Kinloch Golf Club is situated twelve miles north west of Richmond, Virginia and it’s a beautiful parkland course set in 274 acres with a 70-acre lake as its centerpiece. Opened in 2001, Lester George and Vinny Giles designed the course and it’s mandatory to use a caddie when playing Kinloch.
Astute observers will note the St Andrews cross and US Amateur Trophy on the club crest – these relate to the amateur record of design consultant Giles who won the US Amateur in 1972 (and its British equivalent in 1975) as well as competing at St Andrews in the Walker Cup for the winning USA team in 1975.
The Kinloch course is routed through hardwood and pine trees and the natural look was retained with minimal earth moving and mound creation. Greens are subtle and understated with seamless transition from fairway to putting surface, enabling good old-fashioned bump and run approach shots to be played if so desired. Bunkers are shallow faced and not intended to be overly penal.
The front and back nine holes differ in appearance but complement each other – holes 1 to 9 are constructed through forest with a cliff running through the 6th, 7th and 9th whilst holes 10 to 18 are played around the lake with water in view at every hole. The signature hole is the 8th, a 437-yard par four, which invites a draw off the tee over the crest of a hill then an approach to a green, positioned at a 45 degree angle behind a pond. Many think this hole resembles the 11th at Augusta but then many are also of the opinion that the conditioning at Kinloch matches that at Augusta too.
One unique feature at Kinloch is the 19th hole and no, it's not the clubhouse. It's a 188-yard par three, better known as the “settle-the-bet” one-shotter which is played over the lake to decide any ties after 18 holes.
In summer 2019 Kinloch Golf Club closed to
implement the second phase of a master plan devised by the original architects,
Lester George and Marvin ‘Vinny’ Giles. The renovation includes bunker
modifications and turf repair and the layout is scheduled to reopen in 2020.
I was lucky enough to play this twice on a member's invite within the first year or two of it opening. Still remains the best course I ever played and possibly ever will play. I believe those that know, compare it favourably to Augusta National..
Where else can you watch the greens crew cleaning slime from rocks in water hazards? Kinloch Golf Club features a number of artificial streams. Water is pumped from the large lake that separates the two nines to the beginning of the stream and it then flows naturally back to the lake. When it’s time to remove the algae buildup, the water is turned off and the rocks are cleaned.
Earthmoving was not limited to the creation of artificial streams. The lake around which the back nine plays was enlarged to its current size. But the rest of the property has plenty of variety and architect Lester George took full advantage in his routing. He’s built multiple split fairways and caused plenty of thinking on one’s tee shot on most of the other holes.
The course has a reputation for fine conditioning and in June 2017, superintendent Trevor Hedgepeth’s work was on fine display. I did find the green complexes a bit dull, with too many greens that could have used more contouring……but that’s a small complaint for an overall fine golf experience.