The brand new Belmont Golf Course seems off to a robust begin.
The century-old Henrico County-owned course not too long ago accomplished its first full 12 months with a brand new format that ditched its unique 18-hole format for a 12-hole course and 6-hole brief course below the stewardship of its new supervisor, First Tee of Larger Richmond.
That revised setup is a residing experiment of types, bringing the development of quicker play from elsewhere within the business to the aggressive Richmond golf marketplace for the primary time.
And it appears to have caught the eye of native golfers.
First Tee experiences that Belmont produced 34,000 rounds complete within the 12 months for the reason that reinvented course reopened final 12 months. That complete consists of 25,000 rounds on the 12-hole course; 8,000 rounds on the 6-hole course referred to as Little Bell; and 1,100 rounds on its 18-hole placing course, The Ringer.
Mark Lynch, Belmont’s vice chairman of operations, mentioned First Tee wasn’t precisely positive what to anticipate in 12 months one, primarily due to the course’s new format.
“Clearly there’s a drastic change in mindset while you go from 18 holes to 12 conventional holes and a 6 par 3,” Lynch mentioned.
Upon reopening on Might 29, 2021, after in depth modifications to the course saved it closed for a 12 months, Lynch mentioned administration set a first-year goal of 16,000 complete rounds. They hit that mark by September.
“Our first 12 months was greater than we anticipated for positive,” Lynch mentioned. Belmont reported 25,000 rounds in fiscal 12 months 2019 and 21,000 in 2018, when it was nonetheless below county administration.
Lynch mentioned he was getting just a few follow swings in on the brand new Belmont driving vary in current months when an impromptu testimonial from one other golfer let him know the course is heading in the right direction.
“One man began speaking to me not realizing who I used to be and mentioned, ‘I believed I used to be going to hate the modifications, however I completely find it irresistible.’” Lynch recalled. “And I’m like ‘by the best way, I’m Mark, I’m vice chairman of operations right here and I really like to listen to that.”
Brent Schneider, CEO of First Tee Richmond, mentioned he, too, is happy with the primary 12 months.
“Our imaginative and prescient stepping into was group, inclusive, welcoming, reasonably priced and I feel we’ve hit these marks,” Schneider mentioned.
However he’s additionally maintaining a tally of enhancing.
“We need to be higher; we’re pushing ourselves to be higher,” Schneider mentioned. “We’ve some particular tasks: resurfacing and re-grassing the follow tee and a few choose tees on the course, and among the native areas on the course. We need to make it pop greater than it’s now.”
“We’re dedicated to it being on par from a situation standpoint to among the personal golf equipment. We’re not there but however we’re dedicated,” Schneider added.
One other improve that’s within the works at Belmont is the Captech Lab, a placing lab that may take form on the bottom ground of the previous clubhouse. Schneider mentioned building is predicted to begin later this 12 months.
“It’s a placing lab with all the newest and biggest applied sciences to review placing and assist with becoming, instruction and physics,” Schneider mentioned.
First Tee was awarded a contract from the county in 2019 to lease the course and rework it from a money-losing legal responsibility managed by Henrico Parks and Rec right into a modernized asset that may enable it to stay a public course and enhance youth golf participation.
Schneider, who not too long ago made a presentation to the county in regards to the course’s efficiency, mentioned Belmont has met its price range projections and is worthwhile.
The county retains possession of the general 125-acre property and First Tee is required to contribute yearly a minimal of 5 p.c of Belmont’s gross working income equal to or above $1 million right into a capital reserve escrow account. That account is to be put aside for capital enhancements and main repairs over time. There isn’t any income share with the county.
Along with persevering with to get the phrase out about its new format, First Tee faces one other unknown going into its second 12 months at Belmont.
Lynch and Schneider each mentioned the excessive of the COVID golf growth felt by almost each course on the town has crested and it stays to be seen whether or not it’ll return to pre-pandemic ranges or degree out at a brand new, larger plateau.
“We’re undoubtedly seeing a slowdown (from the COVID growth),” Lynch mentioned. “Persons are going again to work, so we now have much less laptops on the vary or AirPods as they’re taking part in golf. Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. is just a little thinner than it was.”