ENVISIONING A NEW BELMONT GOLF COURSE
Frequently Asked Questions
First Tee – Greater Richmond is entering an agreement with Henrico County to take over the operation and management of Belmont Golf Course, the only golf course in Virginia to host a PGA major tournament – the 1949 PGA Championship, which was won by Virginian Sam Snead. Below are questions and answers pertaining to the deal.
What are the basics of the partnership?
In simplest terms, Henrico County will retain ownership of Belmont Golf Course and enter a 20-year lease with First Tee, which will operate and manage the golf course. It’s worth noting that the partnership with Henrico County is very similar to the partnerships First Tee started with Chesterfield County in 2000 and the City of Richmond in 2003.
What are the terms of the lease?
First Tee has agreed to pay Henrico County $3.25 million over the 20-year lease. This is in addition to the $750,000 Henrico County plans to invest into course renovations. In all, The First Tee will invest more than $4 million to transform the golf course.
How is The First Tee paying for this?
First Tee has a committed group of donors who are making this investment possible.
How did The First Tee get involved in this project?
A couple of years ago, Henrico County debated what to do with Belmont Golf Course, which had lost money each year since 2000. About a year ago, when it looked like the county had eliminated non-golf development opportunities, First Tee began considering what it might be able to do with Belmont Golf Course. Earlier this year, Henrico County issued a request for proposals (RFP) to keep golf at the center of Belmont. First Tee submitted a proposal and presented its vision for Belmont. In December, Henrico County announced a partnership with First Tee, which beat out four other groups for the right to operate Belmont.
Why is Henrico County doing this?
Belmont Golf Course has lost money each year since 2000, and the county sought ideas on what to do with the property for a couple years to limit the taxpayer dollars that went into maintaining the course. It was looking for a partner that was willing to take over the management of the golf operation, and we are thrilled to be the county’s partner.
Why is The First Tee doing this?
This is an incredible opportunity for us to do what we’ve done in Chesterfield County and in the City of Richmond. It’s a perfect fit for us to carry out our vision of strengthening the character of our community. We already work with 44 schools and more than 23,000 students in Henrico County through our First Tee School Program, and this partnership enables us to drastically grow our footprint in reaching more youth in the Richmond area.
What are The First Tee’s plans for Belmont Golf Course?
First Tee will transform the historic, yet underperforming, golf course into a community- focused, inclusive and affordable public golf facility for all ages and skill levels. First Tee plans the following property renovations:
- Conversion of the 18-hole course to a 12-hole championship course that preserves key A.W. Tillinghast/Donald Ross features, improves bunkers, turf and greens and introduces innovative and forward-thinking design from Love Golf Design
- Addition of a driving range
- Addition of a short-game practice area
- Addition of a six-hole short course, with holes ranging from 60 to 170 yards
- Addition of a putting course
- Improved pro shop and clubhouse experience
Why will it be a 12-hole championship course instead of an 18-hole championship course?
First Tee made a conscious decision to propose an innovative plan to reimagine Belmont rather than simply making cosmetic changes or upgrades to the bunkers. To best accommodate the programming for our First Tee participants and to include practice facilities like a driving range, short-game area and putting area, reducing the course from 18 to 12 holes is necessary. In addition, we believe that having 12 holes – in addition to all that we’re adding – will be attractive to golfers who are looking to reduce the time it takes to play a round.
Who is helping First Tee with the design and renovations?
We are excited to have an agreement to work with Love Golf Design, which is led by former PGA golfer Davis Love III, his brother Mark Love and Scot Sherman. Davis Love III is a 21-time PGA champion, two-time Ryder Cup captain and World Golf Hall of Fame member. Most recently, the firm has been leading the redesign efforts at Birdwood Golf Course in Charlottesville.
When will the renovations begin?
First Tee will assume control of Belmont on Jan. 1, 2020, and we will begin a full renovation that will necessitate the closure of the course until the spring of 2021.
Where can I find the proposed renovation plans?
While we know of some of the additions we plan to make to Belmont Golf Course, we will be working with Love Golf Design to finalize what the revamped Belmont will look like. We expect to share those plans by the spring of 2020.
Why is the entire course going to be closed until next spring?
Even though it might take a little time for us to begin moving dirt and conducting the full renovation of Belmont, closing the course will enable our design team to be as efficient as possible to ensure the course opens on time in the spring of 2021.
Belmont is a Tillinghast course. How do the renovations affect his design?
Even when A.W. Tillinghast designed the course in 1917, he noted the lack of size of the track of land that Belmont resides. First Tee and our partner Love Golf Design are fully aware of the history of Belmont and what it means to be a Tillinghast course. Similar to other Tillinghast courses across the country, Love Golf Design envisions respecting the brilliance of Tillinghast while adding key design elements to enhance the course.
What’s so special about Belmont?
Belmont was designed by famed golf designer A.W. Tillinghast and remains one of two Tillinghast courses in the country that has hosted a major championship and remain public – Bethpage Black is the other. Other Tillinghast courses include Winged Foot and Baltusrol. Belmont Golf Course opened in 1917 as the original Hermitage Country Club and is the only course in Virginia to host a PGA major tournament – the 1949 PGA Championship, which was won by Virginian Sam Snead. Henrico County purchased the course in 1977 to offer its residents an affordable public golf course. In short, Belmont’s history is rich, and we will continue to celebrate that as we bring the course into the future.
If Henrico County was losing money for all those years, why will it be different with First Tee in charge?
We are not entering this agreement lightly. But we believe that the investment, renovations and operating decisions we will be making will allow us to maximize profitability. For the past two decades, Belmont has been a diamond in the rough, an underutilized, under-the-radar gem of a golf course. We intend to change that.
Will the facility be only for First Tee members, or is it open to the public?
While we will be using the facility for our First Tee programming, Belmont Golf Course will be open to the public. Our focus is that the facility will be used by patrons of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels.
How much is it going to cost to play?
Belmont always has been one of the most affordable golfing options in the Richmond area. We are focused on providing a state-of-the-art golf facility but keeping the pricing similar to what Belmont patrons have come to expect.
How nice do you expect the facility to be?
We believe that our Elson Redmond Memorial Driving Range in downtown Richmond is one of the nicest practice facilities around. After our renovations at Belmont, we anticipate it being one of the nicest public facilities in Central Virginia.
Will you change the name?
At this time, there are no plans to change the name of Belmont Golf Course.