Birdwood Golf Course: “It’s an incredible transformation”

By Jerry Ratcliffe

When Martin Winters looks out over Birdwood Golf Course and navigates his golf cart over the expansive 18-hole layout, he’s always overwhelmed by the “wow” factor.

“My impression is that it’s an incredible transformation,” said Winters, the longtime Birdwood PGA Director of Golf. “Davis Love III and his design team took something that was really good to begin with and made it really great.”

Winters should know. He’s been around Birdwood for the last two decades, working to the position he now holds. He knows every nook and cranny of the former layout, which was built in 1984 by Lindsay Ervin.

With the college game — Birdwood serves as home for the University of Virginia men’s and women’s golf teams — having outgrown the 6,920-yard (from the very tips) old course, UVA officials felt it was time to make Birdwood more relevant to the modern golf scene.

Enter the Love design group.

“The routing is incredible,” Winters said. “Things are much more open than the old Birdwood.”

Some of the old holes have been eliminated, with a couple of them converted to a par-3 course, or replaced by brand new holes on the property’s “back 80,” which many golfers had no idea existed until incorporated into the new design.

At the present moment, Birdwood doesn’t have an exact opening day set in stone, but the target is sometime in June or July.

“We’re on track,” Winters said. “We seeded our last two greens on Oct. 14 last year, they’re the slowest ones.  On a couple of fairways, the sod went down pretty late so there are some seams there. Everything else is greening up.”

Birdwood’s new fairways are Zeon Zoysia, so the ball sits up nicely for a consistent good lie. The tee boxes are Northridge Bermuda grass.

“We thought that by having them Bermuda that they would recover a little faster from divots,” Winters said. “Zoysia is more cold-tolerant, and a lot more traffic-tolerant as well. We’re in the transition zone (weather wise) in Central Virginia, so there is no perfect grass.”

Birdwood built a test tee for the UVA golf teams a year ago, and according to Winters, everyone involved has been thrilled with how tight they’ve been able to cut the grass and how well the ball sits up.

“This seems like super Zoysia,” Winters said. “We’re all excited.”

The greens were seeded by Birdwood and feature V8 Bent grass, the same grass used by the Greenbrier resort’s “Old White” course, which has featured a PGA Tour event the last several years.

Meanwhile, the rough is comprised of fescue, Bluegrass mix, which is standard in this region. The surrounding native areas are Irish links mix, fine fescues and natural grasses like Broom’s Edge. Those may require a couple of years growth to completely fill in, but will clearly define and frame the holes, which will give Birdwood plenty of eye candy for the golfer.

Here are some other new features at the new Birdwood:

  • All concrete cart paths, a significant upgrade from the old asphalt paths
  • Bridges — both foot bridges and cart bridges going around the course’s lakes and creeks
  • A near-acre putting course located in the same place as the old putting green behind the clubhouse, only much larger
  • A par-3 course, six holes for the golfer who doesn’t have time to play a complete round of golf (should take less than an hour to play this course) or just wants to brush up his or her short game
  • Improved practice range
  • Triple the amount of irrigation
  • Now walk-mowed — “We are now walk-mowing everything, which is something different for us,” Winters said
  • Increased the Birdwood staff considerably (the course is still using its own water)
  • Six sets of tees on most holes. The old course had four, so there are now more options for the championship golfer, down to the novice
  • Some new rock walls with all the rocks coming from the golf course site.

“Everything you see has changed,” Winters said. “The bunkering is all brand new. Tee boxes are all brand new.”

So is the course distance, stretching to 7,116 yards from the back tees and playing to a par of 71. The most forward tees measure around 3,800 yards.

“Five holes are in new corridors but going in different directions, along with eight brand-new golf holes on the new property,” Winters said. “We still have the beautiful views, but those are opened up even more.”

Birdwood also has taken more advantage of the water holes on the property, thanks to the Love team.

“We’re playing on both sides of our lakes now, as opposed to only one side before,” Winters said. “One big change is that (the par -5) No. 2 was a hole with water just on the left. Now, holes No. 3 and No. 11 are on the other side of the lake.

“What used to be the old No. 13 is the new No. 5, and now we have the fourth and sixth holes on the other side of that lake. Back where you come in from Rt. 250 used to be the old No. 6. It’s now the new No. 16 and No. 17, a par-3 on the other side of the lake. We’ve doubled or tripled the number of holes that are on the lakes. We brought a lot more water into play.”

While the new, par-5 12th hole has all the elements of becoming one of Birdwood’s best holes and has drawn rave reviews from those who have viewed it, the course’s par-3, 17th could end up becoming the signature hole.

It’s a long par-3 with stone walls surrounding the green and intertwined with the holes No. 16 through 18 around the original manor house of the Birdwood farm, the mansion and the old water tower, offering up special views of this Central Virginia course.

We will feature a hole-by-hole breakdown at a later date.

For those interested in joining Birdwood Golf Course, they can contact Samantha Strong, membership manager for the Boar’s Head Sports Club and the golf course. She has comprehensive memberships to both or separate memberships with various options.

Strong’s contact information: (434)-972-6031 or