group of Charlotte-area sports journalists and avid golfers tackled the freshly restored layout and came away with rave reviews.

“Kris Spence has done exceptional work in the Charlotte area recently, most notably at Cedarwood and Carolina Golf Club, but I was especially impressed with the changes he made at Providence,” said Taylor Zarzour of Sirius XM Radio. “The green complexes fit the layout of the course perfectly. I particularly like what he did on the par-3 fourth hole. There is now a speed slot on the right portion of the green that can carry your ball to the hole or send it over the green. And the fall-off areas surrounding the greens are significant. The par-5 eighth hole has a steep ridge on the left portion of the green that now requires more accuracy. The entire golf course requires as much precision as any in town, and now the greens complement the rest of the course perfectly.” 

Longtime golf writer and editor Mike Purkey, now a regular contributor to Business North Carolina magazine, said the group played from 6,600 yards and found the golf course to be “manageable, but you had to hit good shots.”

“I’m sure from the back tees it’s a test,” said Purkey, a single- digit golfer. “The results are striking. Spence has created a course with instant character. It was a pleasure. The staff was terrific. The golf course is much, much improved. Golfers of every level will find Providence a good test while still being fun to play. It is a terrific addition to McConnell Golf.”

Longtime Charlotte Observer columnist and Global Golf Post contributor Ron Green Jr., said of Spence: “He understands the artistry and challenge inherent in quality golf courses, and his work on Providence Country Club has elevated the course across the board. Spence saw what Providence Country Club could be and he’s taken it there, giving the course a new look and feel while accomplishing the most important goal — making it more fun to play.”

Reardon and his staff are helping members adjust to the new course. “We’ve emphasized members working on their short-game as chipping, pitching, and putting has become very different than it was before the renovation,” he says.

More fun to play, indeed.


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Renovated Golf Course Re-Opens

by Brad King

 Mar 20, 2018 at 8:07 PM

Charlotte’s Providence Country Club unveils freshly renovated golf course. Raleigh-based McConnell Golf purchased Providence CC in early 2016 and has invested more than $5 million in capital improvements. Greensboro-based golf course architect Kris Spence oversaw the renovation work.

Providence Country Club in Charlotte is prepared to unveil its newly restored golf course on Friday, August 31.

Greensboro-based golf course architect Kris Spence oversaw the renovation work, which began in February and was completed ahead of schedule. The Providence golf course was originally designed by Dan Maples and tweaked in 2006 by Mike Gleason.

Raleigh-based McConnell Golf purchased Providence CC in early 2016 and immediately announced it would spend the next few years providing substantial improvements around the club and renovating Providence’s golf course. Spence was hired to function dually as the architect for the project, as well as the construction manager.

Spence’s comprehensive renovation project at Providence CC focused on bunkers, new and expanded irrigation for better course conditioning, transitioning the green complexes from bent grass to Champion Bermuda grass — reworking the green complexes without rebuilding them, especially the surrounds — along with fashioning new, dramatic views from the fairways. 

“The Providence project was a unique opportunity for me in that I was able to express a wider range of creativity versus most of my restoration efforts,” Spence said.

“Mr. McConnell wanted a golf course that was fun to play, aesthetically pleasing, strategic, interesting with variety, difficult when it needs to be but, first and foremost, one that the membership could be proud of. We delivered on that front.

“It was a great team effort between the Spence Golf and McConnell Golf maintenance guys at Providence Country Club. We worked through some tough weather conditions and pulled it off, I think the members will be pleasantly surprised at the opening day conditions.”

The new bunkers feature a combination of high sand flashed faces and slightly irregular rolled grass edges. “These are some of the most beautiful and functional bunkers I’ve done in my career,” Spence said. “Every bunker serves a strategic purpose or sets an angle moving the hole from side to side. Providence was somewhat flat and straight before,” said Spence. “Now, the holes sashay from side to side around through the bunkering creating tons of options.”

Providence features five par-3 holes. “One of my goals was to make them as different as possible with a wider variance in lengths and dramatically different looks,” Spence said. “The most dramatic among them is the ‘Redan’ style fourth with a back yardage of 240 yards, maybe the best par 3 I’ve designed to date.”

At 800 families strong, Providence’s avid golfing membership played 28,000-plus rounds in 2017.

“Kris Spence has delivered a golf course that is totally unique from the course we had before,” said McConnell Golf Founder and CEO John McConnell.

“I am truly impressed with the new look, as he took a very flat golf course and made it feel much more dramatic to play. All players will immediately notice the visual appeal and new strategy required. I think he retained the playability for all levels of golfers but they will totally be impressed with the new greens and bunkers that have been created.” 

In the past two years, McConnell Golf has performed $1.3 million in renovation work on the Providence clubhouse including an enlarged Fitness Center, renovated Golf Shop, a new bag-drop location and cart staging area, while the entire back lawn of the clubhouse was re-landscaped. Lastly, McConnell Golf added an all-new “Providence Playhouse” kid’s activity center. With the golf course renovation and clubhouse upgrade, McConnell Golf will have invested more than $5 million in capital improvements to enhance the Providence membership experience. 

“I am very pleased with the outcome that Kris Spence has provided,” said McConnell. “We have a course today that our members will enjoy playing on a frequent basis.”


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Adding Character to the Course

by Brad King

 Mar 13, 2018 at 9:18 PM


The crowd in Providence Country Club’s Carolina Ballroom in early January was standing room only for a presentation of the upcoming golf course renovation by architect Kris Spence, projected to re-open this fall.


The Wow Factor

McConnell Golf purchased Providence in early 2016 and immediately announced it would spend the next few years not only renovating the golf course, but also providing numerous other substantial improvements around the club.

The fun and playable golf course — originally designed by Dan Maples and tweaked in 2006 by Mike Gleason — sits on a relatively flat piece of property. While it has “good bones,” according to Director of Golf Kevin Reardon, there was “not a ton of character” to the layout. To illustrate, Reardon said members would sometimes hit the same club on all five of the course’s par-3 holes.

“The golf course needed more personality,” says Providence General Manager Howard Murphy. Spence’s comprehensive renovation project at Providence is focused on bunkers, new and expanded irrigation for better course conditioning, transitioning the green complexes to Champion Bermuda grass, along with fashioning new, dramatic views from the fairways.

“We’ll be able to keep the golf course much more consistently well-maintained,” says McConnell Golf VP of Agronomy Michael Shoun. “It’s a much-needed project that will help separate Providence from some of the other facilities in that area.”

Says McConnell Golf Founder and CEO John McConnell: “Spence has an outstanding reputation for providing quality work. He is a visionary in implementing new features and modernization when he updates an existing course.”

During his January presentation, Spence says the Providence golf holes were lacking “individual character.”

“Bunkers do not project angles and have poor visibility,” he says. “They’ll benefit from more variety and definition on and around the green complexes, while tree removal is needed for better sight lines and shade removal.”

Spence, who works dually as the architect for the project as well as construction manager, told the audience he plans to create a fun and interesting golf course, full of variety and added drama, through the introduction of his classic design principles.

“We’ll create interest and variety on green surfaces with subtle, twist-and-turn contours and the occasional plateau, shelf, swale, small knob or rolling undulation feeding in from the edges,” says Spence. “I’m very excited about it. We’re going to add a nice ‘wow’ factor to the golf course.” Spence says that unlike most of his restoration projects, Providence allows him to be more creative and diverse in the design of the bunkers in particular.

“I’ve done similar bunkering with a higher sand face versus the Ross grass faces most are accustomed to seeing me do,” he says. “While Providence won’t be fashioned in the look of Ross, I’ll certainly incorporate many of his design philosophies, as well as those by other golden-age designers such as A.W. Tillinghast.”

“Providence will have a unique style and strategy all of its own. The last thing we want is a course with multiple design styles. The overriding change the members will notice is the increased lateral movement of the holes around and between the bunker, and a stronger, more noticeable strategy to the course. Both bunkers and greens will be set with more angles that correlate strategically with one another. I’ll also raise the bunkers above the flat fairway grades to better speak to the players’ thought process when choosing a line of play.”


Ready for a Change

A neighborhood club with a younger membership, Providence has earned a reputation as one of the Queen City’s premier family country clubs. Providence’s extensive amenities include 14 tennis courts and state-of-the-art aquatic facilities with three pools, as well as a newly constructed outdoor bar and dining area with a fire pit.

With 800 families strong, Providence’s avid golfing membership played more than 28,000 rounds last year.

“Our course has always been fun to play,” says Providence member Ron Kirkpatrick, who has won the club championship eight times. “The greens are generally pretty large without a tremendous amount of undulation, although there are a couple of exceptions. We aren’t blessed with a lot of elevation change on the site, so texture plays a key role from a visual standpoint.”

Though the course will be closed until fall, Providence members can rest assured that their game won’t be affected. In addition to reciprocal access to 11 McConnell Golf sister properties, reciprocity has been established with 14 neighboring Charlotte clubs. It’s a great excuse to make the hour drive to Old North State Club, or retreat to the seclusion of Musgrove Mill near Clinton, S.C. With both offering on-site lodging, they’re a quick and easy road trip any time of year.

“Having the other McConnell courses that we can play is a tremendous addition for our member-ship,” says Providence member Adam Markin, who won the club championship in 2015 and 2016, as well as the senior club championship in 2016. “We have the benefit of other top-class McConnell courses within a 90-minute drive as we carry out the course renovation.”


Upgrades Abound

Meanwhile, renovation work is also underway on the clubhouse. The club’s Culbertson Dining Room and Turnberry Lounge are being fully updated with new furnishings. In addition, there will be a new front entrance to the restaurant.

In the past two years, McConnell Golf has completed $1.3 million of renovation work on the Providence clubhouse — including an enlarged Fitness Center, renovated Golf Shop, a new bag-drop location and cart staging area, while the entire clubhouse back lawn received a major land -scaping makeover. Lastly, McConnell Golf added an all-new “Providence Playhouse” kids’ activity center.

With the golf course renovation and clubhouse upgrade, McConnell Golf will have invested more than $5 million in capital improvements to enhance the Providence membership experience.

Murphy says the relationship with McConnell Golf has been an ideal fit for Providence.

“It’s been phenomenal,” he says. “Members and staff have embraced it and Providence is flourishing. 2017 was our biggest year ever, not only in membership, but also in every single operating department. Providence was already a good club, but we are very excited about the future and what we’re building here. This is something very special.”



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Proper Impact

by Kevin Reardon

 Dec 19, 2016 at 6:39 PM

Ben Hogan always said, “The secret is in the turf.” In the following video, featuring Providence Country Club's Justin Mathers and Kevin Reardon, turf paint is used to illustrate proper contact. 

The red line represents where the ball lays on the turf. By painting a line and hitting balls that lie directly on top of the line, it allows the student to identify where the contact took place. You’ll note in the video that a thin shot typically takes little to no turf. A heavy or fat shot will always happen when the club enters the turf behind the painted line. A well struck, or solid shot will be executed by hitting the golf ball first then followed by the club entering the turf on the target side of the painted line. 

To hit proper chips/pitches, do your best to have a flat left wrist at impact for righties, and flat right wrist at impact for lefties. If you feel as though your hands are in front of the club-head at impact, you’ll most likely be in the correct position to execute proper and solid contact. When you look at the impact with the paint you’ll instantly get feedback, thus the secret is no longer undisclosed.

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Connecting the Clubs

by Brad King

 Apr 01, 2016 at 5:08 PM

McConnell Golf’s recent purchases of renowned Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville and Providence Country Club in Charlotte mark inaugural ventures into a pair of new markets — while also tying together the membership network of 12 private golf club properties in the Carolinas and Tennessee.

Given the Strategic Location of McConnell Golf clubs throughout the Carolinas, the Charlotte market has long been the missing piece. The Queen City is as vibrant as it has ever been and the golf-crazed city stands geographically as a centerpiece destination connecting many of McConnell Golf’s 11 other golf properties around the Southeast.

McConnell Golf’s February purchase of Providence Country Club changes all that. Located in southeast Charlotte, Providence Country Club was established in 1989 and has developed a reputation as one of Charlotte’s premier family country clubs. Providence’s pristine 18-hole Dan Maples layout, redesigned by Mike Gleason in 2006, measures 7,021 yards and plays to a par of 72.

As it relates to the McConnell Golf family, Maples is the son of longtime Donald Ross protégé Ellis Maples. When Ross passed away in 1948 during construction of Raleigh Country Club, the elder Maples finished the job and served as Raleigh Country Club’s original superintendent and head golf professional. Together, the team of Ellis and Dan Maples helped create 17 outstanding courses including Grandfather Mountain in Linville, North Carolina, and the Country Club of North Carolina Dogwood Course in Pinehurst.

McConnell Golf owner and CEO John McConnell says he has long sought to acquire a country club in the Charlotte market and that the Providence acquisition connects the proverbial dots. “Along with giving us a truly outstanding club in a fast-growing urban area, Providence provides close proximity to several of our other courses including

Old North State Club and The Country Club of Asheville. Plus Providence is only 90 minutes from Musgrove Mill,” McConnell says. “This deal ties together our entire network of clubs, particularly our corporate memberships.”

McConnell Golf plans to spend the next few years renovating the course using an expert architect, while also providing numerous other substantial improvements around the club. Providence’s extensive amenities include 14 tennis courts and state-of-the-art aquatic facilities, with three swimming pools and a newly constructed outdoor bar and dining area with a fire pit.

“We are planning major improvements during the next several years, totaling around $4 million,” says McConnell Golf COO Christian Anastasiadis. “We will focus on new fitness and activity areas, along with the clubhouse and the golf course with a top recognized architect firm. 

From tee to green, Providence is considered one of the most pristine and challenging golf courses in Charlotte. The layout provides a unique test to the accomplished golfer without polarizing the novice. The originality of Maples’ design equates to five par-5s (three on the back nine), five par-3s (three in the first six holes), and eight par-4 holes, which are always complex and exciting. The uniqueness and beauty of each hole, with bent grass greens and Bermuda fairways, complement five-tiered tee boxes designed to accommodate all skill levels. Practice makes perfect and Providence has it all; multiple first-class putting greens, two short-game practice areas and a full-swing driving range.

“Our club is very family-oriented. We have a lot of young members and a lot of kids,” says longtime Providence Di- rector of Instruction Leslie Elmore, who spent four years after her college career at N.C. State trying her hand on professional tours in Europe and Asia. “We’ve got a very active membership. I give a lot of lessons. We have a warm, welcoming membership. People are very down- to-earth, not pretentious at all.”

A true neighborhood country club, the membership roster is mostly comprised of residents from nearby developments Providence and Providence Crossing.

“The Providence property reminds us a little bit of Wakefield, because it’s very big,” says McConnell Golf Director of Golf Boomer Kittler. “Big membership, big neighborhood, nice clubhouse, good swimming, and tennis facilities. Now it’s just a matter of what we can do to enhance it. Providence has the potential to be really good with the work we are going to do to the golf course. There are some incredible clubs around Charlotte that are tough to compete with — when you think about Quail Hollow, Charlotte Country Club, Myers Park, and places like that — but we think Providence has the ability to take it from a Big Four to a Big Five type deal.”

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