Feb 15, 2023
For Immediate Release
Passing the Baton:
The Next Generation Takes the Helm at McDonald & Sons Golf
Erik - Chip - John II McDonald
John McDonald II has been named President and CEO of McDonald & Sons, Inc. He succeeds his father, Chip McDonald, who founded the Jessup, Maryland-based golf course construction firm nearly 40 years ago. Erik McDonald becomes Vice President and COO of the company. Chip will step into an emeritus role while his wife Betty will continue as the company’s Secretary/Treasurer.
“The time was right,” said John McDonald II. “Dad has been wintering in Florida for the past few years, so Erik and I had already been running the business side while Dad managed our equipment fleet. The construction business has become more complex and it’s a lot to handle. He was ready to get out from underneath that.”
Chip McDonald began working in golf course maintenance in the 1950s and built his first course, Hobbit’s Glen GC, for the City of Columbia, Md., in 1967. He stayed on there as superintendent, as well as working in other roles for the city, for 15 more years. He moved on to operate a landscape business for a while, but golf pulled him back in, particularly as the construction boom of the ‘80s and ‘90s exploded.
“We were in the right place at the right time,” says Chip. “Golf had its ups and downs along the way, but we did good work and built great relationships with clubs over the years and that made all the difference.”
Over the last 38 years, McDonald & Sons has completed more than 1,900 golf course projects, including new construction, renovations and remodeling. They’ve established a reputation for high-quality work and a respect for the maintenance consequences of their work.
“Because dad was a superintendent, we always tried to leave the course’s superintendent with something that was maintainable,” says John II. “Yes, the club is the client, but we always try to keep the needs of the super in mind. And we think our finished work is second to none. When we leave a project, we want the new features to be the most noticed aspect, not our presence.”
That reputation has made McDonald & Sons a favorite among choosy clubs doing important renovations, preparing for big events, or simply tuning up to keep fresh. The firm’s Design Group was launched in 2002 and since then their in-house work and collaborations with many notable architects and designers have yielded spectacular results. At one point their clientele included 25 of Golf Digest’s Top 100 U.S. courses and they’ve done 54 projects at Congressional CC alone. “We’ve had an amazing run,” says John. “We did 90 projects in 2022 and things continue to look very good moving forward.”
In addition to being known for the quality of their finished work, they also strive to give clients open bookkeeping and good communications along the way. “They always know where they stand,” says John. “We try to minimize surprises. We don’t typically have to do change orders.”
While John worked in and grew the business side, his younger brother Erik excelled in the field. “He took to the equipment operation like a duck to water,” says John.
Erik says he’s excited and proud to carry on his father’s legacy: “We’re going to continue to provide the kind of high-quality, professional work the company has been known for since he got started in 1984. My dad’s values – quality, trust and professionalism – are why I think we’ll continue to prosper. Everything we do goes toward bettering the game of golf and the land it’s played on.”
The other legacy that will continue is the company’s commitment to the Golf Course Builders Association of America (GCBAA). John McDonald II currently serves as GCBAA’s president. “The association has grown and improved opportunities for builders and the industry tremendously over the years. I’ve been honored to follow in my dad’s footsteps on the board and to now lead the association.”
His goals for the association? “I want to promote the fact that using GCBAA members is good for the golf business. Our members are experts in what we do. We did a survey at last year’s show and found there’s still a lack of awareness about the value our members bring. We’re going to change that. I’d love for the golf course builders to get mentioned on TV more often.”
Justin Apel, GCBAA’s CEO, says it’s hard to calculate the magnitude of the McDonald family’s impact on the association and the industry as a whole. “Their humility is what impresses me the most. They don’t brag and they’re just good people and good friends to so many of us. But when you look at the company, the scope of what they’ve done and who they’ve done it for, it’s just unbelievable.”
Apel adds that, “The talent on their team is amazing and it’s inspiring to see how well they take care of their people. Yes, it’s a family business but your last name doesn’t have to be McDonald for them to treat you like family.”
It’s noteworthy that Chip may be stepping away from McDonald & Sons but he’s hardly done working. His other business, Chesapeake Specialty Equipment, still keeps him very busy providing dumpers, forklifts and telehandlers to construction firms – including the one now run by his sons. He’s even adding a new supplier, AUSA, to his equipment offerings. “I am happy at the opportunity to bring the AUSA line to market and I think it will be a gamechanger for our customers,” says Chip.
(Learn more about McDonald & Sons, Inc., at mcdonaldgolfinc.com and visit GCBAA.org for additional information on the builder’s association.)