Building Up STEAM

by Kristina Hernandez

 Jul 04, 2019 at 3:17 AM

Clubs offer tons of fun for all ages, from camps to nights out

Modern play has taken on a new meaning and direction as parents and childcare advocates incorporate applicable education into everyday activities. STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics — careers are the fastest growing in the country and salaries are sometimes more than double non-STEAM jobs.

Many McConnell Golf clubs offer camps during summertime and shorter school breaks to help kids (and parents) get the most out of their time away from school. No matter the occasion, camps are planned to maximize fun and feature a different theme each week over the summer — or for a day the kids are out of school, like President’s Day or a teacher workday.

The Country Club of Asheville has a diversified camp line up for kids ages 6-12. Themes include wet ‘n wild, creative arts, and nature explorer. Field trips to an area bird sanctuary and indoor entertainment facility are included for the older kids. CC of Asheville also offers mini-camps for children ages 2 1/2-6 that run both full and half days. Here, the little tots learn about art, science, dancing, nature, and fairytales in age-appropriate and entertaining ways.

The Kids Club at CC of Asheville incorporates STEAM learning into the daily activities of even the smallest children in the staff’s attentive care while filling a need for childcare that many parents grapple with when they begin families.

“It’s not like a YMCA where kids play and do what they like until the parents pick them up,” said Laine Kovac, a former preschool director who now serves as director of activities at CC of Asheville. “We use the Learning Box Preschool curriculum, which centers around two different themes every month. Each week the children learn about different shapes, letters, and colors. They also learn sign language and focus on art and music.”

Beginning in 2018, the club offers two hours of free childcare per day for parents who remain on-site. This frees up time for moms and dads to grab a workout, practice on the range, or meet up for a tennis match. Drop & Play is available for up to four consecutive hours and mini-camps are also offered for non-schooldays; ages 2 1/2 - 10.

Many CCA members happily use the Drop & Play program and appreciate the steps taken to ensure a vibrant learning community. It is so popular that the Kids Club is going a step further.

“Hopefully by next January we will be fully licensed so we can offer full-time daycare,” said Kovac. “It’s a big perk of being a member and the cost is significantly less than other full-time daycares.”

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The Joy of Sharing

by M. Linda Lee

 Jul 04, 2019 at 12:42 AM

A sister club exchange program allows McConnell Golf chefs to mix things up

There's wisdom in that old adage,“two heads are better than one,” especially when it comes to dining programs at McConnell Golf.“We asked our chefs to take a turn both hosting a chef and visiting a chef during the year,” says James Patterson (aka JP), the company’s corporate executive chef who oversees the culinary programs at Sedgefield Country Club and The Cardinal by Pete Dye. “It could be any type of event, a beer dinner, a wine dinner, a farm-to-table dinner, even a member-guest.”

Patrick Budniewski, executive chef at Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tennessee recently visited The Country Club of Asheville for a Sunday brunch with Chef Bruce McIntosh. He brought local cheeses and Benton’s bacon with him from East Tennessee. “We used the bacon in three ways — we even made coconut, chocolate chip and bacon scones.” At the suggestion of one of the Asheville line cooks, they also made a bacon-maple glaze to drizzle on the scones. “I had no idea how the membership would respond to it,” Budniewski admits, “but we ran out of scones about halfway through brunch that day.”

From plating styles to recipes, the chefs bring ideas they get from working events at other properties back to use at their own clubs. It might relate to a menu item, like the popular frozen grapes that JP borrowed from McIntosh, who puts them on his kids’ plates at CC of Asheville, or the idea of setting up grilling stations on the golf course during a member-guest tournament that Budniewski first saw at another McConnell Golf club. It could be as simple as the way a banquet is set up. When McIntosh worked with JP at Sedgefield, he noticed that they spread their banquet items out around the room, creating stations of food rather than a straight banquet line. Similarly, he was inspired to jazz up his club’s snacks by Chef Todd Jackson who makes his own beef jerky for golfers at The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation.

Yet the chefs aren’t the only ones who find value in visiting other clubs. Members also benefit from having exposure to different styles of cuisine. “It keeps dining exciting,” Budniewski says. “When Bruce came up [to Holston Hills], we did a health and wellness dinner. He did a demo of an Asian-style gluten-free noodle bowl. It was fun for members to see, and it was something we could do here, too. Every chef has a different style to show off.”

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Improving Your Game

by Brian Kittler

 Jul 04, 2019 at 12:11 AM

SkyTrak simulator allows indoor practice at The Country Club of Asheville

As we all experienced,rain fall in 2018 was significant. In fact, mos reported totals from the National Weather Service were at least a foot above average, with many cities in North Carolina setting records. On the bright side, rain and snow couldn’t stop members at Country Club of Asheville from working on their game this winter thanks to SkyTrak.

With the help of the Men’s Golf Association, Director of Golf Matt Stewart and his team installed the indoor golf simulator in the Cardinal Room this past December. This system allows members to improve their game year-round, practice anytime regardless of weather, and provides opportunities for games and entertainment.

Within its first three months at the club, the CCA professional staff did over 100 lessons and 25 club fittings, in addition to members playing over 50 rounds of golf on the many courses SkyTrak has to offer.

The system is extremely valuable in providing information that gives golfers of all levels a better understanding of what equipment to play with and why, by tracking how far they hit each club in their bag - not to mention the ability to play some golf during the slow winter months and keep their game in shape.

SkyTrak has been an asset to Stewart and his team as a teaching tool, helping to educate members about equipment options and keeping them engaged during the off-season.

“One huge benefit we have experienced by having SkyTrak has been the interaction with our members on those cold winter days or rainy days where most might stay home due to the weather. Instead, they are coming to the club to play, practice, or get lessons and club fittings on SkyTrak.”

A frequent user of SkyTrak is CCA member Randy McKinney, and he agrees with Matt. “What a great addition to the Country Club of Asheville! It’s a great way to practice year-round and in all types of weather. It gives me instant, accurate feedback on every swing.”

In addition to improving members’ games, the golf operations team has scheduled social events utilizing SkyTrak. During the NCAA Sweet 16 Basketball Tournament in March the staff hosted Hoops, Wings and Swings. Forty members attended to enjoy wings, a nacho bar and draft beer specials in addition to having a closest to the pin contest while watching the tournament and their brackets.

The excitement surrounding SkyTrak shows no sign of slowing. Moving forward, it will continue to be incorporated as an element of interactive fun at club events and as a way to “tag along” for the last three majors this season.


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Healthy Summer Recipe Swaps

by M. Linda Lee

 Jul 03, 2019 at 2:51 AM

Wellness is the self-proclaimed specialty of Executive Chef Bruce McIntosh at the Country Club of Asheville, so, naturally, he was our go-to when we wanted some suggestions for making classic summer recipes healthier. A native of California — where healthy cuisine is de rigueur — McIntosh moved to Asheville in 1981 and earned his executive chef certification at Asheville-Buncombe County Technical College. After years of working in different places around the country, he moved back to Asheville five years ago to work with McConnell Golf.

At the Country Club of Asheville, Chef and his team bring a cornucopia of healthy ideas to the table. Though McIntosh’s cooking style leans toward French cuisine, he swaps the heavy butter sauces for vegetable or fruit purées, and replaces butter and flour with cornstarch and arrowroot to thicken sauces. “For example, we recently ran a grilled salmon with a pineapple and mango salsa,” he notes. “We also do a pork chop with chimichurri sauce and avocado.”

In addition to accommodating vegetarian and vegan diners, the kitchen team also offers salt-free and gluten-free items. “We do a lot of brown and basmati rice, and a lot of steamed vegetables,” says Bruce. “And we serve all our entrées with three different vegetables, which we make fresh each day.”

“For collard greens, we use chicken stock that we make [from scratch] and we smoke turkey legs and use them instead of ham hocks.” Throw in some onion and vinegar, and you have a pot of tasty collards, without all the fat of the traditional Southern version.

Portion control is another big focus. For a recent children’s event, the chef whipped up 2oz burgers on little whole wheat buns. “If kids grow up with healthy food, they might turn that way when they get older,” he says.

To cut some calories from your summer fare, Bruce suggests substituting your favorite vinaigrette for mayonnaise when making potato salad. Or consider cauliflower as a stand-in for the potatoes (see recipe below). The same goes for coleslaw, which is just as good — maybe even better — with an Asian-inspired dressing of sesame oil and rice vinegar (see recipe below). Bon appétit!


Cauliflower Salad

Chef Bruce Suggests this easy substitute for summer potato salad. Serves 4. 

1 head raw cauliflower

1/4 cup chopped baby spinach

1/4 cup chopped cooked bacon

1 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Cut cauliflower into small florets, and mix it with other ingredients in a bowl. Chill several hours before serving.


Chinese Slaw

Here's the chef's healthy hack on traditional coleslaw - minus the mayo. Serves 4. 

2 lbs. Napa or Savoy cabbage, shredded

2 Tbsp. salt

1 Tbsp. chopped garlic

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced

1 cup shredded daikon radish

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1/3 cup rice vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

1 Tbsp. sesame oil

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Let mixture sit in the bowl for about 30 minutes, then drain off any water.

In a separate small bowl, mix together rice vinegar, sugar and sesame oil. Whisk until sugar dissolves. Pour dressing over slaw mix and serve. Slaw will keep up to four days.

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Pickleball Takes Center Court

by Martha-Page Althaus

 Mar 22, 2019 at 7:00 PM

It’s the fastest growing sport in the country, and McConnell Golf members have home-court advantage.

Pickleball is a paddle sport, similiar to tennis or badminton, but with fewer rules and, some would say, even more fun.

“This year is our test year for pickleball,” says Kyle Thortsen, McConnell corporate director of tennis. “We’re educating our tennis pros on how to play and running demos at clubs, so be on the lookout for more details from your pro shop on upcoming pickleball socials this year.”

Holston Hills Country Club and Country Club of Asheville have seen a big interest in the sport; both clubs have a regular group of players who meet weekly.

“The biggest fans of pickleball are usually those who are aging out of tennis,” says Thorsten. “It’s a slower-paced game with an underhand serve, played on a smaller court. It’s great for tennis players who may have had injuries or can’t take the wear and tear of covering a full tennis court.”

At CCA, Director of Tennis Bill Barber says pickleball is bringing new people to his indoor courts.

“I’m seeing new people out here, which I love. It gets people active, and that’s a great thing. I’ve been shocked at the interest. There’s a very quick learning curve and it’s an incredibly social game. People are watching and laughing at the good, the bad, the ugly shots. It’s almost like adult ping-pong. I love when I hear members say ‘I haven’t laughed this much in years.’” 

CCA member Wayne DiCastri recently moved to Asheville from Minnesota, where he and his wife, Ingrid, played the sport regularly. They didn’t miss a beat when they joined CCA last fall.

“We have a great core group that plays regularly,” he says.

“It was a great way for us to meet new people and get some exercise. There’s less area to cover on the court and all the equipment is here. You just show up and start playing.” 

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The Many Benefits of Massage

by Martha-Page Althaus

 Mar 22, 2019 at 2:30 PM

Massages are for more than just relaxation. They’re beneficial for all ages and there are no negative side effects. Rethink massage as total pampering, and reconsider it as a necessary step in taking care of your health. Natalie Veres, licensed massage and body therapist at Country Club of Asheville, shares four benefits of massage treatments

1) Stress Reduction

“We’re working harder and longer hours, sitting at desks all day long. We carry our stress and it can hurt. For pure relaxation purposes, consider a Swedish massage.”

2) Pain Relief

“Massage helps with back and nerve pain. If you’re recovering from surgery, massage helps rehabilitation and creates a healing response in the body to prohibit scar tissue build-up and stiff joints.”

3) Athletic Performance 

“It aids in flexibility with your golf or tennis swing. If you’ve been swinging the same way for years, throwing your body into that one hip, it creates lower back and hip pain. Repeating the same movement causes muscles to contract and tighten over time. But it’s completely treatable! A deep-tissue massage helps muscles to relax.”

4) A Better Night's Sleep 

“Massage has been proven to help with insomnia. It helps regulate serotonin and reduce cortisol levels.”

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In Good Taste

by Martha-Page Althaus

 Jun 21, 2018 at 3:30 PM

There’s never been a better time to have dinner at the club. Here's, one of McConnell Golf's Executive Chefs dish on everything from locally sourced ingredients to the best entrée and wine pairings.

Bruce McIntosh, Certified Executive Chef

“The halibut we’re serving tonight will fly out the door,” exclaims Bruch McIntosh, who helms the kitchen in Asheville.

“It’s gorgeous. Smoked tomato cream sauce, grilled corn succotash, lemon aioli. You’ve got three different notes on the plate there, and we try to hit that every time.”

Hitting the right notes, indeed. McIntosh and his team earn praise for quality and consistency, two of the most important factors for any restaurant, but especially so in foodie-centric Asheville.

“We try to get North Carolina fish whenever possible,” says McIntosh. “We look at what season is coming up, and that dictates the menu. We have some of the best fish in town. We’ve been buying from the same fish purveyor for more than 30 years, so they know what I want.”

The citrus notes in Juslyn’s new sauvignon blanc pair well with McIntosh’s seafood plates, especially, he notes, in the calamari and pan-seared fish entrées.

Sourcing locally extends to other ingredients, too. Local mushrooms and produce come from Franklin, NC. The creamy
grits in McIntosh’s shrimp and grits dish hail from a nearby purveyor in South Carolina. 

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