First Tee – Greater Richmond is entering an agreement with Henrico County to take over the operation and management of Belmont Golf Course, the only golf course in Virginia to host a PGA major tournament – the 1949 PGA Championship, which was won by Virginian Sam Snead. Below are questions and answers pertaining to the deal.
What are the basics of the partnership?
In simplest terms, Henrico County will retain ownership of Belmont Golf Course and enter a 20-year lease with First Tee, which will operate and manage the golf course. It’s worth noting that the partnership with Henrico County is very similar to the partnerships First Tee started with Chesterfield County in 2000 and the City of Richmond in 2003.
What are the terms of the lease?
First Tee has agreed to pay Henrico County $3.25 million over the 20-year lease. This is in addition to the $750,000 Henrico County plans to invest into course renovations. In all, The First Tee will invest more than $4 million to transform the golf course.
How is The First Tee paying for this?
First Tee has a committed group of donors who are making this investment possible.
How did The First Tee get involved in this project?
A couple of years ago, Henrico County debated what to do with Belmont Golf Course, which had lost money each year since 2000. About a year ago, when it looked like the county had eliminated non-golf development opportunities, First Tee began considering what it might be able to do with Belmont Golf Course. Earlier this year, Henrico County issued a request for proposals (RFP) to keep golf at the center of Belmont. First Tee submitted a proposal and presented its vision for Belmont. In December, Henrico County announced a partnership with First Tee, which beat out four other groups for the right to operate Belmont.
Why is Henrico County doing this?
Belmont Golf Course has lost money each year since 2000, and the county sought ideas on what to do with the property for a couple years to limit the taxpayer dollars that went into maintaining the course. It was looking for a partner that was willing to take over the management of the golf operation, and we are thrilled to be the county’s partner.
Why is The First Tee doing this?
This is an incredible opportunity for us to do what we’ve done in Chesterfield County and in the City of Richmond. It’s a perfect fit for us to carry out our vision of strengthening the character of our community. We already work with 44 schools and more than 23,000 students in Henrico County through our First Tee School Program, and this partnership enables us to drastically grow our footprint in reaching more youth in the Richmond area.
Why will it be a 12-hole championship course instead of an 18-hole championship course?
First Tee made a conscious decision to propose an innovative plan to reimagine Belmont rather than simply making cosmetic changes or upgrades to the bunkers. To best accommodate the programming for our First Tee participants and to include practice facilities like a driving range, short-game area and putting area, reducing the course from 18 to 12 holes is necessary. In addition, we believe that having 12 holes – in addition to all that we’re adding – will be attractive to golfers who are looking to reduce the time it takes to play a round.
Who is helping First Tee with the design and renovations?
We are excited to have an agreement to work with Love Golf Design, which is led by former PGA golfer Davis Love III, his brother Mark Love and Scot Sherman. Davis Love III is a 21-time PGA champion, two-time Ryder Cup captain and World Golf Hall of Fame member. Most recently, the firm has been leading the redesign efforts at Birdwood Golf Course in Charlottesville.
Belmont is a Tillinghast course. How do the renovations affect his design?
Even when A.W. Tillinghast designed the course in 1917, he noted the lack of size of the track of land that Belmont resides. First Tee and our partner Love Golf Design are fully aware of the history of Belmont and what it means to be a Tillinghast course. Similar to other Tillinghast courses across the country, Love Golf Design envisions respecting the brilliance of Tillinghast while adding key design elements to enhance the course.
What’s so special about Belmont?
Belmont was designed by famed golf designer A.W. Tillinghast and remains one of two Tillinghast courses in the country that has hosted a major championship and remain public – Bethpage Black is the other. Other Tillinghast courses include Winged Foot and Baltusrol. Belmont Golf Course opened in 1917 as the original Hermitage Country Club and is the only course in Virginia to host a PGA major tournament – the 1949 PGA Championship, which was won by Virginian Sam Snead. Henrico County purchased the course in 1977 to offer its residents an affordable public golf course. In short, Belmont’s history is rich, and we will continue to celebrate that as we bring the course into the future.