Virginia Golfer Sep / Oct 2017 - Page 13

( atc ) Member Clubs Member Clubs Investment Pays Off at Ford’s Colony Membership at recently renovated Ford’s Colony is up as the course celebrates 30 years | by CHRIS LANG O n a sunny August morning at Ford’s Colony Coun- try Club in Williamsburg, a group of children took part in putting drills before heading inside the renovated Murdoch’s restaurant to catch up on Cartoon Network shows. Inside the pro shop, the line to get out on one of the club’s two open courses was six deep, and the first opening on the tee sheet wasn’t until late afternoon. Net membership is up during a time when many are struggling to fill rosters. In short, things are looking up at Ford’s Colony, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2017. And it’s no coincidence that the club began to see its fortunes turn around in 2015 when ClubCorp purchased the property and immediately began investing in the 54-hole facility ’s lagging infrastructure. ClubCorp, which manages nine facilities in Virginia, set out to revive Ford’s Colony, which operates in an area saturated with top- notch golf options like the Golden Horseshoe and the Kingsmill Resort. Before tackling renovations on the club’s first 18-hole course— Marsh Hawk—ClubCorp began a multi-million-dollar renovation to the Ford’s Colony clubhouse. Upstairs, members will find an upscale dining area for nights out. Downstairs, the former Harry’s restaurant was renamed Murdoch’s, which includes a family-friendly menu, local craft beer on tap, modern seating and televisions throughout. An outdoor patio overlooking the practice area features plenty of seating, fire pits and cornhole boards. While all of those aesthetic changes were necessary, Ford’s also recognized a need to update Marsh Hawk, a Dan Maples design built in 1985, two years before the full club opened. The two biggest issues: bentgrass greens that could not thrive in the Virginia heat, and an overgrowth of trees that significantly changed the original course design and made it difficult to grow grass in certain areas. It all came to a head last summer when, like many other courses in central and southern Virginia, Marsh Hawk lost greens to the stifling heat. “The bentgrass just checked out on us,” Ford’s Colony director of agronomy John Marshall said. “Last year at this time, we had five or six temporaries out there,” Ford’s Colony director of golf Mike Krick said. “A friend of mine was describing Bermudagrass greens, and this area, to me, and he kind of described it very uniquely. He said, ‘You know what the definition of a weed is? A weed is an undesirable grass in a wrong location.’ In our summertime, bentgrass is almost becoming a weed. It just can’t grow.” Last fall, Ford’s Colony made the decision to shut down Marsh Hawk for much of the summer of 2017, beginning on June 1, to renovate all 18 greens with Champion Bermuda, the same grass the club uses on its Blue Heron Course. Over time, the bentgrass had facilitated some shrinkage of the course’s greens, so not only did the club change grasses, but it restored the greens to their original full size. “ We f e e l l i k e w e ’r e saving 25 percent on w a t e r, f e r t i l i z e r a n d fungicides since moving to the Bermudagrass,” Marshall said. When Marsh Hawk officially reopens for business—the club is targeting mid-September— members will see other notable differences, especially when it comes to sight lines. On No. 13, for example, an oak tree had grown so large that it cut off much of the left side of the fairway from the teeing ground, leaving players a narrow landing area near a water hazard. On 14, a string of trees down the left side of the fairway made it impossible to grow grass, and mishits would often hit dirt just left of the fairway and roll all the way into the woods. A tree on 17 nearly made the right side of the green inaccessible. “We’re going to have new greens, which will be perfect, but we get all of our hole locations back and we’re going to have a bigger putting surface,” Krick said. “T YK][YY\^KY[H\HZ\[HوܙY[[[Hو\[]8&\Hو][]Y[XˈYHܙY[\HH]BY\H[\[^Hۈ\K[XHو^H[[ݙH\\'B]8&\^XH]X\\Y[Z[[H\H[YYHXY\Y˂HHHH H  MHHHHHL