As construction workers canvass Belmont Golf Course as part of the multimillion-dollar renovation project there, they’re not just forming the facility’s future. They’re reshaping the past, too.
Henrico County, last December, approved a deal for The First Tee of Greater Richmond to take over management of the public course, which opened 104 years ago.
As part of a 20-year lease and management agreement, First Tee planned to contribute $3.25 million toward renovation of the course, with the county adding another $750,000.
Love Golf Design, of which World Golf Hall of Famer Davis Love III is a co-founder, was brought on as the project’s architect. The 18-hole circuit is being turned into a 12-hole course, plus a six-hole short course.
Construction began in May and has remained on schedule to this point. On Tuesday, Love and the Love Golf Design team were out at the course in Henrico to see the progress and offer an update.
One of the renovation’s defining features is that it’s taking notes from the original course design by architect A.W. Tillinghast in 1916.
“If you go in the old clubhouse and look at the pictures on the wall, we’re just trying to bring back what Tillinghast built,” said Love, a 21-time winner on the PGA Tour.
The renovation will also include a putting course just under an acre in size, a driving range and a putting green.
After Belmont was opened in 1916, it was renovated by Donald Ross in 1927. But the current renovation is restoring portions of the course back to the way it first was. Nine of the 12 holes on the main course will have original greens.
Other holes, on the six-hole short course, draw influences from other Tillinghast courses, such as San Francisco Golf Club.
“It’s just, trying to bring the history back,” Love said.
Belmont isn’t short on history, as the only course in Virginia to host a PGA major: the 1949 PGA Championship won by Sam Snead. Ben Hogan also won the Richmond Invitational there four years earlier.
But space was one reason First Tee and Love Golf Design opted to split the course into a 12-hole circuit and a six-hole short course. The facility lacked amenities such as an area to practice, which First Tee needs for its youth programs. So the spot was divided a bit.
“This was an 18-hole golf course with no practice facility,” said Brent Schneider, CEO of The First Tee of Greater Richmond. “And so we knew in its original state it wasn’t going to work. But we also really appreciated the history.”
Love also said the shorter layouts are the game’s future.
“Short courses, six holes, par 3. Six holes or nine holes or 12 holes of big golf, rather than having to play 18 and take four or five hours,” he said.
There was some opposition to the plan, steering the course away from its traditional layout. Henrico County established an advisory committee to oversee the First Tee partnership. Discussion has ranged from what will become of the course’s old, marble hole signs, to parking logistics.
Schneider said a member of the group also helped connect high school coaches. He hopes high school teams will play, and possibly contest matches, at the course when it’s done.
“There were a few folks early on that were questioning what we were really going to do,” Schneider said. “There was just really the unknown. And I think, for the most part, the reviews from the neighbors have been outstanding.”
The project is still on target to be completed this May. When it is, it’ll be a blast from the past.
“I think people are going to be very excited to come out and see how it’s presented, Schneider said, “and take advantage of the ability to play here on a regular basis.”