Renovation breathes new life into Blacksburg’s ‘The Hill’

  • Blacksburg

    The eighth green and a greenside bunker are now growing in at The Hill

  • Blacksburg

    An aerial shot of the course, showing the extent to which trees populate the site

  • Blacksburg

    Lester George has worked to build new tees on a number of holes

  • Blacksburg

    The reworked sixth green at Blacksburg Municipal

Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

A renovation project at the Blacksburg Municipal Golf Course – also known as ‘The Hill’ – has reached completion.

Work at the course in Blacksburg, Virginia, has been led by Lester George of George Golf Design.

“Our golf course has never reached its full potential, in large part due to turf issues,” said Jeff Kleppin, general manager of The Hill. “In 2014, we realised we needed some help with the course. I e-mailed Lester at 11am on a Tuesday, and at 11:30am he called me and said: ‘I know your course. I’ve walked on your course. I can come visit you the week after next’.”

George has a connection to this property, as his wife Pat is from Blacksburg and her parents were original stockholders of Blacksburg Country Club, from which the Town of Blacksburg purchased the course in 1971.

The recent renovation project included a facelift of the course’s tees, bunkers, greens, and fairways, with George designing and overseeing all work. Key aims included enhancing the course’s playability, sustainability, turf quality, safety, strategy, and competitive standing.

“As a municipal course, The Hill was what it was,” explained Kleppin. “The course was originally designed by locals and had received no improvements in 40 years. The grass on the course was whatever would grow. In order to attract the avid golfer, we wanted this place to be a real golf course. We’re putting in the ‘TLC’ to make this property something the Town of Blacksburg can be really proud of.”

The Hill closed for construction in July 2017, and course employees spent the month of July removing trees and eradicating turf in preparation for construction, re-grassing, and the addition of a practice facility. The renovation began on 1 August.

One obstacle the project team faced was an objection from the town regarding the removal of some of the trees from the course. These trees were obstacles to growing new turf as the course was routed. But the objections ultimately had a positive outcome.

“We at George Golf Design are proud to be involved in smaller-budget municipal projects like The Hill,” said George. “This project is the poster child for the current issues pertaining to golf. Nine-hole courses are important because of the options they provide for pace of play, affordability, and family play. Maintenance, sustainability, and playing conditions are integral challenges in golf. With enlarged greens, bentgrass fairways, and many, added tee options, we have created a place that can be inviting to all skill levels and ages.”

The course is scheduled to reopen for play in May 2018.

“This place is different since Lester got a hold of it,” Kleppin added. “We are now going to attract golfers who might not have come to play at The Hill in the past. A certain level of golfer would drive by us in the past to go to a different course. Now, people are chomping at the bit to get out here, and it’s going to be a great experience for the good player.”