Chesterfield community rounds out golf course

Magnolia Green recently built a new club house. Photos by Michael Schwartz.

Magnolia Green recently built a new welcome center. Photos by Michael Schwartz.

The golf course centerpiece of a massive Chesterfield development has finally been made whole.

Magnolia Green Golf Club, which until earlier this year was a nine-hole course known as Westham Golf Club, was unveiled to the public this week with a full 18 holes.

The new set of holes is part of a $7 million long-term project that developer iStar Financial put into play for the course last year. The New York-based REIT is the owner and master developer of the surrounding 1,900-acre Magnolia Green community, which will eventually hold 3,500 residential units.

IStar took over the project from the original developer in 2009, when the development had stalled and the 260-acre golf course was only half finished.

Tom Page, an iStar vice president who oversees the Magnolia Green project, said the investment in the golf course was an important step for the rebounded development.

“It just confirms the commitment to buyers that we’re here to finish out the project and we’re going to do it in a first-class manner,” Page said.

Getting the second nine ready for play hasn’t been all fun and games. Construction on the new holes was completed last fall and was followed by the arduous process of bringing the course’s grass up to par.

Page said the company rolled the dice on sprigging the course’s fairways, rather than the more expensive route of putting down sod.

Magnolia Green golf

The course is hoping to boost rounds and interest in the community.

“When we built the course last fall, our intent was if we can save some money by sprigging, we wanted to do that,” Page said. “It was just a gamble to say, ‘Are we going to have enough hot weather for the rest of the year for this to take?’”

Course General Manager Bobby Kidder said the grass on a few of the new holes didn’t come in as they would have liked – thanks to what he said was a lethal combination of grass-hungry armyworms and prolonged cold weather. Management ultimately made the last-minute call to put down several acres of sod on some of the bad spots, a costly but necessary maneuver to have the course ready for the summer golf season.

The course will initially charge a rate of $55 for weekday rounds and $65 for weekends and holidays.

“Are we going to be perfect? No,” Kidder said. “What hopefully all golfers understand is it’s not an exact science. Mother Nature is Mother Nature.”

Kidder nevertheless said he’s happy to have the full 18 open, along with the new welcome center and practice area that was added to the course over the last year. IStar also has an additional $4 million or so set aside to build a new clubhouse by 2017.

In addition to helping sell homes, the upgrades should help the semi-private course continue to grow in terms of memberships sold and rounds played. With nine holes, the club had just under 15,000 rounds last year, Kidder said. It currently has 108 members, up from 74 at this time last year. Kidder said the goal over time will be to grow that number to 270.

In regard to home sales, Magnolia Green is humming, Page said. It sold about 70 lots to builders so far this year and is aiming for that number to reach between 140 and 150 by year’s end. About 520 homeowners live in the community.

“We’re having our best year ever,” Page said. “Life is good at the Green, as I like to say.”

Magnolia Green has sections of town houses and several tiers of single-family homes. A new section dubbed Charleston Village will add homes that will cater to retirees with first-floor master bedrooms and yard maintenance taken care of by the developer.

Page said the next phase will likely be Magnolia Green’s first section of apartments. IStar is in negotiations with an apartment developer to build a complex on 21 acres near the golf club’s new welcome center.

Another 200 acres are set aside for eventual commercial development fronting Hull Street Road, and an aquatic center and tennis facility are also in the works.

As for changing the name of the golf course to match the neighborhood, Page said it should have been called Magnolia Green all along.

“We never could find out where ‘Westham’ came from,” he said.

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