As someone who has been known to spend some time on the fairways and in the bunkers of RVA’s golf scene (doing market research, of course…) I have a good feel for the courses, the clubs and the real estate that many times surrounds them. I have been lucky enough to play every private course in the area enough times (and most of the public ones, as well) that I feel qualified to give the Realtor/golfer perspective (if there is such a thing) on the courses and the relative strengths and weaknesses.
[ Homes for Sale on golf courses can be found here ]
RVA, from a golf climate standpoint, is on a bit of a cut line that makes it tough to have one turf carry the course through the entire playing season. The majority of courses in Richmond have bent grass greens (no bermuda greens) and bermuda fairways. Sometimes, bermuda fairways are “over-seeded” with rye grass during the early spring to increase playability until the bermuda comes out of dormancy typically in mid-May. While I have played rounds in both January and February, it is more an exception than the rule … so expect a 9.5 to 10 month playable season.
Several of the upper end (and newer courses) have opted for bent grass fairways (in lieu of the typical bermuda). This provides a wonderful surface for playing and it can be maintained all year long but at greater expense than the bermuda based courses. Generally speaking, the courses in Richmond can be managed to be EITEHR at their peak during the cooler spring and fall (bent grass) or during the summer (bermuda grass.)
Kinloch (Goochland County)
For the most part, Kinloch (Goochland) is considered the best RVA (and arguably, the State) has to offer. It boasts PGA tournament level conditions, world class customer service and one of the best clubhouses in the area. It also boasts a fabulous practice facility and 19 holes (yes, 19) but offers nothing other than golf for its members.
It is one of two courses in Richmond that features the caddy system. Kinloch is a newer course so the design features (Lester George, architect) were more sculpted than many of Richmond’s courses built in the 1950’s to the 1970’s (the era when most of Richmond’s private courses were built.) A few homes border the course, but not many, and they are highly custom. The neighborhood also features coach homes targeting empty-nesters.
County Club of Virginia (City of Richmond and River Road Corridor in Henrico)
As the name would suggest, is one of the oldest and wealthiest clubs in RVA. It offers three courses, The River Course (which hosts high level State tournaments and is generally considered the best of the three), The Westhampton Course (which was recently renovated) and Tuckahoe Creek.
The Westhampton course abuts the University of Richmond and is visible from Cary Street making it well known throughout the City. CCV’s courses are classically designed and the CCV facilities are quite substantial. CCV boasts exceptional facilities for dining, tennis, fitness or events in addition to 3 courses. There is not any real housing development surrounding these courses (the courses are all older) but there are houses that do border the course and availability varies.
While these clubs exist on different sides of the River, they are similar in many ways in that they represent mature clubs with substantial facilities that serve more than just the golfing member. Both Salisbury and Hermitage offer more than 18 holes (27 and 36, respectively) and the courses are similar in age and course design (with the exception of the newest 9 at Salisbury) and both have houses that surround the courses (but not on the level of many golf course developments). The clubhouses are similarly scaled and offer all of the typical country club services with dining, tennis, swim and fitness. Hermitage is also known for its racket facilities and hosts numerous tennis tournaments throughout the year.
Both courses were designed in such a way that they have the length to handle the changes in technology that have harmed many older courses and thus can still handle RGA and VSGA tournaments.
The Federal Club (Western Hanover)
Opened in 2008 just as the market turned (down, in case you didn’t get the memo,) The Federal Club opened to great fanfare but whose success was stunted by the plunge of the economy and real estate market, upon which much of its business model was dependent. After being acquired by the lender and subsequently sold to a local family, The Fed is back on track with new members and capital improvements being added at a rapid pace.
The course winds through the upscale Mountain Run neighborhood in Western Hanover county.
Designed by Arnold Palmer’s best architects and shaped by the crew that remade the K Club in Ireland for the Ryder Cup, the course is arguably the best test of golf in Richmond. The Signature Tournament, held each year in May, attracts some of the best players in the State, including many elite collegiate players.
The Federal Club is entirely bent grass and is one of the only courses in RVA to feature bent grass fairways AND greens making it an unique golfing experience.
The Dominion Club (Glen Allen)
Built in the later 1980’s as the centerpiece of the Wyndham Subdivision developed by Snyder-Hunt (now HH Hunt) near 295 and Nuckols Road. Wyndham/TDC did an excellent job of really making the golf course and clubhouse a signature of the development. Anyone who has played the course, knows the striking roofline of the clubhouse and the 9th and 18th greens reflecting off the lake as you turn the corner on Dominion Club Drive.
TDC is a solid golf course. It would be considered a modern course in that there was a large degree of shaping and strategic bunkering. It played host to a Nike Tour/Buy.com tournament for many years and it’s signature moment was Notah Begay shooting 59. The clubhouse is excellent and the pool and tennis facilities are also very strong. TDC also boasts one of the largest memberships in the area despite some recent developer/club issues relating to ownership of the land the course is built upon.
Richmond CC (Goochaland/Henrico Border along Paterson Avenue)
Richmond country Club, located along the border of Henrico and Goochland, provides a unique test of golf in that it has narrow tree lined holes that force controlled shots into tight landing areas. It is a full service club with pool, tennis and dining but does not have the same scale of clubhouse as CCV or Hermitage.
The Foundry (Powhatan)
When first opened in the early 1990’s, The Foundry was a unique concept to Richmond in that it was golf only (no tennis or swim), with caddies required, and a level of service that was not found in the RVA golf market. Kinloch now offers the same ‘top end’ service/golf only model. The course is generally in excellent condition and the entry features and clubhouse are some of the most memorable and striking in Richmond.
Even though the course is a little off the beaten path, the Foundry offers a great experience.
Both courses were built towards the end of the 1970’s and are modeled similarly as clubs that cater to a surrounding neighborhood. Both Stonehenge and Brandermill are larger subdivisions that surround their courses. Brandermill would be considered to be the more hilly and narrow of the two with a higher density of houses that abut the course. Brandermill also borders The Swift Creek Reservoir along several holes giving that section of the course a little extra visual ‘umph.’
Stonehenge has redesigned a few holes since its inception and hosted a Buy.com tournament mid-2000’s. It is the longer of the two courses and while built before course architects moved as much earth as they do today, Stonehenge, still offers many unique holes.
Both clubs offer pretty solid amenity mix with a nice pool complex, tennis and dining facilities.
Willow Oaks (City of Richmond/Forest Hill Avenue)
Visible from the Powwhite Parkway bridge, Willow Oaks is a classically designed golf course with several holes that wind along a very scenic section of the James (don’t pull it left on number 5….) Many a golfer has taken a glance to their right as they cross the bridge on a sunny day and wished that they were in the midst of a round instead of on their way to an appointment. Willow Oaks has hosted the State Open on numerous occasions and its Fall Invitation attracts a quality field from all over the Mid-Atlantic.
The Willow Oaks facilities are excellent (especially the racket facilities) and anyone who has ever attended a wedding or event there invariably ends up on the rear patio overlooking the 9th and 18th greens to watching golfers finish up their 9’s.
Its convenient location make it accessible from much of Richmond.
Lakeside and Hanvoer are considered to be two of the more value oriented courses in the RVA Metro. Built in more tightly constrained areas, the courses rely on sharp doglegs, small and fast greens and narrow fairways to provide the teeth that their lack of length does not. Hanover CC has the superior facilities with a small driving range and larger club house. Lakeside is accessible from everywhere so it makes it easy to sneak away for a quick 18 without being discovered (unless your boss is on the course, too). Both courses play quickly so a round there is not a full day commitment.
Lakeside is currently closed to renovate their greens and expected to reopen in Spring of 2012. Hanover underwent a renovation in 2008 so the course should not be in need of any major upgrade (think ‘assessment’) for the foreseeable future.
Meadowbrook (South Side/Jeff Davis Highway)
Built in the late 1950’s as a club to service the burgeoning industrial presence that DuPont and Philip Morris’ were bringing to the area, Meadowbrook boasts a value oriented course, strong membership and solid test of golf. As with may courses built in the era before technology changed the length required for a championship course, Meadowbrook relies on tight fairways (#2 feels as narrow as a bowling lane) and some of the smallest greens in the area (#18 is the size of my closet) to create an excellent test of golf. With a relatively flat setting, it is also an excellent course to walk.
Upscale Public Courses/Semi Private Courses
The Independence Golf Club, located off Winterfield Road along the Powhatan/Chesterfield border, was originally built to house the Virginia State Golf Association. It recently changed hands to private ownership and switched from cool season grasses to bermuda greens. Independence is built within the Founder’s Bridge neighborhood and along with a championship 18 hole layout, has probably the best practice facilities in the region for a public course. A 9 hole executive course is also on the property.
StoneHouse, Vinitarra, Brickshire and Royal New Kent are located east of town in New Kent County and within a few minutes of one another. Three of these courses (Royal New Kent, Stonehouse and Brickshire) are owned by the Traditions group and membership in one allows play at all three. For many in both Richmond and Williamsburg, membership in these courses is a great and affordable option for those who want the benefits of club membership at a lower monthly obligation.