After a Multimillion-Dollar Renovation, Finley Golf Club is Ready for its Close-Up

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More than 20 years after its last renovation, Finley Golf Course needed a pick-me-up.

Normal wear-and-tear to the course itself and gradual deterioration of the surrounding amenities were one thing, but the facility was becoming so inundated with patrons that the UNC men’s and women’s golf teams – ostensibly the course’s main stakeholders – couldn’t play and practice as much as was needed.

“Imagine if our basketball team couldn’t get in and practice at the Smith Center, or baseball couldn’t practice at Boshamer Stadium,” said Rob Jeske, Finley’s general manager and one of the main forces behind its renovation. “That would never happen.”

Before the current process began in 2021, Finley’s last renovation occurred in 1999. This time around, Jeske knew just who to call: Davis Love III, arguably the most famous UNC golf alumnus around.

Love Golf Design, a firm founded by Davis and his brother Mark, took the lead on the course’s physical changes. Those included an altered layout, flipping the course’s front and back nines, as well as two entirely new holes. Still to come in the update are a new team building, practice putting green and cart roads. Phase one of the renovation was completed last October and culminated in a soft opening. Jeske said this will last until mid-summer.

Davis Love III takes the ceremonial first swing at Finley Golf Club’s soft opening in October. Love’s firm re-designed the course. (Image via UNC Athletic Communications)

The athletic department estimates the price tag on the renovation is around $13.5 million. The 1999 renovation cost around $8 million. It’s a significant investment in Carolina golf, which has experienced a resurgence in both its men’s and women’s programs. Last week, the women’s team qualified for its first NCAA Championship since 2017. The men’s team is currently ranked in the nation’s Top 5 and looking to improve upon a 2023 spring season which saw it reach the national semifinals.

“Similar to upgrading Kenan Stadium or the Smith Center some day or Boshamer Stadium or Karen Shelton Stadium, facilities have become a huge part of not only developing championship teams,” Jeske told Chapelboro, “but also recruiting the best players to come play on those teams.”

One needs only to take a look around Chapel Hill to see the proof of Jeske’s point. Chewning Tennis Center, Dorrance Field and Shelton Stadium are all world-class facilities which have opened in the last six years. Carmichael Arena is in the middle of an upgrade, and Kenan Stadium recently installed new light fixtures to enhance the fan experience. Golf, and its facilities – which are by far the largest of any UNC sport – were a reasonable next step.

Now, the men’s golf team will get to play an official event at its home course – which has updated its name from “Finley Golf Course” to “Finley Golf Club” – for the first time in three years, with the women’s program set to will host another NCAA regional in 2026.

“Logistically, it’s nice,” said men’s head coach Andrew DiBitetto, who won his third consecutive ACC Coach of the Year award last week. “Most of our guys will be sleeping in their own beds. You know the routine. You’re very familiar with everything in the area.”

DiBitetto, along with women’s golf head coach Aimee Neff, were involved with the renovation project from the start.

“I remember there was a conversation about, do we care about what par the golf course was? 72, 71, 70,” DiBitetto told Chapelboro. “And we were telling them, ‘No, we don’t really care about par. Just give us the best 18 holes that you can give us. And then within that, try to create some variety and variation in the yardages, which is exactly what we have.”

Jeske described the new course as better than he ever could have expected. He also said the collaborative spirit which went into its construction has been borne out around the complex.

“Rather than ‘us vs. them,’ which it may have felt like in the past sometimes, now it feels like, ‘Hey, we’re all in this together,’” Jeske said. “It’s fun. Now our members come in and see that we’ve got a lot of team photos. We put highlights up on the TVs. The members now feel like they’re a part of UNC golf, which is fun for golf fans.”

A look inside the revamped Finley Golf Clubhouse, which is filled with UNC regalia. (Image via Finley Golf Club)

Admission is free to this week’s NCAA regional, and Jeske expressed hope that Carolina fans would come out to support the Tar Heels. Jeske also described several events down the line for Finley, such as Top Golf-style game nights and pregame get-togethers on football Saturdays.

“You can see how excited people get when the US Open’s coming to Pinehurst,” Jeske said. “And we hope that having these events at Finley will make it a beacon for golf fan interest.”

So, what kind of atmosphere is DiBitetto expecting when his championship hopefuls trot out to the first tee?

“We haven’t played at home since 2021,” he said, “so I’m not really sure.”

Featured image via Finley Golf Club


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