RALEIGH, NC — Two upcoming Korn Ferry Tour events will be contested at country clubs owned by Raleigh-based McConnell Golf.
This week, Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tenn., is playing host to the Korn Ferry Tour’s Visit Knoxville Open for the third consecutive year.
Next week, the Korn Ferry Tour’s UNC Health Championship presented by STITCH will be played at Raleigh Country Club after 18 years at another McConnell Golf venue, The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation in North Raleigh.
Both golf courses were designed by legendary golf course architect Donald Ross. McConnell Golf is the only individual golf course proprietor in the world that owns four Ross-designed courses. In addition to Raleigh CC and Holston Hills, the McConnell Golf stable also includes Ross designs at Greensboro’s Sedgefield Country Club — which annually plays host to the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship (August 3-6), the ACC Women’s Championship and the AJGA Wyndham Invitational Presented by Truist (June 12-16) — and Country Club of Asheville.
McConnell Golf is the region’s largest owner of premier private clubs with a portfolio across North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, including 13 18-hole, private golf courses, two semi-private courses and one 27-hole public course.
Since its debut in 1927, Holston Hills Country Club on the northeast side of Knoxville, Tenn., has played an integral role in the game of golf. Ross’ design there has always been highly regarded among the country’s most prestigious golf course rankings. It also consistently ranks among the Top 10 Courses in Tennessee, including a No. 2 spot in GOLF.com’s 10 best golf courses in Tennessee (2022/2023) and Golfweek’s Best 2022: Top public and private courses in Tennessee.
The co-founder of the Donald Ross Society, Michael J. Fay, has said that he would rather play Holston Hills on a regular basis than any other golf course in the South. Acclaimed golf course architect Tom Doak says Holston Hills is the closest golf course around to what Ross originally designed.
The club has played host to many national events in its history, including the PGA Tour’s Knoxville Invitational, which was captured by Byron Nelson in 1945 during a historic season that included a record-setting 18 victories. Holston Hills welcomed the 2004 USGA Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship and has also played host to numerous Tennessee PGA Championships.
Later this summer, Holston Hills will also host the Tennessee PGA Senior/Assistant’s Championship (July 31-August 1).
McConnell Golf purchased Holston Hills in late 2015 and has invested millions in capital improvements. In 2019, the PGA Tour and TOUR Vision Promotions signed a five-year agreement with Holston Hills to host the Korn Ferry Tour’s Visit Knoxville Open.
McConnell Golf Founder and CEO John McConnell said he knew Holston Hills was a special place from the moment he set foot on the property. “It immediately reminded me of Shinnecock Hills,” McConnell recalls, referencing the storied eastern Long Island golf club that was a founding member of the USGA and has hosted five U.S. Open Championships.
“I knew when I saw Holston Hills that it would be a great addition to our golf portfolio,” McConnell said. “It’s a ‘must-play’ for our members. Holston Hills enjoys a proud past and we think that it has a great future as well.”
Raleigh Country Club opened in 1948 just east of downtown Raleigh. It is Ross’ final design and annually ranks among the state’s best layouts. In 2003, RCC also became the first club purchased by McConnell Golf, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
Raleigh Country Club boasts a rich history of hosting professional and amateur championships:
The club hosted an LPGA event from 1966-1974. From 1966-1970, the tournament was called the Raleigh Ladies Invitational. From 1971-1972, it was called the Raleigh Golf Classic and from 1973-1974, it was called the American Defender Raleigh Classic. Judy Rankin, Carol Mann and Kathy Whitworth were some of its notable champions.
From 1998 to 2000, RCC hosted the Nike Tour/Buy.com Tour Carolina Classic prior to the move to Wakefield Plantation in 2001. Now the event returns back to RCC in 2023. Winners were Brian Bateman (1998), Vance Veazey (1998) and Mark Hensby (2000). Jimmy Green shot a first round 60 (29-31) to set the old course record in 1998 before finishing second. Green’s scorecard is on a plaque in the RCC Trophy Room.
The 2008 North Carolina Amateur Championship at RCC was won by Jack Fields on Father’s Day with his father on his bag, caddying. Fields set the then-course record with a final round 63 that included an eagle on No. 8 and double eagle on No. 12. His 3-wood/metal is on display at the home office of the Carolinas Golf Association (CGA).
The 2013 North Carolina Mid-Amateur Championship at RCC was captured by North Carolina amateur sensation Scott Harvey.
In addition, numerous McConnell Golf scholarship recipients have come through RCC including Grayson Murray, Carter Jenkins, Ryan Nagy and Blake McShea. RCC’s junior members of note include Cyrus Stewart and Stephen Franken.
In 2020, McConnell Golf completed a major renovation of its historic golf course, overseen by architect Kyle Franz. The layout lends itself to an excellent fan experience, with each holes in close proximity, giving spectators the privilege of watching multiple holes from expansive and convenient viewing areas.
Now, Raleigh CC prepares for the next chapter of its professional championship golf history, just in time to celebrate its 75th anniversary.
To commemorate the Korn Ferry Tour/Donald Ross “two-fer,” McConnell Golf is sponsoring the “Go-Low Challenge” in which a prize will be awarded to the professional who records the lowest combined score for the two weeks.
In addition, all McConnell Golf members can get a piece of the action by selecting the player they think will “go low” and shoot the lowest score combined in these two prestigious Korn Ferry Tour championships. The winner of the McConnell Golf “Go-Low Challenge” will select the driver of their choice and receive a professional fitting at their home club.