Major restoration of Strantz’s ballyhooed design offers fun and challenge without the Trans-Atlantic flight
NEW KENT, Virginia (Oct. 2, 2019) —This year’s Open Championship – or as Yanks like to say, the British Open – was played in Northern Ireland, specifically Royal Portrush Golf Club, for the first time in 68 years.
The 148th Open Championship, golf’s oldest competition, was won by Ireland’s Shane Lowery, and the event’s stage, Dunluce Links, the more well-known of Royal Portrush’s two courses, presented itself flawlessly, and cemented its reputation as one of the world’s most challenging layouts.
The Open was first held at Portrush in 1951 where a crowd of 8,000 watched Max Faulkner claim the title. For Americans who love links golf, there is a very suitable east coast alternative in New Kent, Virginia — just off Interstate 95, and midway between Richmond and Williamsburg – at Royal New Kent Golf Club.
Royal New Kent Golf Club was designed by architect Mike Strantz and debuted in 1997. Consistently rated as one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s finest layouts, Royal New Kent is a Virginia original sprinkled with Irish seasoning. Strantz paid tribute to the fabled seaside links of the Emerald Isle, with an emphasis on the character and feel of two of the architect’s favorites — Ireland’s Royal County Down and Ballybunion.
Following a recent change in ownership and a major restoration of the golf course by Wingfield Golf Management, Royal New Kent is back making golfers feel as if they have crossed the Atlantic for a memorable round of true, links golf.
“Wingfield completely re-enhanced Royal New Kent, both on and away from the golf course,” said General Manager and Director of Golf Chip Sullivan. “It is rewarding to hear such positive feedback for the work that has been done here. We could not be more pleased and proud of our finished product, and we are truly happy to hear the golfing world agrees.”
In thoughtfully returning Royal New Kent to the club’s original grandeur, Wingfield Golf partnered with local resident and golf enthusiast Willie Downs. Many of the course’s most devoted fans provided original photographs that assisted in the renovation.
Strantz’s vision was captured in hand-drawn sketches that served as blueprints for his dramatic golfing landscape. Wingfield even brought back two of Strantz’s shapers who constructed the course to help oversee the restoration.
Royal New Kent’s green complexes were converted from bent grass to the more heat-tolerant Champion Bermuda. Wingfield Golf trucked in 2,300 tons of new sand to reconstruct the Royal New Kent bunkers, making the golf course more playable and easier to maintain. The upgrades to the irrigation system include a new pump station, and all 120 inlets were rebuilt for better drainage. Meanwhile, substantial clubhouse upgrades were also performed.
With Royal New Kent, Wingfield Golf now owns a pair of outstanding public access courses located within a short drive of one another. The other is The Club at Viniterra, a Rees Jones design that opened in late 2009 and quickly won the hearts of the area’s golfers and a fixture amongst Golfweek’s Top Courses to Play in Virginia.
Wingfield Golf, which owns eight golf courses in Florida, Mississippi and Virginia, also owns the South Riding and Pleasant Valley golf clubs in Northern Virginia.
“This area is easily accessible from most of the East Coast,” said Wingfield Golf Chairman Barton Tuck. “We believe there will be both local membership appeal and a lot of packaging business for golfers coming off the interstate. We’re very excited about what the future holds for premier, public-access golf in the area.”