By STEVE HANF
It was a humid August day. The players lingered in the parking lot in their foursomes, chatting about rounds that ranged from a sizzling 76 to a respectable 89.
And they were in no hurry to leave Greensboro National Golf Club.
“The clubhouse, the whole atmosphere – this place has changed,” Greensboro golfer Joe Clayton said. “I understand it’s under new management and you can tell that when you walk through the door.”
For the investment group running the club, high praise like that – coming from someone who has played Greensboro National a few times a year the last 10 years – is as sweet as the sound of a long putt hitting the bottom of the cup. The new management group bought the course out of bankruptcy in April 2012 and has been steadily improving what once was a popular place to play.
“The greens are better, the overall look of the course is better. It’s almost like a country club feel out here. It’s probably the best course we play that’s open to the public,” said Jayson Linard, who has been playing the course for about two years – long enough to impress his friends with his 76.
That’s exactly what Greensboro National intended to provide when it was built in 1995. The course boasts picturesque rolling hills, endless tree lines, and 55 acres of ponds, with several exquisite homes along the way. Upon arrival, golfers are welcomed by an attractive clubhouse with space that overlooks four holes through floor-to-ceiling windows. As a semi-private facility, Greensboro National is a golf course for every player, offering memberships as well as daily fee rounds for the public.
Prior to new ownership and during the course’s noticeable disrepair, the number of players had significantly diminished, eventually leading to the course’s bankruptcy. The course remained open for business while under bank ownership when it received a second chance at life. An investment group led by Greensboro Investor, Herbert B. Parks, purchased the course with hopes of reclaiming the great reputation Greensboro National had once earned. Patrick Donnelly, who works closely with Parks, was eager to invest in the course as well.
“I was playing here before the bankruptcy and I always liked the course,” Donnelly said. “I’ve been in Greensboro since 1996 and it’s just a great asset to the Triad community. I felt like saving the course would be a way of giving back to the community, a community that has been good to me and my family.”
Donnelly now finds himself at the course at least 4-5 times a week, assisting with the thousands of details that are required to operate a facility like Greensboro National.
Superintendent Vicente Hernandez, along with his hard-working team, has been critical to the club’s success over the past two years and has the entire course looking great. Players have commented that Greensboro National has the best bentgrass greens in the Triad.
The expansive driving range and two putting greens offer great practice areas, and Rick Murphy, owner of the Golf Academy and a PGA National Board of Director member, has a location here.
There are also new Club Car golf carts, which come equipped with touch-screen GPS units that measure distances for all shots, keep electronic scorecards, and even allow golfers to send food orders to the bar and grill for pick up at the turn or at the end of a round. The system even allows the staff and ownership to communicate directly with golfers from the pro shop or any remote location.
For these reasons, and so many more, people continue coming out to Greensboro National and the numbers are continuously increasing. The course logged over 4,000 rounds in July. When Donnelly first got involved in the investment and acquisition of the course, he recognized just about every player. Now, he’s seeing a lot of new faces mixed among the club’s members and regulars.
“It’s encouraging to see people playing more golf. We see the course as a fair test of golf and a great value,” Donnelly said. “Things are changing, people are seeing those changes, and they appreciate them.”
Donnelly said a number of projects are on tap for Greensboro National. The bridges and a few areas on the cart paths need repairs. The bathroom facilities in the clubhouse and on the course have begun the permitting process. Logistics for both are much of the issue so as to avoid interfering with play and activities at the clubhouse. To keep green fees at a reasonable level, sponsorships for post signs at each tee box, tee markers and putting greens are now available. Reidsville Nissan recently became the club’s driving range sponsor with the dealership’s logo presented on the course, the range yardage and bag stands and on all the range balls.
Participation by senior golfers is strong at Greensboro National. Donnelly said the course continues its efforts to increase the number of female golfers. Youth play has increased after working with First Tee of the Triad and area golf teams from nearby Northern Guilford, Northwest Guilford and Rockingham County high schools. Incentives including discounts and dynamic pricing programs have been tried to lure golfers in during the afternoons and on weekdays.
Overall, life throughout the Greensboro National community is thriving, and not just with the golfers. Events are being booked in the clubhouse while homes are being built, renovated and sold along the course. Donnelly is quick to add, “We have 12 lots currently available just waiting for new home construction.”
“I got involved as an investor in a golf course and I now play less golf than ever before,” he said with a laugh. “It’s kind of embarrassing when people ask me when the last time I played was. We spend a lot of time dealing with the details because it’s our goal to make Greensboro National the best golf course in the Triad.”
Donnelly doesn’t mind the short 18-minute commute to the club from his Greensboro office located between Cone Boulevard and Pisgah Church Road; especially, when he has a chance to play the scenic par-4 seventh with the backdrop of lake, trees and houses. Another favorite is the par-3 16th which is among the holes offering birdie chances. The 18th is a great finishing hole that offers an opportunity for birdie with an accurate drive and approach shot.
“You’ve got opportunities to score. That’s a big difference here,” Donnelly said. “It’s fairly open, but you have to be aware of the OB stakes.”
Just another reason why Greensboro National proved so popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s – and why many golfers are rediscovering the course.
“We’re out of the crawling stage and past the toddler stage,” Donnelly said. “The main thing we’ll be focusing on is providing a quality golf experience, a quality food and beverage experience, and making sure people are treated right by the staff. Keep in mind Herb Parks and the investors are in this investment for the next 25 years.
“From my point of view, it should be at the top of every golfer’s list of courses to play in the Triad,” Donnelly added. “We want to reach the point where, if you live in the Greensboro area or you’re just visiting, you’ll want to play here. The future looks bright.”