UVA to Turn to PGA Tour Star Davis Love III’s Firm to Redesign Birdwood

Birdwood Golf Course hole with building behind it

Though highly rated, the Birdwood Golf Course is among the shortest in the ACC. The redesign will make it more attractive for hosting collegiate competition. (Photo courtesy of the UVA Foundation)

The University of Virginia Foundation is expecting to team up with professional golfer Davis Love III’s design firm to redesign Birdwood Golf Course.

The foundation and Love Golf Design – headed by Davis Love and his brother, Mark – are expected to sign a contract by the end of November to redesign the course, said Patrick D. Hogan, UVA’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, who also sits on the foundation’s board of directors.

The redesign will be paid for with private funds, with no state or tuition funding involved, Hogan said.

A planned expansion of the Boar’s Head Resort’s tennis facilities will encroach on Birdwood’s third and fourth holes, Hogan said, and that eventuality, paired with millions of dollars worth of deferred maintenance needs at Birdwood, prompted the foundation to think more broadly.

“We thought it was time to pause and look into bringing a professional architect to design a new Birdwood,” Hogan said.

The course, which lies on 500 acres of rolling countryside along Ivy Road, is home to the UVA men’s and women’s golf teams, and is also open to Boar’s Head guests and to the public. The 18-hole, par-72 layout – part of the foundation-owned Boar’s Head Resort – has been listed among GolfWeek’s “30 Best Campus Courses” for the past seven years.

At 6,920 yards in length from the back tees, according to GolfAdvisor, it is the second-shortest, par-72 course in the Atlantic Coast Conference – just nine yards longer than Clemson University’s course. By contrast, the Pete Dye River Course at Virginia Tech, the ACC’s longest, measures 7,685 yards, according to GolfAdvisor.

Between advances in both athletic conditioning and golf technology, shorter courses all over the country are looking for ways to remain challenging.

“The goal is to create a course that meets NCAA expectations with today’s long hitters and at the same time be enjoyable for people who play once a year,” said Tim Rose, chief executive officer of the University of Virginia Foundation.

“I think it could also be more walkable,” he added, noting that some of Birdwood’s back nine holes have relatively steep climbs between the greens and the next tee boxes.

Hogan noted that the foundation owns additional property behind Boar’s Head, which could allow more room for expansion. He and Davis Love walked some of the undeveloped property recently, and Love said it was possible that it could be suitable.

“I think it is highly likely there will be some new golf holes,” Hogan said.

Once the contract is signed, Hogan expects the design work will begin in January, with a new design finalized – including projected construction costs – in about four months. If the design is accepted, funds would have to be raised before construction could begin, he said.

In the meantime, Love Design will be asked for a more immediate plan to redesign the third and fourth holes so that the full Birdwood course can remain open during construction of the tennis facility, Hogan said.

Love Golf Design has 19 completed projects in its portfolio, mostly in the Southeast. In October, it opened the Atlantic Dunes course at the Sea Pines resort on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, a complete redesign of Hilton Head’s first course, Sea Pines’ Ocean Course.

Birdwood will be Love Golf Design’s first course project in Virginia.

Hogan credited sports psychologist Bob Rotella, a former UVA faculty member who works with many golf pros, in addition to several Cavalier sports teams, for making the connection between Love and the UVA Foundation.

Davis Love III, 52, is a North Carolina native who played at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill before turning professional in 1985. He has won 21 times on the Professional Golfers Association tour, including the 1997 PGA Championship, and has career earnings of more than $44.3 million. He was ranked in the top 10 for 450 weeks.

The son of a highly regarded golf teacher, Love wrote a book, “Every Shot I Take,” to honor his father’s lessons and teachings on golf and life; the book received the U.S. Golf Association’s 1997 International Book Award. He also received the USGA’s 2013 Bob Jones Award, the association’s highest honor, which “recognizes an individual who demonstrates the spirit, personal character and respect for the game exhibited by Jones.”

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Dan Heuchert

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