At Independence Golf Club, Richmond-based golf course architect Lester George in conjunction with superintendent Dan Taylor, on-site overseer Giff Breed and others, gave the layout a major makeover after the club closed for a wholesale top-to-toe renovation in 2014.
The changes included regrassing the fairways and greens, ridding the layout of an overabundance of bunkers and strategically removing trees to get air moving, resulting in healthier turf.
Five sets of tees range from just over 5,000 yards to more than 7,100 yards from the tips. From a playing perspective, varying shot values mean golfers have a more enjoyable experience and the test is a more palatable one than any time in the course’s history. The ground game is prevalent, especially in front of and around the putting surfaces where closely-mown areas mean players have a number of choices, including running the ball onto the green.
The new putting surfaces, coated with Champion ultradwarf bermudagrass are true, quick and their purity compares to any in the country. Run-off areas are prevalent. Teeing grounds, once seemingly an afterthought, have been squared off and shortened, giving them a sharp, tour-site look.
Visitors looking to improve their game have plenty of opportunity to do so with a double-ended practice facility. The practice tee nearest the clubhouse is comprised of a high quality range mat that extends the width of the practice tee. There is an expansive putting green and short game area adjacent to the area. The far end of the range is typically reserved as an all-grass tee and part of it is covered.
Clunky, well-worn carts from the past have been replaced by a new and vibrant looking fleet with a sedan-like feel and ride. Traditional on-course beverage carts have been replaced by Lexus CT hybrids and offer a fresh assortment of premium craft beers, non-alcoholic beverages and snacks. Additionally, Digital Caddie information is displayed with only Independence information showing. Notably, GPS-enabled tablets within all carts have both course-specific messaging, as well as targeted communication from the club’s corporate partners.
Old range balls have been retired and new ones help give golfers the most out of their warm-up sessions.
The nine-hole, par-3 Mentor Short Course, with holes ranging from 90 to 180 yards, remains a popular spot for those looking to play after work, golfers pressed for time and juniors or individuals getting their first taste of the game. In addition to regulation-sized holes, Independence has added 8-inch cups as well as FootGolf, which is similar to golf except the player is kicking a soccer ball into an oversized, 21-inch hole.
Altogether, Independence presents an all-around pleasant golf experience.
“We started with three goals: pace of play, which we’ve met. We’ve reduced the average round by more than 45 minutes,” Giff Breed said. “In regard to playability, the course is a wonderful experience for all caliber players. And then there’s sustainability. We’re using less water, fewer chemicals and implementing more eco-friendly programs. It’s all turned out very well.”