In 1760, King Charles bestowed a tract of land in Greenville, North Carolina, to a native family, who later sold the property to the Brooks family. They maintained the land for centuries before selling it for development — today, it is Brook Valley Country Club, and a copy of the royal charter still adorns the club’s front walls. Last October, McConnell Golf purchased the property and promptly began a two-year, $2 million capital improvement plan to rejuvenate the club while also honoring its history.
The Early Years
Two centuries after King Charles’ royal charter, in 1966, Brook Valley Country Club officially opened its doors. The golf course was designed by renowned Pinehurst-based architect Ellis Maples, and the club wanted a community to match its turf.
A mid-1950s graduate of N.C. State with degrees in civil engineering and construction, Pittman had been teaching art in a local community college at the time when he was invited to join a small, Greenville-based engineering firm called Rivers and Associates. Led by Tom Rivers, one of the original Brook Valley investors, the studio was charged with executing the primary design for the new community and golf club, surveying and determining how to best mix in residential lots with the golf course.
Pittman’s work included everything from widening the highway for a deceleration turn lane at the Brook Valley entrance, to moving and redesigning the dam for the community lake, to helping design the swimming pool and bathhouse as well as the parking lot and several bridges around the golf course — along with the then-cutting-edge planning of a split-level clubhouse that housed the golf carts underneath. “It was a big project for a year or two, sculpting it all out,” Pittman says. Brook Valley’s sporting history includes an exhibition match between legends Sam Snead and Ben Hogan. A young Curtis Strange once won a tournament there, as did 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.
Fast-forward a few years, and the golf community still supports Brook Valley’s potential. PGA Tour professional Will MacKenzie grew up in Greenville and regularly played at Brook Valley. “It’s definitely got some of the best rolling terrain we have in Greenville,” he says. “Brook Valley’s golf course was always a step above the others [in the area] in shot quality and feel, how the golf course was routed. But it needed to be restored.” McConnell Golf saw and seized that opportunity. Its Brook Valley improvement plan included upgrades to the clubhouse and golf course alike. Indoors, dining areas have been remodeled and restructured for beauty in all event styles. The bar and lounge area includes a fireplace, snack bar, and adjacent patio seating.
The pro shop has been entirely updated, and the club’s main level now features hardwood flooring. In recognition of the club’s past, elegant French doors lead to the ballroom. Yet, the most noticeable upgrade is an emphasis on sweeping views of the course. After all, that’s what won members’ hearts in the first place.
Return to Its Roots
The course and practice area have been renovated under the tutelage of Greensboro- based golf course architect Kris Spence. Spence has carved out a niche for himself in the Southeast by restoring Donald Ross — and Ellis Maples — designed golf courses. Like Ross and Maples, Spence comes at architecture from the perspective of a course superintendent. Using Maples’ original drawings, Spence’s work at Brook Valley includes bunkering and one green modification (on hole No. 2), along with significant tree removal, a pond dredging, and the relocation of a number of cart paths. “We brought the Ellis Maples bunkering back, as well as adding a few bunkers to modernize the golf course,” Spence said. “Brook Valley is a very nice mix of golf holes with a lot of variety. The par-fives in particular are some of the best three-shooters I’ve seen.” Known for their top-shelf practice facilities, McConnell Golf had Spence take BVCC’s existing practice facility — which was too short and did not have the elements of a well-defined target — and increase the size by lengthening the practice tee itself.
“We put full construction under (the practice area) with drainage and laser leveling,” Spence said. “We added a short-game area between the practice tee and the clubhouse that includes a shortgame green, a bunker and chipping fairway around it and also added a small warm-up green behind to the first tee ox — another McConnell Golf signature.”
It’s an overhaul even the original visionary appreciates. Alongside his development work, Pittman garnered a reputation in eastern North Carolina as an artist, too. “While I was doing Brook Valley and all the other work around the state, I was also painting,” Pittman says. “I was painting some of these scenes I saw out in the rural areas, the tobacco barns and the farmscapes and the little towns. I’d see something I wanted to paint and I’d throw on the brakes and take a picture of it or do a sketch.”
Lately, he’s returned to his first project for inspiration. A recent portrayal of the updated Brook Valley clubhouse earned regional attention, although Pittman says he never intended to be recognized. “It just sort of evolved,” he says of his art. “It never was the plan.” Likewise, Brook Valley has and will continue to evolve. “Everyone always said Brook Valley was the best layout in Greenville,” MacKenzie says. And the legacy continues.