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John Reitman

By John Reitman

Changing of the guard: "Sons" officially take over McDonald & Sons


Erik McDonald (left) and his brother, John (right) are officially taking over day-to-day operations from their father, Chip (center) at McDonald & Sons.

It is difficult to imagine a company that has had a larger footprint in golf course construction and renovation during the past four decades than McDonald & Sons.

During the past 38 years, the Jessup, Maryland-based construction company founded by Chip McDonald has been involved in nearly 2,000 golf course projects, including new construction and restorations.

The "sons" part of the family business is now taking over with John McDonald II recently being named president and chief executive officer and Erik McDonald named vice president and chief operating officer. Chip's wife, Betty, will continue in her role as the company's secretary and treasurer.

"The time was right," John McDonald II said in a release announcing the change. "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, Maryland, in 1967. He stayed on there as superintendent for more than 15 years before starting his own company.

Since the company was founded, McDonald & Sons has completed construction or restoration projects ranging from bunker renovations to full restorations to new course construction. Its client list reads like a who's who of golf, including names like Winged Foot, Oakmont, Oakland Hills, Congressional, Pine Valley, Olympia Fields, Card Sound, Inverness and Butler National to name just a few.

"We were in the right place at the right time," Chip McDonald said. "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."  


Oakmont Country Club is one of many clubs restored by McDonald & Sons. Photo by John Reitman

McDonald's background as a superintendent gave him a unique perspective on construction and restoration projects and helped him build relationships with other superintendents from coast to coast, his son said.

"Because dad was a superintendent, we always tried to leave the course's superintendent with something that was maintainable," said 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."

Erik says he is eager 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," Erik McDonald said. "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."

Although Chip is stepping away from McDonald & Sons, his other business, Chesapeake Specialty Equipment, still keeps him busy. The company provides dumpers, forklifts and telehandlers to construction firms.

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