MIDLOTHIAN, Va. — Independence Golf Club has been honored with the ‘Public Golf Leader Award’ from the National Golf Course Owners Association Mid-Atlantic Region, the organization has announced.
Independence serves as a venue designed to challenge the traditional way public and private golf facilities have been operated. Additionally, Independence aims to create greater business success for the golf course industry, while helping cultivate golf’s next generation of players.
“We accept this award with gratitude and we believe this recognition is an affirmation that we are on the right track with our Championship Course, programs, events and sponsorships,” said Independence on-site owner Giff Breed. “Our philosophy for the golf operation is to be a ‘country club for a day,’ while understanding that we will continue to be a club that emphasizes variety in its offerings in providing an upscale, enjoyable and memorable experience for anyone who visits.”
Breed, along with award-winning master architect Lester George, Virginia amateur legend Vinny Giles and superintendent Dan Taylor, gave the Championship Course at Independence a major makeover after the club closed for a wholesale top-to-toe renovation in 2014.
Since reopening last year, the changes included regrassing the fairways and greens, ridding the layout of an overabundance of bunkers and strategically removed or relocated trees to get air moving, resulting in healthier turf.
As a part of the makeover, club officials changed green surrounds from rough to closely mown areas. The fairways were converted to a sturdier strain known as 419 bermudagrass and greens were resurfaced with Champion bermudagrass; Independence is believed to be to northern-most course to use that type of grass on its putting surfaces.
Bunkers were reconstructed using the “Better Billy Bunker” method, which offers superior drainage. Additionally, 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 friendlier to the environment.
When Independence reopened, golfers were treated to a transformed layout.
“When we did a redesign, we established the principles of playability, pace of play and sustainability,” Breed says. “We shaved our average round time down from four hours, 50 minutes before, to just over four hours after.”
Intent on ensuring an all-around golf experience, players receive complimentary bottled water thanks a partnership with Lexus, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. and Independence to support the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Golf carts are equipped with luxury leather seats for a sedan-type ride and an online GPS tablet. Local clubmaker Andrew Hodson offers custom clubfitting from his on-site mobile trailer.
Player assistance vehicles are specially equipped Lexus hybrid automobiles, a promotion that Lexus is seeking to expand to other clubs.
Critically-acclaimed, Independence was hailed as one of Golf Digest’s ‘Best New Courses’ for 2014 and ranked No. 3 among the country’s ‘Most Cheerful Courses’ in the publication’s August 2015 edition.
All types of patrons can visit the club and have an enjoyable visit. The entire clubhouse has been renovated and Independence opened Tavern 19, the club’s official ‘American-steakhouse’ themed restaurant.
A perfect gathering place, the restaurant has newly-introduced lunch and dinner menus, along with brick-oven pizzas, a variety of domestic beers, award-winning IPAs from Devils Backbone, reserve wines, specialty Belle Isle Craft Spirits cocktails and mouth-watering desserts. There are also fun-filled themed evening gatherings, including trivia, date nights, beer specials and concerts featuring local musicians such as Steve Bassett, Pat O’Brien and others.
Today, the expanded and upgraded full-service clubhouse is perfect for weddings, rehearsal dinners, banquets, events, meetings, outings and parties.
Independence has created outdoor lawn patio offers cornhole courts, bocce ball, disc golf games and much more. Several rooms in the clubhouse are ideal for functions and include a new 3,200-square-foot-space adjoining an expansive outdoor patio.
The store in the clubhouse known as Shadwells isn’t just a traditional golf shop, but more of a buying destination that includes golf and non-golf products. Golfers can purchase apparel and items that are golf-centric, but it’s also an upscale shop that can be frequented by a number of guests looking for resortwear, dresswear—even gifts and home accents.
Through its partnership with the Bon Air Artists Association, paintings from a variety of Richmond artists adorn the walls of the main level hallway in the clubhouse. Portions of the proceeds benefit the Fore Children Foundation that operates the Robins Junior Programs at Independence.
Meanwhile, the back of the campus features an expansive practice area with a grass driving range and practice putting greens, as well as Art For The Journey painting sessions, introductory martial arts classes for kids and other regularly-scheduled activities.
Located at the far end of the lower practice range at Independence, the Bon Secours Mentor Course, populated by golfers of all skills levels from beginners to advanced, provides a chance for players to get a taste of golf in a non-intimidating environment or those looking to fine tune a particular area of their game. The layout features nine par-3 holes and is family friendly—the course features three cups on every hole: the regular 4½-inch golf hole, a larger 8-inch size for kids and the FootGolf cup, which is just off each green.
Improvements to The Swink Lodge, Robins Cottage and upscale on-site accommodations make for ideal overnight stay and play golf packages, as well as accommodations for wedding parties or business meetings.
The acclaimed Robins Junior Programs continue to expand its camps, clinics and programs to introduce the game of golf to children, especially those who might not otherwise have access to the sport. Since 2002, the Robins Junior Programs have helped shaped the lives of more than 20,000 children of all socioeconomic backgrounds through golf and the outreach initiative enjoyed a record year in 2015.
A training facility for the University of Richmond men’s and women’s golf programs is also on the drawing board.
Other new activities include Lexus lawn parties, fishing, car washes, Tricycle Gardens’ vegetable and herb garden, culinary classes and a Memorial Garden honoring America’s fallen heroes.
As the voice of Mid-Atlantic’s golf business, the NGCOA Mid-Atlantic serves to promote, protect, and educate its members and their courses. The organization focuses on several areas: growing the game, legislative affairs, networking, education and vendor relations.