McConnell Golf expands to Charlotte

Raleigh-based McConnell Golf, the golf course company led by former technology entrepreneur John McConnell, has expanded into the Charlotte market with its acquisition of Providence Country Club.

McConnell Golf now owns a dozen golf courses, all of them in the Carolinas with the exception of Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tenn., which it purchased in December. The company also manages a 13th course.

Financial details of the latest transaction, announced late Tuesday, weren’t disclosed.

McConnell Golf also plans to invest $4 million over the next few years on upgrading Providence’s golf course and improving the facilities, especially the exercise facility. Providence has 14 tennis courts and three swimming pools.

“I just want to make it a ‘wow’ golf course,” founder and CEO John McConnell said of plans to renovate the course. “Right now, it’s a good golf course but not a great golf course. We want to bring it up to the standards we have at our other properties.”

McConnell said he has long been interested in owning a country club in Charlotte, not only because it is a growing city with a lot of high-income residents, but also because of its proximity to several other McConnell Golf clubs.

“It ties in all the other dots, so to speak,” McConnell said.

Proximity is important because McConnell Golf allows members who pay the initiation fee at any one of its clubs to play all of its courses. Nearby McConnell Golf courses include the Old North State Club in Stanly County, The Country Club of Asheville and Musgrove Mill Golf Club in Clinton.

McConnell said that Providence, which was owned by its more than 700 members, is in good financial shape.

“It’s unlike any other club, probably, that we’ve bought in that it’s making money and it has a great facility,” he said. “Usually, one of those two thing are missing when we buy a club.”

McConnell said he was approached by Providence last spring about a possible sale.

“I think they are just looking to the future and want to expand the club,” McConnell said, “Many of their current members have played at our clubs ... They saw what we did at other properties.”

McConnell entered the golf business in 2003 with the acquisition of the Raleigh Country Club, which had filed for bankruptcy. Today McConnell Golf also owns two other Triangle courses, TPC at Wakefield Plantation and Treyburn Country Club.

John McConnell made a fortune as co-founder and CEO of publicly traded Medic Computer and then made a second fortune as an investor and CEO of A4 Health Systems.

McConnell said he remains interested in buying more golf clubs.

“We haven’t reached the 14-club rule yet,” he joked. In golf, players are penalized if they have more than 14 clubs in their golf bag.

David Ranii: 919-829-4877, @dranii