Host venue to the Raleigh Ladies Invitational on the LPGA Tour from 1966 to 1974, the 18-hole layout at Raleigh Country Club dates back to the late 1940s. It’s thought to be the very last course that Donald Ross designed.
“A couple of courses vie for the distinction of being Ross’s last design,” remarked Tom Doak in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, “but we know Ellis Maples had to finish the construction here after Ross’s death in 1948, and architect Rich Mandell used a 1954 aerial photo to restore it. The par-5 12th was transformed from a straightaway hole to an intriguing double-dogleg between restored bunkers, while the huge dogleg left 18th has regained its esteem as one of the state’s finest finishing holes.”
Clearly discontent with the status quo, owner McConnell Golf closed the course in February 2020 for a $5 million Kyle Franz renovation. Greens will be expanded, new bunkers will be installed and around 350 trees will be felled. The course is scheduled to reopen in October 2020.
Raleigh is likely Donald Ross’s last design and I must say he finished on a high note. The course is set on beautiful rolling land just east of the city. The course flows naturally through the landscape and Ross was able to build some memorable holes, especially the uphill par 4 second which has not one but two false fronts at the green! The par 3’s are the strength of he course. The third plays 195 yards uphill with a reverse redan type green. The sixth plays 235 yards and is also slightly uphill. The green has a pretty typical back to front Ross green that is almost impossible to get up and down from behind. Fourteen is another long (226 yards) par three protected by a bunker right and a swale left. Seventeen is only 150 yards but the green is thin and narrow and surrounded by bunkers. In fact the greens are the strength of the course and all of them have treacherous slopes that are downright frightening when the greens are fast, as they usually are.
Raleigh is getting ready to undergo a renovation by Kyle Franz, who did a remarkable job at Mid Pines in Pinehurst. The property could certainly use some significant tree clearing to open up vistas and I will be interested to see where Franz goes with this project.
This is a solid 4 ball course on the top100 scale and a solid 5 on the Doak scale. I will be excited to return after the renovation.