By MARC PRUITT
Say goodbye to Pine Brook Country Club in Winston-Salem as you might know it. No, the club that opened in 1954 isn’t shutting its doors. It has a new ownership group that is making plenty of changes, most notably a new name – Maple Chase Golf and Country Club. Initially the ownership announced the name of Maple Plantation but a few weeks later it was changed to Maple Chase.
Longtime members Lynn and Lynette Matthews-Murphy purchased the club and want to do an overhaul to enhance the experience for current and future members. Plans include a complete renovation of the clubhouse, moving the golf pro shop, installing a new practice putting green, upgrading the pool area and expanding the practice area.
They will also be adding tees to several of the holes, but according to General Manager Mark Slawter, the course will largely be untouched.
“We are enlarging a couple of the greens right now, but other than that, we’re not going to touch the golf course too much,” Slawter said. “We have done some tree removal, but in large part, we think the golf course is pretty good as it is.”
The course can play as long as 6,400 yards now, but the addition of the new tees can stretch that to 6,700. New back tees will be added to holes 1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, and 16. New front tees have been added on Nos. 1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 11 and 18. The first tee will be moved to accommodate the expansion of the driving range.
“We wanted to stretch the yardage out a little bit because it was a little too condensed,” Slawter said. “This will also give us a chance down the road to attract some prestigious events on a regular basis. We’re very excited about it.”
A new 8,000-square foot practice putting green will be built between the 18th tee and the back patio of the clubhouse. They have also constructed a new stone wall behind the patio with an outdoor fireplace. And there will also be a new cart staging area.
The putting and chipping green will be expanded to make a short-game practice area that will stretch to as many as 70 yards with practice bunkers.
Slawter has also hired a new head pro, Sean Branagan, who began the first week of February.
“Sean’s been a club pro for 15 years and brings a strong teaching background, and is an excellent fit for everything we’re trying to do here,” Slawter said. “He has been at Palisades Country Club and Carolina Lakes Country Club right outside Charlotte.”
Changes to the interior of the club were described as “wholesale” by Slawter.
“Every room in the building is getting touched in some form,” Slawter said. “The restaurant and bar area are getting a complete overhaul. The pro shop is moving to a brand new location in the center of the building, and the old pro shop space will ultimately become a fitness center. The administrative offices have moved downstairs, which will make it easier on us to interact with our members. And we’re excited that Tim Grandinetti, who is one of the partners and executive chef at Spring House Restaurant, will be one of the restaurant’s consultants and have input on the menu.”
The swimming pool will also be getting some modifications, including new pool furniture and full food service. Slawter also said that he would like to resurrect the swimming team, which would be another potential draw for new members.
Slawter is the younger brother of Sutton Slawter, who is a partner with Lynn Murphy at Signature Real Estate, which is overseeing the project.
Slawter, who played golf for Reynolds High School and later became an All-American at N.C. State in 1994, had been running a college golf placement service in the area for the last four years when his brother afforded him the opportunity to jump on board his latest project.
“It was too good of an opportunity to pass up,” Slawter said. ““I love Pine Brook — always have. When they called me about it and said we’re going to renovate it and really make a push for membership, it was something that was very appealing to me. It was an easy decision because it’s a tremendous opportunity. I played quite a bit here growing up, and the last few years, I’ve played with my brother in member/guests. The course has a lot of neat characteristics; older greens with a lot of slope in them. Plus, it doesn’t take too long to get around out here.”
Slawter said the biggest challenge to the timeline of completing the renovation has been the weather, but thinks things have gone about as smoothly as possible.
“I’ve never personally overseen a project like this, but my brother and Mr. Murphy have with all of their real estate projects, so it’s not totally unfamiliar to them,” Slawter said. “More than anything this winter, the weather has been our biggest challenge. Other than that, I think everything has gone pretty smooth. With everything we’re doing – I mean, you might walk through here one day and get a face full of paint. And sure, everyday has been somewhat of an adventure, but all in all, I think everything’s gone pretty smoothly. I know our members will benefit from the changes, and we will have plenty to offer everyone, whether they play golf or not.”
Slawter said full-fledged marketing efforts are about to get under way now that the sale of the club is finalized, and they now can officially showcase the new name in all correspondence and advertising efforts.
“We’re going to hit things really hard now that all the legal aspects have been squared away,” Slawter said. “We’re going to get out in the community and tell them about what we’ve got to offer. We want to reach out to the major industries right around the club. We have some of the best meeting spaces in the county, and we can accommodate 400 bodies in our clubhouse. We think we’re well positioned to handle all their needs. We’ve seen a slight increase in members so far, and we’ve seen a tremendous amount of interest from the public wanting to join. We feel pretty good that we’ll get a push this spring.”
Slawter added that the club will still carry the “Pine Brook” name in some form.
“There is a lot of history here,” Slawter said. “We might be changing the name, but Pine Brook will live on in some capacity. We’ll find an appropriate way to honor the original name.”