Striking a Balance

by Brad King

 Jul 16, 2019 at 7:06 PM

Agronomy teams blend peak course conditions with sustainable practices

Governing nearly 2,000 acres of greenspace across three states, McConnell Golf takes its impact on the environment seriously. While striking the perfect balance between pure course conditions for golfers and sustainable environmental practices for the planet takes years of effort, agronomy teams have dutifully accepted the challenge. Let’s catch up on their latest efforts.

High Standards

As far as eco-friendly golf courses go, the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP) is the Holy Grail.

The award-winning environmental education and certification program helps courses protect the environment and preserve the natural heritage of the game. The program aims to enhance valuable natural areas and wildlife habitats surrounding golf courses in order to improve efficiency and minimize potentially harmful practices.

Achieving Audubon certification can also gain golf courses and clubs recognition for their efforts toward saving the planet. Membership in the ACSP has grown steadily since the program began in 1991 - bolstered by collaborative efforts with the United States Golf Association (USGA) – and now includes more than 2,300 golf courses in the United States and three dozen countries worldwide.

The ACSP assists each participating golf course in taking stock of its environmental resources and any potential liabilities, then develops a plan that fits the course’s unique setting, goals, staff, budget and time. The path to certification encompasses six key components:

• Environmental planning

• Wildlife and habitat management

• Chemical use reduction and safety

• Water conservation

• Water quality management

• Outreach and education

McConnell Golf Director of Agronomy Michael Shoun says achieving Audubon certification is an involved process that demonstrates an organization’s leadership, commitment and high standards of environmental management. Once a course’s unique plan is implemented and the results carefully documented, Audubon International staff visit the property to ensure compliance. Recertification is required every three years to maintain the Certified Sanctuary designation.

Among the McConnell Golf stable of golf courses, The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation is Audubon certified, while Sedgefield Country Club and The Reserve Golf Club are several years into the process, and Old North State Club on Badin Lake has taken steps to renew its certification. 

At Old North State Club, a group of volunteers has been focusing on some large, winged pollinators.

In Our Own Backyard 

As part of the Audubon Society’s Backyard Habitat Program, birdhouses and bat boxes were first installed throughout the Badin Lake community in 1993. Although these initial 90 man-made habitats eventually slid into disrepair, Uwharrie Point residents Larry Ingold and John Ratliff have been leading an effort to revitalize the program. Over the past two years, volunteers have teamed with Old North State Club Superintendent Chris Chapman to add 21 new structures to the 28 original that could be salvaged. The team currently monitors 19 bat boxes, 13 purple martin houses, 32 wood duck boxes, and 78 bluebird houses.

Many of the structures are visible from the golf course and clubhouse – which extends benefits beyond the wildlife when it comes to their primary food source.

“Bats and purple martins are known for eating mosquitoes and other nuisance insects,” Shoun said. “Being on Badin Lake, it’s a great location for them. Hopefully we’ll see some results where you can go outside without being eaten up by mosquitoes.

Worldwide, the pollinating efforts of bats, birds, bees and insects such as monarchs is worth an estimated $100 billion per year in crop yields according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. However impactful the efforts of McConnell Golf are to aide local ecosystems and bolster the beauty and enjoyment of its courses, it is but one small part in the overall health of the planet. Perhaps the lesson learned here, in helping to re-establish pollinators, is that every little bit counts.


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Plan Your Getaway

by Jamie Waggoner

 Jul 04, 2019 at 8:10 AM

Tennis groups head out of town for competition – but mostly for fun

Being new is challenging. We’ve all been the new kid at school who wants to meet new people and find his or her place. Well, if you’re a tennis player and new to McConnell Golf there’s a great way to make friends via the Men’s and Women’s tennis groups that travel to sister properties for fun weekend getaways.

According to Kyle Thortsen, McConnell Golf director of tennis, Old North State Club has been the most desired destination for both women’s and men’s trips. In addition to the club’s extraordinary tennis and golf offerings, the marina epitomizes fun in the sun. Down time during these trips centers on boating and taking in sweeping views of Badin Lake.

“The men’s group has traveled to Old North State, while the women’s group has explored both Old North State and Country Club of Asheville."

The groups keep a tight schedule to make the most out of their three-day weekends. On the Friday they arrive, members enjoy a meet and greet round robin to break the ice, which is great for the newcomers. Next, members participate in a clinic to sharpen their skills, followed by a delicious lunch held at the tennis center.

The day on the courts closes with a tournament to challenge each member to the best of his or her abilities. After the thrill of competition and a long day of tennis, the group welcomes a little down time before dinner.

At Old North State this could include hanging out by the pool, boating or watching the sunset lakeside from the club’s trademark Adirondack chairs. If the tennis group is at Country Club of Asheville, they can explore the scenic and historic downtown area or venture into Pisgah National Forest’s natural beauty.

For Country Club at Wakefield Plantation member Phil Gugliotta one of his favorite memories on one of two tennis trips he’s been on is his win during a championship round with his friend Chris Bricker. The two won store credit for their victory! Surrounding Father’s Day, he adds, the trips serve as an excellent Dad’s retreat.

Gugliotta says, “The trips are a lot of fun because there are all different levels attending, so it is nice to be able to experience different levels of play.” He added that they are also a great way for new members to meet people. 

He applauds Thortsen and Head Tennis Pro Cory Oliphant for keeping the trips fun and organized, on and off the court.

“I enjoy a round of golf on the Friday we arrive, tennis all day Saturday, and being able to relax with friends,” he shares.

The real magic, of course, is how comradery from the courts transitions into recreation. Gugliotta laughs as he recounts one of his funniest tennis trip memories. While boating, the group ran out of supplies. Rather than everyone go back to the dock, one of the men eagerly took the plunge and swam back to restock. Now that’s teamwork!

If you’re looking to meet new people, take a well-deserved trip, or even tune-up your game, McConnell Golf tennis trips are a great way to do so. From casual round robins to competitive championship matches, all levels are welcome. It’s all about coming together and having a great time.


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Serenity on the Shoreline

by Anna Plyer

 Mar 23, 2019 at 2:24 AM

It's carpe diem for the Baker Family as they reflect on their "lake life"

Old North State Club members Scott and Kristin Baker cherish their time spent with family on their dock and boat. The Bakers, along with their three children, were drawn to the breadth of outdoor opportunities available year-round at Badin Lake and its easy, less than an hour drive from their home in Concord. This allows them to make weekend and even day trips to their retreat.

Weekends find their family trying to fit it all in. The golfers head to the course early while the rest of the family splits their time between the tennis courts, running trails, and the club’s fitness center. They regroup at home for a quick lunch, then it’s on to the boat, where they never seem to have enough time for the many water sports they enjoy.

Afternoons filled with wake surfing and wakeboarding are followed by early evening refreshments on the dock, and then a return to the boat, where the skiers seek the still flat waters of early summer evenings. Many days they also squeeze in a ride on the WaveRunner, on which they often visit friends at their docks along the lake. Grilled dinners on the deck are followed by quiet evenings on the porch, or, on full moon nights, by taking in the magnificence of the idyllic lake by boat.

During cooler months, afternoons consist of hiking or biking on the nearby Uwharrie Mountain trails, or taking long walks with their dogs, after which they frequently gather around the firepit long into the evening. No matter the time of year, their family’s favorite time of day at the lake is late afternoons. Sitting on the dock as the sun sets and the lake quiets, they appreciate watching the ducks, blue herons, and other wildlife on the water.

The Baker family enjoys spending holidays together at Old North State Club, especially the July Fourth celebration at the clubhouse. Kristin and Scott’s children rearrange their schedules to spend July Fourth weekend at the lake each year, often with friends in tow. The festive atmosphere, live music, lawn games, and delicious summer cookouts culminate in fabulous fireworks reflecting over the lake.

From a very young age, Kristin and Scott’s oldest daughter, Leah, dreamed of being married under the gazebo overlooking Badin Lake at Old North State Club, with a celebratory reception of dinner and dancing on the veranda overlooking the lake. That dream became reality for her this past June, as she and her husband said their “I dos” under the gazebo just as she always envisioned. The club’s staff went above and beyond to make their special day perfect, giving the entire family a memory they will forever cherish.

For years to come Badin Lake and its surrounding area will keep the Bakers active, healthy and happy. They exemplify all of the reasons why Uwharrie Point is such a fantastic place to call home. 



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On the Water

by Meredith Donahue

 Mar 22, 2019 at 8:30 PM

McConnell Golf’s marinas provide the perfect launching point.

Whether at sunrise, sunset, or high noon, setting off on your boat is truly a treasured pastime to boat owners at the marinas adjacent to three McConnell-associated properties - Crazy Horse Marina, Old North State Marina, and Grande Dunes Marina. All are open to the public and offer slip opportunities for those looking for their next marina home, or just stopping by for the day.

Crazy Horse Marina, located in Moneta, VA, is owned by the McConnell family. This picturesque place is centrally located on Smith Mountain Lake in a cove just off Blackwater Marker B-10A, and offers full boating services. The marina hosts popular annual events such as Bass Pro Shop’s Big Bass Tour and the SML Wine Festival.

Further south is Old North State Club Marina in New London, NC. Full-service, and available to boat owners and renters, the marina offers 50 wet slips, 100 dry-storage spaces, and 50 fence spaces. Anchoring Uwharrie National Forest, it’s the perfect launching point to explore Badin Lake's 115 miles of shoreline.

In South Carolina, Grande Dunes Marina is the ideal place to begin your adventure on the Intracoastal Waterway. With 126 wet slips and 1,200 linear feet of lay-along floating docks, the marina offers a protected harbor for vessels up to 120 feet. A full-service marina, Grande Dunes is also located next to the Anchor Café, a favorite spot among locals.

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Holding Court!

by Matt McConnell

 Mar 23, 2018 at 12:47 AM

Game, set, dinner!

Exhibition matches have long been a celebrated occasion across the tennis facilities of McConnell Golf; however starting last year, a new twist was added — members can enjoy great food, service, and entertainment right on the court.

“What can be better than dining under the stars while watching local collegiate and professional tennis players compete?” asks Kyle Thortsen, director of tennis operations. “These Dining on the Courts events are a night for the entire family to enjoy.”

McConnell Golf’s most popular destination property pulled out all the stops for their Dining on the Courts evening, organized by Director of Tennis Chris Callicutt and Executive Chef Michael Monahan. Members received a complimentary drink on arrival, while white tablecloths and upbeat jazz lent a chic ambiance to the Mediterranean themed dinner.

“It was fabulous,” exclaims member Rich Miller. “We have a beautiful venue, with the patio and terrace overlooking the court. We enjoyed a professional doubles match, with a relaxed, party atmosphere. It doesn’t get much better.”

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More than a Meal

by Chad Flowers

 Mar 21, 2018 at 9:54 PM

Enjoy a memorable dinner at Old North State Club. 

The sun is setting at Old North State Club, its beauty framed by the dining room’s panoramic windows. There’s a vibrant energy in the air. The club’s beloved Executive Chef Michael Monahan has something new in store for members tonight, and the smell of steaks sizzling on the grill is a tantalizing aroma.

Even to those who frequent this club and dining room often, like myself, this is a special environment that never gets old. That’s because Old North State Club at Uwharrie Point is a special place, where a day spent on the links or exploring the natural beauty around the club is complemented by an elegant, memorable meal in the dining room.

Monahan has been at Old North State Club since 2015, and his culinary style and trendy menu offerings have transformed the club into the place to be on Badin Lake. The members have certainly taken notice as well, as Friday and Saturday evening dining is especially popular.

“A packed dining room is always a great thing,” says Monahan. “We strive for everything to be perfect for every diner, and when the dining room and bar are full, the kitchen staff is really able to fire on all cylinders.”

Although he has been at Old North State Club for three years, Chef Monahan has many more years of experience with McConnell Golf under his belt, including stints at Sedgefield Country Club and the former Cardinal Golf and Country Club. He began working at the Cardinal in northwest Greensboro in 2008, taking over for current McConnell Golf Corporate Executive Chef James Patterson (or as he’s fondly known, JP). When JP left the Cardinal to oversee operations at Musgrove Mill Golf Club, he knew he was leaving the club in good hands with Monahan.

“Chef Michael has always been an asset to McConnell Golf, not only in the kitchen and behind the line, but also from an innovation standpoint,” says JP. “His background of working in restaurant kitchens helps him to view club dining operations differently from other chefs. Different ideas and discussions between our chefs is always a good thing.”

Chef Monahan has transformed the dining experience at Old North State Club into much more than just a white table linen establishment. Of course the club has white tablecloths and frequent dinner specials, however, there is so much more, including themed dinners and events. From Mediterranean Night to Seafood Night to the popular oyster roast, there is always a theme to offer members something new and exciting while also keeping the culinary staff on its toes.

Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to attend one of these special evenings at the club — a Butcher’s Table event, in which Chef Monahan rolled a cart of beef to each table where diners were able to choose between tenderloin or ribeye and choose the size of their cut.

And this was not just any beef. It was Aberdeen Red Angus, a heritage breed originating in Scotland and grass-fed in North Carolina. There were many petite filets cut that evening, and there were also many large ribeye steaks served.

Along with the choice of steak, diners could choose between a number of sides, salads, and of course dessert. Although the steak was the main feature of the evening, the accompanying side dishes also played a major role in how the meal came together.

“The flavors of the protein are what most diners enjoy, but what people do not understand is how those flavors are enhanced greatly with the addition of the proper spiced seasonings as well as the appropriate side items,” says Monahan.

Also in his third year at Old North State Club, Club Manager Frank O’Hara sees an uptick in the culinary operation over the past few years.

“In the dining industry, consistency is important,” says O’Hara. “Consider the private club atmosphere, where almost 100 percent of your patrons are repeat customers. The consistency dynamic is magnified that much more. One of the challenges we face every day is how to remain consistent with our menu and flavors coming out of the kitchen for the members whom enjoy certain items, while also creating new and innovative items and tastes for our members and guests to enjoy.”

The next time you’re on the McConnell Golf website, head over to Old North State Club’s page and check out their calendar of events and club newsletter. Choose an event to attend, make a reservation, and book a weekend getaway to Old North State Club. I guarantee it won’t be your last! 


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Wellness Beyond The Workout

by Natalie Clemens

 Dec 02, 2017 at 4:30 PM

In addition to physical therapy, two McConnell clubs offer massage therapy — Sedgefield and Old North State.

Old North State currently offers 60-minute massages April – September each Saturday by appointment only. According to Chris Callicutt, director of tennis and activities: “We added massage therapy to complete that resort-style feel and to add a spa element to a club with already bountiful amenities. This offering helps reach our goal of holistic wellness for our members.”

ONSC member Lucy Mullen raves about the program. “Men and women alike are enjoying this. The massage therapy room is well-appointed and provides a calm, relaxing atmosphere for each session.”

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