2015-05-13 / News

Magnolia Green expands course, set to roll out nine new holes

By Jim McConnell

Local golfers got their first look at Magnolia Green Golf Club’s completed 18-hole layout during a fundraising tournament for Cosby High’s athletic boosters last week. 
Jim McConnell/Chesterfield Observer Local golfers got their first look at Magnolia Green Golf Club’s completed 18-hole layout during a fundraising tournament for Cosby High’s athletic boosters last week. Jim McConnell/Chesterfield Observer Magnolia Green no longer is home to one of Virginia’s premier nine-hole golf courses.

The rapidly growing western Chesterfield community gave the public a sneak peek at its newly completed 18-hole layout last week when it hosted a fundraising tournament for Cosby High’s athletic boosters.

Early impressions of the course, located off Hull Street Road about 6 miles west of state Route 288, were overwhelmingly favorable.

“All I heard was positive comments,” said Cosby activities director Ted Salmon, one of 144 people who played in the captain’s choice event. “The course has a lot of personality and variety in the shots you have to play. It’s a really nice layout.”

Magnolia Green Golf Club’s 135 members will get to play the new course for the first time May 16. It’s expected to be open to the general public by the end of this month, general manager Bobby Kidder said.

Formerly known as Westham Golf Club, the public golf course was renamed in February to eliminate confusion for potential customers and more closely align it with the Magnolia Green residential community.

Construction of the nine new holes began in March 2014 and was mostly complete by November, said Tom Page, vice president of land development for iStar Financial, the New York-based company that owns Magnolia Green.

The $3 million project was one of the first items on Page’s to-do list when he joined the company three years ago.

“A nine-hole course was never going to work in the long term because golfers want to play 18 unique holes. That’s tradition, and that’s what people expect,” he said. “I told my bosses that we had to finish the golf course because that would show that we’re truly committed to this project.”

Magnolia Green’s original developer built the first nine holes before the housing collapse and recession caused it to default on a $96.9 million loan. IStar Financial, which held the note on the property, purchased the mostly undeveloped 1,896 acres (including the golf course) for $52 million at a May 2009 foreclosure auction.

Instead of simply holding onto the property until the economy improved and flipping it to another developer for a tidy profit, iStar invested millions upgrading the community’s stormwater infrastructure, landscaping, signage and amenities.

As the housing market stabilized and people started building new homes at Magnolia Green, iStar executives concluded that it was time to finish the golf course.

The golf course design firm founded by legend Jack Nicklaus built the original nine holes in association with architect Tom Clark. Hoping to seamlessly blend the new holes into the character of the existing layout, iStar hired the same design team to complete the project.

The designers were fortunate, Kidder said, because the terrain on which they built the new nine holes was very similar to that of the existing nine.

The new holes “have the same look and feel,” he added.

Each of Magnolia Green’s tee boxes and fairways feature Bermuda grass. All 18 bentgrass greens already are in excellent condition.

The most noticeable difference between the new and old holes will be the size of the greens.

“I think the architect realized the greens on the first nine weren’t as big as he might have wanted them to be,” Kidder said.

The expansion of Magnolia Green Golf Club addresses a significant need in the Richmond metro area, which is unusual in that it has nearly twice as many private clubs as public, daily fee courses.

Because of its dramatic elevation changes and undulating greens, Magnolia Green already had established a reputation as one of the area’s most demanding layouts when it only offered nine holes.

Page embraces that status, but also recognizes that the average golfer doesn’t want to spend time and money to get beaten up by the course. For that reason, Magnolia Green has five different tees, giving golfers of all levels a chance to succeed.

“It’s a tremendous course,” he said, “and it’s only going to get better.”

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