Royal New Kent Golf Club is reopening following a series of improvements to offer golfers an enhanced product.
Located midway between Richmond and Williamsburg, Va., 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 originally 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,” new general manager and director of golf Chip Sullivan said.
To thoughtfully return Royal New Kent to the club’s 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,” Sullivan said. “Royal New Kent’s ‘wow factor’ is off the charts again.”
During the restoration, Royal New Kent’s green complexes were converted from bentgrass to the more heat-tolerant Champion Bermudagrass. 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,” Sullivan said.
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.
Wingfield Golf owns eight golf courses in Florida, Mississippi and Virginia, including the South Riding and Pleasant Valley golf clubs in Northern Virginia.