Lester George, ASGCA, and George Golf Design, Inc., has begun work renovating Independence Golf Club, Midlothian, Virginia. George’s efforts are expected to help the club improve pace of play, maintenance efficiency and environmental sustainability.
The course closed in May with anticiapted re-opening in Septmeber. When play returns to Independence, golfers will note redesigned bunkers, re-grassing on all 18 fairways and greens converted to Champion Bermuda Grass.
George designed a course that repurposed the maintenance budget to make it more efficient and use funds for better turf maintenance practices. Another result of his design will be a much more user-friendly course that will be an enjoyable experience for both low-handicap players and high-handicap ones. “We threw a lot of balls into the air for Lester to juggle, and he accomplished all of our goals,” club owner Giff Breed said. “The golf course has been improved in many ways.”
The paramount goal of the renovation at Independence is to create a golf course that golfers of all skill levels will enjoy.
“When renovating a golf course, you have to find that delicate balance between paying homage to the existing look and feel of the course and creating a course that meets the needs of the players,” George said. “It takes a significant amount of planning and design to take everyone’s needs into account, both from a strategy standpoint and from an aesthetic one. It is a daunting task, but it is never impossible.”
George continued, “At Independence, we removed more than 500 trees and bushes that were cluttering the golf course and obstructing views. We really opened up the course to make it more visually appealing, and we also removed or redesigned dozens of bunkers to make the course more strategically viable for a wide variety of players.”
Dan Taylor, Superintendent at Independence Golf Course, said, “This golf course is magnificent. We have accomplished all we set out to do. I have not heard a bad word from anyone about the changes we’re making. We’ve really opened up the course. It has been a great team effort. Giff is out here every day, and Lester is onsite very often. We’re lucky to have an involved owner and a hands-on architect. It’s very helpful to have Lester here when we need him.”
There are spectacular vistas throughout the property and some areas are designed for a variety of uses. The bunkers on the driving range, for instance, have been filled in order for that area to be used for concerts, fireworks, soccer – and even frisbee golf. There is a new turfed lawn area off of the patio that doubles as a croquet course and will be used for weddings, social events and other outdoor activities. There will also be significant improvements to the clubhouse to offer more options for dining and entertaining. “Independence will be offering many activity options to the community on top of our new and improved, user-friendly golf course,” said Breed.
“While the current clubhouse is a wonderful structure, it was not designed for events or large-scale entertaining,” said Breed. Changes to the building will create a banquet facility allowing for a wedding with more than 200 guests, a bar offering brick-oven pizza, and a brand new restaurant to serve the surrounding area. Breed continued, “We have partnered with an excellent restaurateur to create the restaurant at Independence. A high-quality eatery is needed in this area, and we look forward to meeting our neighbors and serving them at Independence.”
“We have quite the jigsaw puzzle for this project,” said Breed. “Lester brought it in UNDER budget. That’s just crazy. Lester is a wonderfully rare ‘under-promise, over-deliver’ architect. Maybe it is his military background that keeps him so on course, but Lester created a schedule, and he’s sticking to it! We know what’s going to happen just about every day during the process,” Breed continued.
“The weather has cooperated with us, which has kept us on schedule. With only six weeks allocated for the shaping and grassing, it was nice to have Lester here on a regular basis to keep the pace moving smoothly,” said Brian Walker of Riverside Turf, the grassing contractor.
“It looks like we have redone the entire course in six weeks,” said Landscapes Unlimited Project Manager Roberto San Juan. “The changes to the bunkers and grassing are a major improvement. I’ve really enjoyed doing this project; it feels like home here.”
“Watching this renovation in action is like Christmas every day! There is always something new and exciting to see as we watch this unfold. We couldn’t be happier,” Breed said.