Construction work is progressing on Love Golf Design’s redesign of the Birdwood course at the Boar’s Head Resort near Charlottesville, Virginia. Seeding is now under way on the course, which is home to the University of Virginia’s golf teams.
“The spark for the project centred around multiple improvements that would be made on and around the Boar's Head Resort property,” said Scot Sherman, golf architect at Love Golf Design. “Plans for a new tennis stadium, new golf team building, new entry road, and other infrastructure provided the university with an opportunity to look at using some of the existing golf property for these facilities. So, this in turn led us to consider rerouting the old course and building a brand-new layout on unused adjacent property to allow for building expansion.
“Every aspect of the project involves completely new construction. Along with this, the design, strategy and aesthetic of the course will be completely new.”
Love Golf Design was first approached about the project during their work at Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The Goodwin family – owners of Sea Pines – informed the design firm that a possible renovation of the Birdwood course was on the horizon. “We were somewhat familiar with the adjacent Boar’s Head Resort and quality of the property, so made inquiries about the interview process,” said Sherman. “After Davis, Mark and I met with the team at the UVA Foundation, we were subsequently chosen to handle the design.
“Through the planning process, the Foundation recognised the opportunity to re-think their golf business and began to consider facilities that would address the demands of today's golfer and resort guest. So, they initiated the idea of a new 18-hole course along with a new putting course, a six-hole short layout, and new practice facilities. At the same time, there was an opportunity to build new practice facilities for the UVA women’s and men's golf teams to mesh with their new building – the Dean Family Golf Performance Center. After studying more than a dozen routing options, we all settled on the locations for these new facilities and unveiled the plan in mid-2017.”
MacCurrach Golf Construction started work in summer 2018 on the new practice tees for the golf teams next to the new Dean Family Golf Performance Center. Construction then turned to the new golf course, the short layout, practice area and putting course in autumn 2018.
“We appreciate the opportunity to work on such a grand scale here at Birdwood,” said Davis Love III. “The university is blessed to have plentiful land which gives us the room to create some thought-provoking strategies, so we are excited to have the design process underway in the field.”
The new golf facilities cover just over 220 acres. Love Golf Design opened up about 50 acres of unused property south of the old layout to build nine new holes. “We re-used the corridors of five existing holes and rerouted four other holes to arrive at the new course routing,” said Sherman. “Two old golf holes were used for the new short course and team practice area.
“The land has dictated the routing,” said Sherman. “Therefore, the sequence of holes is a bit unusual, but interesting. The new front nine has two par-three holes and one par-five hole. The back nine is quite the opposite and contains three par-three holes and three par-fives. All told, the course has allowed us to create unusual variety, so all aspects of a player's game are challenged. This is probably an overused phrase, but we think the balance of lengths, shapes of holes, and green contours keeps a player's attention and does not give any one kind of golfer a distinct advantage.
“We have tried to fit each hole to the ground in front of us and give all golfers a way around the features and into the greens. The best way may not be directly at the hole, but it will be for each player to discover his or her best route to the cup. Although Davis is the most accomplished player among us, he is always concerned with the average player, so we give extra attention to providing multiple ways to play every hole.
“The property lends itself to an older style of golf course,” continued Sherman. “There are many unique features and contours which are dictating the details of our design in the field as we go along – a bit like courses of the past. Unusual ground forms, rocks, trees and streams uncovered through the clearing process have influenced our strategy, green shapes and bunker details on every hole – it is truly a process of discovering the golf course every day we are on site.”
Existing features on the property include ponds, streams and ravines. There will also be some rock walls built from material found on site and a number of new bridges built for crossings.
“While the look of the course and its features will be completely different from the old layout, it is the long views we have opened up which seem to excite all who tour the property,” said Sherman. “The new course will be much more open as we have intentionally removed unhealthy and invasive vegetation on the new and old sections of the property. So, as the native roughs mature, we expect the look of the site to be more natural with sweeping views of multiple holes from any point on the land.
“The scale of the property is moderately large, so we have planned for generous fairways, tees, greens and bunkers to match the surroundings. The turf will be a mixture of cool season and warm season grasses – which is not that unusual in the Charlottesville region. Much of the in-play areas will be sodded, with the greens and native roughs being seeded. Tees will be bermudagrass; fairways will be planted with Zoysia grass; maintained roughs will be a bluegrass and tall fescue blend; and the native roughs will be a blend of fine fescues and other native grasses.”
The new putting course has been built adjacent to the back of the existing golf clubhouse and encompasses almost one acre of land. “The client asked us to do something a bit unique, so we have infused the routing with some fine fescue chocolate drops which will make for an interesting look among the bentgrass putting surface,” said Sherman.
“We can't wait to dive into the details of the new short course. Although it is only six holes, this will be a lot of fun to design, build and eventually play. They will all be par-three holes ranging from 85 yards to about 165 yards.”
Bartzen + Ball designed the buildings for the project, including the University of Virginia’s Golf Practice Facility and Tennis Facility, as well as its Squash Facility and the McArthur Squash Center at the Boar’s Head Inn, adjacent to the course.
The course is expected to reopen in late spring 2020.