The recent 2015 NGCOA Mid-Atlantic Innovation Awards included an honor for Lester George, ASGCA, and George Golf Design. The renovation work he led at Independence Golf Club, Richmond, Virginia, earned the “Public Golf Leader” award.
The NGCOA reported:
Once on the golf course, you see the true commitment to something entirely different. “Before we did a redesign with Lester George, we established the principles of playability, pace of play and sustainability,” said Owner Giff Breed. Subsequently George took out 600 trees, 43 bunkers and changed green surrounds from rough to closely mown areas. New grassing included 419 bermuda grass fairways and boldly changing the greens to Champion bermuda grass, believed the northern-most course to do so. Bunkers were reconstructed using the “Better Billy Bunker” method, which offers superior drainage. New wells were drilled to increase the water supply to both the course and the surrounding neighborhood. The result is a more fun course that plays faster and is friendly to the environment. “We shaved our average round time down from 4 hours 50 minutes before, to just over four hours after.” Golf Digest rewarded them with a “Top Nine Friendliest Courses in the US” nod.
In any entertainment business, the key is FUN. Breed wants to make sure players pick the right tees so they can have fun. On the club’s nine hole par-3 Short Course, there are three cups on every hole – one regular, one 8.5″ (twice normal size) and one off the green for foot golf. The Short Course has been very popular for families, even soccer families!
Golf instruction remain integral to the club and a Michael Breed Golf Academy (Giff is the older brother of The Golf Channel Instructor) is in the future plans. 2015 season provided record numbers for the junior camps, where the club offers on-site dormitory housing. It is there, at the back of the driving range, that the University of Richmond men’s and women’s golf teams are setting up shop, with a training center on the drawing board.
Breed is also excited about the club’s sponsorship program. They have introduced a farm-to-table concept, with a vegetable and herb garden on-site that is sponsored by Tricycle Gardens and Bon Secours hospitals. The player assistance vehicles are specially equipped Lexus hybrid automobiles, a promotion that Lexus is seeking to expand to other clubs. Coming soon may be a drive-in movie staged on the club’s main parking lot, in a partnership with Richmond’s historic Byrd Theatre. Other sponsors include Devil’s Backbone Brewery, Belle Isle Spirits, Blanchard Coffee, Sugar Britches Pastries, John Deere and more.