Five firms vie for Belmont Golf Course lease

belmont golf club aerial

An aerial view of Belmont Golf Course in Henrico County. (BizSense file photo)

The field of competitors jockeying for a chance to take over the century-old Henrico County-owned Belmont Golf Course is down to five.

That’s the number of companies that submitted proposals this month in response to a county-issued RFP for a contract to lease and operate the daily fee course at 1600 Hilliard Road, all with the goal of turning around an operation that has steadily lost money for well over a decade.

Neil Luther, director of the county’s Recreation and Parks Department, said he could not identify the five respondents or the details of their proposals, citing the ongoing process.

The five respondents were among the dozen or so groups that showed up for a mandatory meeting held last month that was required for any party interested in responding to an RFP.

Those in attendance at the meeting included golf course management companies of all sorts, such as national firms Billy Casper Golf, Brown Golf Management, KemperSports and Nebraska-based Landscapes Unlimited; and regional and local competitors such as First Tee of Greater Richmond, Williamsburg-based Golf Business Advisors, Up to Par Management in Lexington and New Direction Golf Management in Fredericksburg,

Luther said his department is evaluating the five proposals, with the goal of taking the most promising one to the county Board of Supervisors in December. The goal is to have the board award the contract in time for the operator to take over Belmont by Jan. 1, 2020.

belmont golf course

The lease would not include surrounding parking lots. (BizSense file photo)

The contract would come with a 20-year lease to operate the course, while the county would retain ownership of the 125-acre property.

The lease would include operations and maintenance of Belmont’s 18-hole course, practice putting area, pro shop, snack bar and meeting space. It does not include the neighboring county-owned tennis courts, rec center and surrounding parking lots, which Henrico would continue to operate and maintain.

The RFP calls for the county to forgo any lease payments or revenue share from the new operator, while also setting aside $500,000 in county funds to pay for renovations of Belmont’s bunkers, a project the county already had approved but shelved while it weighed options for the course’s future.

The county also expects the new operator to close the course for renovations, including the bunker work, and plan to reopen for play in April or May.

The county also would provide up to $250,000 in additional capital funding in years two, three and four of the lease, with the operator having to seek permission before spending the money.

Approaching the green

The operator would be required to contribute annually a minimum of 5 percent of Belmont’s gross operating revenue equal to or above $1 million into a capital reserve escrow account. That account would be set aside for capital improvements and major repairs that will help preserve the course’s future, according to the RFP.

The new operator will have the ability to set new fees for daily play and to sell alcohol onsite, which has been prohibited under county ownership and is seen as having held back the course financially in recent years.

The operator would be required to provide a fleet of golf carts and pull carts, and a PGA Class A golf professional to work onsite.

belmont golf course sign

The RFP also calls for the creation of a citizen Belmont Golf Advisory Committee. (BizSense file photo)

The RFP also calls for the creation of a citizen Belmont Golf Advisory Committee to “apprise and advise the Board of Supervisors on all operating issues and concerns arising during the term of the lease and operating agreement.”

The committee would meet regularly and would include a county-designated representative.

Luther said the RFP shows the county has a clear view of exactly what it wants from the new operator and those requirements will determine the choice in the end.

“A lot of it comes down to who we think is the best legacy operator that we would trust for the long term,” Luther said this week.

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Ed Christina
Ed Christina
1 year ago

The county seems to be giving up a lot, what kind of payments come with the lease?
Are there any requirements to be “green” as golf courses put a lot of chemicals into the environment?

Scott Simmons
Scott Simmons
1 year ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

The county is not giving up a lot when you consider it has been losing significant sums of money each year operating the course itself. It makes sense to have a professional golf course management take over the course, even if the operator doesn’t make lease payments, because those annual operating losses will be avoided for the next 20 years. Avoiding those losses and preserving and improving an historic golf course is in the best interests of the county and its residents.

Bert Clark
Bert Clark
1 year ago
Reply to  Scott Simmons

Agreed. It will take considerable effort and additonal investment by the golf management firm in Belmont Golf Course, above-and-beyond the money being provided by Henrico County, to make this facility a financially self sustaining facility. It has great promise, check-out the vision for the entire facility that Friends of Belmont Golf Course has developed. Some of these ideas go well beyond the scope of the RFP that is currently being negotiated.

Steve Richmond
Steve Richmond
1 year ago

The arial view at the beginning of this story shows the #6 green (back) and #18 green (front). It also shows the dog-leg #5 fairway in the upper right corner. On #5, the typical golfer will drive to the corner, then hit their second shot toward the green. Someone told me that in 1949, Sam Snead cut the corner and hit the ball from the tee straight to the green! I am not sure that is true, but Snead did win the 1949 PGA Championship on this course. Good history here.

Bert Clark
Bert Clark
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Richmond

I don’t think the story of Sam Snead driving the green is true, he cut the corner to shorten the approach shot to the green. In 1916, hole #5 was designed by AW Tillinghast as a par-5 hole, back in the day when a prodigous drive was 220-yards! Hopefully, in a symathetic restoration of the course, this hole can be converted into a risk/reward par-5 by adding Tillinghast inspired bunkers near the corner of the dogleg to recreate some of the interest in the hole. Now, it is an overly difficult par-4 hole