Shuttered local golf course finds a buyer

new kent sign

Royal New Kent Golf Club was purchased by a South Carolina firm. (Michael Schwartz)

Six months after it was left dormant by its owner, a local golf course is set to be revived by an out-of-town buyer that’s looking to add to its established stake in the market.

Royal New Kent Golf Club is under contract to be purchased by Greenville, South Carolina-based Wingfield Golf.

The company, which also owns the nearby Club at Viniterra and manages neighboring Brickshire Golf Club, is expected to close on the deal today, said CEO Barton Tuck.

Tuck would not say how much his company is paying for the course, but said it plans to invest around $2 million to restore it with a goal of reopening by spring 2019.

“We’re doing a lot of work and spending a lot of money,” he said.

Royal New Kent was shuttered toward the end of 2017, as it and sister clubs Brickshire and Stonehouse were put up for sale by their shared owner, Traditional Golf Properties.

Stonehouse shut down around the same time and remains closed. Brickshire, which has remained open, was purchased in March by its surrounding homeowners association for $2 million.

Traditional Golf has owned Royal New Kent and Stonehouse since 2001. It paid $5 million for each course that year, according to county real estate records. It has owned Brickshire since 2010, paying $425,000 for the course.

To bring Royal New Kent back to life, Tuck said Wingfield plans to redo the bunkers, which includes the purchase of 1,500 tons of sand. It also will convert the greens from bent grass to champion Bermuda grass, along with upgrades to the irrigation system, pump station and clubhouse.

But it won’t be an easy task, Tuck said.

“It is a disaster,” he said. “I’ve been around golf a long time. You see courses where the grass goes to hell. But things that were fixed (at Royal New Kent) were fixed incorrectly and rigged. The drainage system out there is a disaster. All that will be taken up and replaced.”

Tuck said Wingfield will look to restore Royal New Kent more in line with its original design from 1996. It was designed by the late Mike Strantz, a course architect who designed only seven or eight courses before his death at age 50.

“All of them have the same feeling of the Irish or Scottish design,” Tuck said of Strantz’s work. “They’re all hard as hell but they’re all interesting.”

In making the leap to buy another course in New Kent County, Tuck said he likes the idea of a marketing trifecta between Royal New Kent, Brickshire and Viniterra, which it purchased in 2012.

“That gives us a triple play and we’re going to promote that heavily,” he said. “I think all three will help each other. They play different, they look different and I think customers will enjoy playing all of them.”

Tuck said his confidence was boosted by momentum in the economy of New Kent County, which has recently been in the spotlight as a potential location for a sprawling casino being pondered by the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, as well as the expected reopening of Colonial Downs.

While Stonehouse was also designed by Stranz, Tuck said he doesn’t have any interest in purchasing that property.

Hilda Allen, a broker enlisted by Traditional Golf to sell the three courses, said Stonehouse has yet to find a formal suitor. The Stonehouse homeowners association had considered making a run at the course, but voted last month against the idea.

“We have people that want to buy it,” Allen said. “They are looking for partners and we’re trying to get the (Stonehouse) homeowners association to do something kind of like Brickshire.”

Allen said it’s a hot time for golf properties, though not all are being purchased to remain as golf courses.

She has three other listings in Virginia: King Carter Golf Club in the Northern Neck and Cypress Creek Golfers Club in Smithfield are both under contract, and she just listed Water’s Edge Country Club at Smith Mountain Lake.

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
2 years ago

Its old news that golf course communities have had their run. A national developer told me 20 years ago that golf and tennis were kaput as amenities. He said “birding” was the next big thing! I’m still looking for a community that markets “birding”, though the eagle that fishes that pond behind Wellesley Terrace gave us some wonderful moments while we were selling it last summer.

Alan Wilson
Alan Wilson
2 years ago

While I’ve not played this course myself, I’m aware that it’s reputation of being extremely difficult has hurt the demand to play it. Everyone I know who has played it said they won’t go back because it’s just not any fun. Hope the new owners are aware of this public perception and consider this while undertaking restoration efforts.

William Willis
William Willis
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Wilson

I have played these course several times and it is really hard. But that is why I love it! It’s challenging, you have to place your shots. You can’t just grip it and rip it off every tee box. But it was one of the most beautiful courses I have played in Virginia. Glad to see it come back to life.

Peggy Parrish
Peggy Parrish
2 years ago
Reply to  William Willis

I agree with William 100%. I’ve played Royal New Kent a few times and while challenging, it was great fun! The beauty, the unique layout and the location are all wonderful. Anyone who truly likes to play golf will enjoy this course. I’m thrilled and Wingfield is the best company to bring it back! Good luck Barton and team.

ken young
ken young
2 years ago

Royal New Kent has been on my list of courses I want to play. That is since my few visits to Colonial Downs.
Now that the course will reopen next spring and the race track will be conducting live racing. Its a double bonus.
I’ve played two Strantz designed courses. FRUnky and difficult. Thats the fun of it. There is “hard” then there is “unfair”.. Strantz courses are not unfair.

Doug Roberts
Doug Roberts
2 years ago
Reply to  ken young

I have played RNK a few times and was looking forward to playing it again. I have played many of Strantz’s tracks and love them. This news about RNK getting a resurrection is fantastic. It seems the new owner will do it right. Strantz legacy deserves that.