Golfers at Royal New Kent Golf Club will be treated to a new and entirely enhanced playing experience when the golf course reopens on March 29.
Located midway between Richmond, Va., and Williamsburg, along the gateway to Coastal Virginia and the Outer Banks, Royal New Kent was widely hailed as a masterpiece when architect Mike Strantz’s design debuted in 1997.
Consistently rated as one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s finest layouts, Royal New Kent is a Virginia original sprinkled with Irish seasoning. Strantz paid tribute to the fabled seaside links of the Emerald Isle, with an emphasis on the character and feel of two of the architect’s favorites — Ireland’s Royal County Down and Ballybunion.
But during the past decade, Royal New Kent began to lose its luster.
In mid-2018, Wingfield Golf Management Services purchased Royal New Kent for an undisclosed sum. The Greenville, S.C.-based firm immediately began performing a total overhaul on the entire golf complex, including an improved clubhouse, rebuilding greens and bunkers, updating the irrigation system for better coverage and turf conditions and repairing almost 200 inlets for better course drainage.
“At Royal New Kent Golf Club we are celebrating the dawn of a new day,” said new General Manager and Director of Golf Chip Sullivan.
To return Royal New Kent to its original grandeur, Wingfield Golf partnered with a group of investors, including some local residents and golf enthusiasts. Many of the course’s most devoted fans provided original photographs that assisted in the renovation. Strantz’s vision was captured in hand-drawn sketches that served as blueprints for his dramatic golfing landscape. Wingfield even brought back two of Strantz’s shapers who constructed the course to help oversee the restoration.
“All that information allowed us to get us back to Mike Strantz’s vision and what he designed,” said Sullivan. “Royal New Kent’s ‘wow factor’ is off the charts again.”
During the restoration, Royal New Kent’s green complexes were converted from bent grass to the more heat-tolerant Champion Bermuda. Wingfield Golf trucked in 2,300 tons of new sand to reconstruct the Royal New Kent bunkers, making the golf course more playable and easier to maintain. The upgrades to the irrigation system include a new pump station, and all 120 inlets were rebuilt for better drainage. Meanwhile, substantial clubhouse upgrades were also performed.
Royal New Kent’s recent renovation reinvigorates the legacy of one of golf course architecture’s most legendary figures. Strantz was a visionary golf course designer whose solo career consisted of just seven widely heralded original designs before his untimely death from cancer at the age of 50.
“We are pleased and honored to play a part in preserving Mike Strantz’s legacy for golfers to enjoy for many years to come,” said Sullivan.
With Royal New Kent, Wingfield Golf now owns a pair of outstanding public access courses located within a short drive of one another. The other is The Club at Viniterra, a Rees Jones design that opened in late 2009.
Built upon nearly 1,200 acres of rolling, rugged terrain, Viniterra’s masterful routing incorporates many of the diverse, natural features of the site including frequent and dramatic elevation changes, various wetland areas and portions of mature, deciduous forest. A new golf house is currently being constructed at Viniterra.
Wingfield Golf owns eight golf courses in Florida, Mississippi and Virginia, including the South Riding and Pleasant Valley golf clubs in Northern Virginia.
“This area is easily accessible from most of the East Coast,” said Wingfield Golf Chairman Barton Tuck. “We believe there will be both local membership appeal and a lot of packaging business for golfers coming off the interstate. We’re very excited about what the future holds for premier, public-access golf in the area.”
Photo: Royal New Kent Golf Club