PHOTOGRAPHY BY L.C. LAMBRECHT
Kinloch Golf Club
THIS PRIVATE RETREAT NEAR VIRGINIA’S CAPITAL OFFERS MEMBERS AND GUESTS A COMFORTABLE ATMOSPHERE IN WHICH TO TAKE ON ONE OF THE BEST COURSES BUILT IN THE PAST 10 YEARS
2010 EDITION |
arvin “Vinny” Giles will be 68 years old when he tees it up at the 2011 U.S. Senior Amateur. If he wins, he will be the secondoldest Senior Amateur champion. But even if he doesn’t win his fourth national championship (after the 1972 U.S. Amateur, 1975 British Amateur and 2009 U.S. Senior Amateur), even if he doesn’t make it to match play, it will be a special week for Giles. That’s because the site of next year’s U.S. Senior Amateur is Kinloch Golf Club, which Giles helped to develop and design. So he will be one of a select few in golf who have ever had an opportunity to play a championship on a course he has built, joining the likes of Bobby Jones (Augusta National Golf Club) and Jack Nicklaus (Valhalla Golf Club). Like Jones and Nicklaus, who never won majors on their creations, Giles doesn’t expect to enjoy much of a homecourse advantage. “My expectations aren’t very high,” says Giles. “It would be more pressure. I’m a realist.” Actually, it would be fitting to say that Giles already has won at Kinloch. Since its 2001 opening, the club located west of Richmond, Virginia, has become a modern classic, a private golf retreat that offers the rare combination of a worldclass course, top facilities and an informally collegial atmosphere that makes each visit a memorable experience. “Kinloch turned out better than any of us had envisioned,” says Charlie Staples, one of the three founders along with Giles and C.B. Robertson III. “We set the bar for a lot of things.”
One huge success is the golf course, which is ranked among the best in the country—a rocket-like ascension into the pantheon of American golf. Designed by Lester George with assistance from Giles, the 7,203-yard layout occupies a site that used to be a heavily wooded tract, including a 70-acre lake, owned by Robertson and his family. In the mid 1990s, Robertson wanted to build a golf course on his land, and approached Giles about designing the layout. Giles, in turn, tapped Richmond-based George, who had worked on many Mid-Atlantic layouts but was still looking for his breakthrough project. “The first time I visited,” says George, “I knew that this piece of land was good enough to yield a top-100 course. What we needed to do was not overcook it.” Although Giles had only previously dabbled in golf course architecture, he received a much deeper understanding of the design and construction process at Kinloch. Since he and George lived in the Richmond area, they made frequent visits to the site. “We both have pretty strong personalities, but we complemented ABOVE: Left is more risky each other very well,” says George. but also more rewarding “He brought the shotmaker’s per- on the 407-yard 2nd. spective, an understanding of how OPPOSITE: The 328-yard a world-class player would approach 15th is drivable, but there are also plenty of certain shots.” Their collaboration resulted in a risks on the hole.
SINCE ITS OPENING, KINLOCH HAS BECOME A MODERN CLASSIC, THANKS TO A ROCKET-LIKE ASCENT INTO THE PANTHEON OF U.S. GOLF.
It takes two strong shots to reach the green of the 471yard 16th hole in regulation. INSET: The cottages are as comfortable as the rest of the club.
A SERIES OF ALTERNATING LONG PAR 4S AND STRONG PAR 5S BUILDS TO A CRESCENDO AT THE 13TH, WHERE YOU LOOK DOWN TO THE LAKE FROM THE HILL.
rollicking journey up, down and across the wide, rolling landscape. There isn’t a flat hole on the course, and for the first-time player, walking up to every tee box presents a challenge—some obvious, others subtle. Whereas some golfers prefer holes that are “right there in front of you,” that type of straightforward golf tends to get dull. True students of course design want to play courses on which they can stand on the tee, study the hole a bit and ask: “Well, what do we have here?” That’s golf at Kinloch.
he adventure starts at the 447-yard 1st hole, which features a deceptively wide fairway that snakes toward a fairly benign green. The split-fairway 407yard 2nd offers the first major decision of the round. The safe drive is to the right of the three fairway bunkers. But trying to make a longer carry to the left side will yield an open look at the green, which is angled from left to right. But no hole fires the neurons as much as the 586-yard 9th, one of the most distinctive par 5s in the world. Occupying a hole corridor that is 150 yards across at its widest point, the hole is bisected first by a stream then a 20-foot-high palisade that also guards the elevated greensite. With multiple landing areas for the drive and second shot, there are numerous permutations for playing the hole, which makes it great for match play. But those choices also can confound first-time visitors—a good thing, then, that Kinloch has such a great caddie program. Playing on foot makes it easier to appreciate the course’s beauty, from the wooded front nine to the lake that is the focal point of the back nine. From the stout 450-yard 10th, a series of strong long holes builds to a crescendo at the 579-yard 13th, where players crest the landing area and look down toward a large green backdropped by the lake. The water comes into play on four of the next six holes (for those questioning the math, just read on), including at the 422-yard 18th, where the green sits on a partial peninsula. Whether or not matches are still up for grabs, every player should play the 184-yard 19th hole, where the tee shot over water can play 2010 EDITION |
The approach to the 579-yard 13th plays downhill. OPPOSITE: The lake is a dominant feature on the 422-yard finishing hole.
many different ways depending on the hole location and the angle of the multiple tee boxes arrayed across the lake. As much as the layout itself, what makes the golf experience at Kinloch stand out is the conditioning. Bentgrass is notoriously difficult to grow south of Washington, D.C., but Course Superintendent Peter Wendt has been able to groom a course that is as immaculate as any in the country. After the round, players can relax in the Tudor-style clubhouse, whose social hub is the informal club room, where members and guests can feel as at home as if they were in their own dens. Just as comfortable are the two cottages sitting along the 1st fairway that national members can use to host multiple guests. The cottages are ideally located for an early start on a 38hole day or for access to the practice facilities that are next to the opening tee. Guests can steal out for early-evening putting matches on the large practice greens, or work on their games at the range, where players can simulate oncourse situations to target fairways and greens. Boasting a large tee and an indoor facility with three covered bays, the practice range was designed by George after receiving input from Giles, who wanted to top the best rehearsal grounds that he has seen during his decades in the game. While the facilities are a large part of the Kinloch experience, what truly makes the club such a welcome gathering place for like-minded golfers is the fraternal atmosphere engendered by the employees. “[Director of Operations] Phil Owenby has done a remark-
able job with the staff,” says Staples. “You get consistently personal treatment, from the parking lot to the clubhouse to the practice facility to the 1st tee.” Considering that Kinloch stands as an epitome of a private golf retreat, it is surprising to learn that Robertson’s original plan for the property was a high-end public course. It was Staples, a veteran of the course development and operation industry, who convinced his partners to build a top-tier golfonly club. “With Vinny’s involvement and the topography,” Staples says, “Kinloch reminded me of Bobby Jones and Augusta National. I knew that any club with Vinny’s full support would be very successful. C.B. was a bit concerned about the limited market for a private club in Richmond, and with good reason. But I felt that we could make it work.” Next year, the collective accomplishment of three visionaries—Giles, Robertson and Staples—will be on display when Kinloch hosts its first national championship. Given the club’s status in the game, its superb test of golf and the support of one of the game’s great amateurs, don’t be surprised if the U.S. Golf Association makes a return visit. Due to the lack of a second course in the area, a U.S. Amateur might be far-fetched, but the Walker Cup would be a perfect celebration of Kinloch’s ideals. No matter what happens, the club has become an important addition to American golf, and the reserved Robertson couldn’t have asked for more. “Everybody has done a great job in building the course and the club,” says Robertson. “All we did was give them a piece of dirt.” ■
WHILE THE GOLF COURSE IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE KINLOCH EXPERIENCE, WHAT TRULY MAKES THE CLUB SUCH A WELCOMING GATHERING PLACE IS THE FRATERNAL ATMOSPHERE.
LINKSPREMIERCLUBS The 586-yard 9th offers multiple routes to reach the well-guarded green. ON THE COVER: Another view of the 9th (left), and the 540-yard 3rd hole (right).
Kinloch Golf Club MANAKIN-SABOT, VA. PAR
ARCHITECTS Lester George and Vinny Giles CONTACT kinlochgolfclub.com
“Kinloch Golf Club is intended first and foremost to be a first-class golf club emphasizing immaculate conditioning, a simple but special clubhouse facility, a small and compatible membership of individual members, a championship golf course and practice facility along with service of the highest quality. “The goal is to make Kinloch Golf Club the number one golf club in Richmond, in Virginia and beyond.” —Marvin M. “Vinny” Giles III