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Driving Range

A pipeline headed for Goochland County has nudged the Country Club of Virginia to upgrade its greens.

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Nearly three-and-a-half years ago in expectation of its area's burgeoning commercial growth, the Goochland County Board of Supervisors struck a deal with the city of Richmond and Henrico County: Goochland would pay the localities in exchange for up to 25 million gallons of water from Henrico and 20 million gallons of sewage capacity from Richmond.

Specifically, the arrangement set up the Tuckahoe Creek Service District and the means by which businesses and residents in eastern Goochland could receive water and sewage service. The pipeline project under way will transport to Goochland 20 million gallons of water from a new pump house located on Rt. 6 near the Goochland-Henrico line and will carry 13 million gallons in sewage from Goochland to a junction chamber under construction on Maple Avenue in the city. The cost of the project is $63 million.

Since January 2004, miles and miles of Fiberglas pipeline have been laid 4- to 12-feet underground, running east from Goochland alongside the James River toward the city. "We went through a lot of people's property," much of it prime real-estate such as Mooreland Farms, says Doug Harvey, Goochland County engineer and director of its Department of Public Utilities. "We even went through [former] Gov. Gilmore's backyard." The finish line, or junction chamber, on Maple marks the culmination of three to four years worth of planning and work, Harvey says. It is adjacent to athletic fields at St. Catherine's School, where the new pipeline will hook up to the city's existing sewage line.

The Country Club of Virginia's pristine Westhampton Course is the latest and most visible tract of land to be caught in the fray.

There was plenty of preparation for it, says CCV General Manager William C. "Skip" Harris. The pipeline already had cut through the club's Tuckahoe Creek and James River courses located 10 miles west. Members of the club took the inevitable burrowing as opportunity to make much-needed changes to its eldest greens.

Harris says the extreme severity in weather during the past two summers has taken a toll on the verdure hills, sculpted first by Herbert Barker in 1908 and again in the 1920s by Donald Ross, the father of modern-day golf-course architects. Intermittent droughts and floods eroded much of the land and damaged the greens. In addition, Harris notes, "With today's game being what it is" — meaning advanced equipment and longer drives — the course needed to change with the times. Now it is doing just that.

Local architect Lester George has redesigned the first three holes of the 18-hole, par 69 Westhampton course. It will circle the driving range, which will be pulled back farther from Three Chopt and River roads into the property. The driving range that rests in front of the plantation-style clubhouse will become more of a true practice range with a "fairway look to it," Harris says. The new layout also solves some technical issues and recaptures elements of the course's original design.

Additionaly, work is being done to refurbish some bunkers on the 145-acre course, mostly out of public view. Harris declines to give a cost for the project, but says it's on a par with other restorations and renovations that courses need every 10 to 15 years. These range in cost from tens of thousands to millions of dollars. But because of the dual projects under way on the Westhampton Course, construction appears significantly greater than that which typically occurs with a golf-course makeover.

Like the pipeline project, renovation to the greens should conclude by summer's end. Meantime, Harris fields questions from everyone from club members to passersby. Yes, nostalgia abides. "We have the most fabulous sunsets you'll ever see," he assures.

Anecdotes abound too. More than one involves the frugal senior golfer who, determined to retrieve an errant golf ball lost in a creek or ravine, winds up getting trapped instead. Golf pros at the club have had to assist in such matters. But the reputation of the Westhampton course as challenging, as home to both the junior golfer new to the game and the seasoned veteran, is what, Harris says, endures. "It requires a precise game to do well here," he says.

For now, that precision is played out by construction crews, not golfers. Hearty Bermuda grass must be sown by late July, in time for its short, late-summer growing season. And of the evolving contour of the place, Harris says: "There'll be more rolling hills than we've ever had." S



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