New owners of Royal New Kent begin restoration of Mike Strantz layout

  • Royal New Kent

    The new owners of Royal New Kent Golf Club are restoring Mike Strantz’s design

  • Royal New Kent

    Two of Strantz’s original shapers will begin work on bunkers in September 2018

  • Royal New Kent

    The course is expected to reopen in April 2019

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Wingfield Golf is restoring the Mike Strantz layout at Royal New Kent Golf Club in Virginia, USA.

Royal New Kent, which opened in 1997, is one of just nine courses designed by Strantz before his death at the age of 50. Strantz was known for bold, unconventional and artistic work including Tobacco Road in North Carolina and the 2003 redesign of the Shore course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club in California.

“Mike Strantz was a tremendously talented and gifted architect whose career was, unfortunately, cut short,” said Barton Tuck, chairman of Wingfield Golf, which manages nine golf courses in Virginia, Florida and Mississippi. “It is an honour to have the opportunity to take one of his best back to what he originally designed and get it back in tip-top shape, and to play a part in preserving Strantz’s legacy for golfers to enjoy for many years to come.”

Royal New Kent was named Best New Upscale Public Course by Golf Digest upon opening, with its design inspired by the character of Ireland’s links, particularly Royal County Down and Ballybunion.

Along with Stonehouse, Strantz’s other design in Virginia, Royal New Kent was owned by Traditional Golf Properties. Both courses closed at the end of 2017. Wingfield acquired Royal New Kent in June 2018.

Wingfield plans to work with members of Strantz’s original team to restore the course. The company has hired two of Strantz’s original shapers and they will begin work in September 2018.

Wingfield is planning to bring in 2,300 tonnes of new sand for bunkers and the project, which is reported to involve an investment of more than US$2 million, will include work to make the course more playable and easier to maintain.

Barton Tuck and Wingfield’s president Noel Tuck have partnered with local resident Willie Downs on the project. Barton Tuck spent some time with Strantz’s widow Heidi, who provided him with many of her late husband’s original drawings. Fans have sent old photographs of the course, which will also inform restoration work.

“We had a lot of help from people giving us information that will get us back to where Strantz started,” said Barton Tuck. “We’re getting back as close as we can to what he designed.”

A new irrigation system includes a new pump station and all 120 inlets will be rebuilt for better drainage. The clubhouse will also be updated. The green complexes have already been converted from bentgrass to Champion bermuda and, despite challenges posed by rain, work is progressing on schedule towards an April 2019 reopening.

Royal New Kent is expected to be marketed alongside two other courses owned by Wingfield, the neighbouring Golf Club at Brickshire, laid out by golf course architect Tom Clark with Curtis Strange, and the nearby Rees Jones-designed The Club at Viniterra.

“This area is very accessible from most of the east coast,” said Barton Tuck. “We believe there will be both local membership appeal and a lot of packaging business for golfers coming off the interstate.”