Permanently etched into the memory of anyone having watched the 1997 PGA Championship is the image of Davis Love III creating history – a popular pro raising his visor in triumph after capturing his sole major victory somewhere under the rainbow at Winged Foot.
The great thing about history, according to recent PGA Tour FedEx Cup advertising, is you can’t rewrite it. Of course, that may be true in the world of professional golf. But in the constantly evolving realm of golf-course presentation, scripts can change and memories can fade rather dramatically.
Take the Birdwood Golf Course at the Boar’s Head Resort in Charlottesville. For years it was considered one of the finer university golf courses in the country, serving as the home facility for the University of Virginia golf teams as well as a major recreational amenity to the famed Boar’s Head Inn located next door. Over time, however, the Birdwood layout (originally designed by Lindsay Ervin and opened in 1984) became tired, falling behind other major college venues in terms of stature, challenge, and overall appearance.
Enter, yet again, Love – this time with his Davis Love III Golf Design team. Through the efforts of this modern and progressive group and its leader, Birdwood got its long-awaited overhaul, providing members, guests of the Inn, UVA students/faculty and the public at large an overall facility that has been become nothing less than a full “boar” golf complex. It was unveiled in 2020.
Early in the project’s development, Love expressed great promise for the new facility.
“People are going to love the new Birdwood Golf Course because it is actually a new course,” he said. “There are holes on all-new land, holes going in different directions than people remembered, plus a new putting course, short course and a new team-building and practice facility for UVA men’s and women’s teams.”
And the Love team delivered.
Today, a totally redesigned Birdwood layout flows across 220 acres of rolling Virginia landscape featuring six sets of tees and a dedicated set of UVA tees that triangulate the property. With a keen eye and skill for hole configuration, Love and his team cleared approximately 50 acres of unused property south of the old layout to build nine new holes and reimagine the footprint of the remaining nine holes that reside on the incumbent land.
The short course, meanwhile, has been newly named “The Nest.” This is a six-hole rotation (with holes ranging from 80 to 135 yards) allowing golfers to dial in their short games with the same exact grasses, sands and overall conditions found on Birdwood’s championship layout. Designed as an approach test with teeing grounds set up to simulate fairway contours, The Nest’s greens and bunkers have so much character, you’ll find something new about the challenge every time you play it.
“When we began developing the landscape and design of The Nest, we felt especially compelled to implement a par-3 course that caters to families, guests staying at the hotel for business, and individuals looking to experience the entirety of the Birdwood golf experience all in under an hour,” emphasized Boar’s Head Resort General Manager Russ Cronberg. “What’s great about the course is that it plays very fast, which makes it extra appealing for families and individuals staying at the resort who may be short on time.”
Rounding out the Birdwood Golf’s assets are full practice facilities including a driving range and short-game area along with a unique putting course known as “Ridges.” This flat-stick attraction covers nearly an acre of land and is located just steps from the clubhouse’s back patio. Ridges was designed to mimic the ridgelines of the surrounding mountains, hence the name.
Still, the main attraction at Birdwood – not counting the luxurious Boar’s Head Inn that ties right into this world-class sporting destination – is the 18-hole championship golf course itself. The Love influence and modern agronomics and conditioning are apparent from the moment you stride up onto the first tee. During the round, you will discover beautiful scenes of nature and golf in every subsequent step you take.
The par-71 course (stretching to 7,116 yards) weaves its way across lush zoysia grass fairways to rolling bentgrass greens. Bunkers are outlined with high grasses and native areas boast fine fescues of Irish links providing Birdwood with a dramatic visual appeal. Nearly every hole has some sort of danger attached to it, whether it be in the form of water or the thick stuff. The short holes, the long holes – they all offer unique challenges.
Play Birdwood and you will never find yourself hitting the same shot into a green due to the dynamics of the landing areas and the perpetual tests of the undulation putting surfaces. The variability in difficulty is huge from tee box to tee box: you may find yourself in an easy, stress-free round from the white tees; from the black tees, however, you’re provided with a mass of blind tee shots, blind approach shots and significant length on most holes.
“Davis Love III and his design team took something that was really good to begin with and made it really great," said longtime Birdwood PGA Director of Golf Martin Winters. “The routing is incredible. Things are much more open than the old Birdwood.”
The home trio of holes is considered to be design’s signature stretch with Nos. 16, 17 and 18 (a par 4-3-4 configuration) playing around the historic Birdwood Mansion. Before you get there, however, you have to execute shots across an atypical string of nine holes (beginning at No. 7) that includes four par 3s and three par fives to go with just two par 4s.
The task of balancing between a Division I, competitive golf course and an accessible resort course for vacationing players was an immense task. The transformation was executed brilliantly by Love III and his fellow course architects.
FROM OUTSIDE TO INN
The celebrated Boar’s Head Inn sits on rolling Virginia countryside with a history dating back long before the arrival of golf in America. The 3,000-acre tract of land that the resort resides on was part of Virginia’s first land grant in 1734.
In 1959, John Rogan, a UVA graduate, and John Rhea built Boar’s Head, incorporating a treasured gristmill from the neighboring Birdwood property. After carefully dismantling and numbering each piece, they had it reconstructed at its present site. The resort opened in 1964 and was purchased by the University of Virginia in 1989.
Boar's Head is the only AAA Four Diamond resort in Charlottesville. With a warm and intimate ambiance and exceptional southern hospitality, the award-winning resort offers 168 elegant rooms and suites, excellent dining, a vast array of recreational activities, a luxury spa and over 20,000-square feet of meeting facilities.
Of note, one of the more unusual, unsolved mysteries in Virginia actually involves the Boar’s Head Inn: it’s the case of the missing wooden boar.
A $100 reward is presumably still on the table for anyone with information leading to the recovery of the original two-foot long, 20-inches tall heirloom sculpture. Fashioned in Switzerland in the mid 1900s and brought to the states by the Rogan family (a boar is represented in the family coat of arms), it was reportedly a victim of a heist on the first day the Inn opened in March of 1964.
One long-time employee at the Inn has a theory: “It’s probably in some attic or basement somewhere,” Boar’s Head doorman Jerome Lx says. As mysterious as that sounds, there is a secret from the Boar’s Head Inn and Resort that is now officially out of the bag. It had to do with the reimagining of the previously acclaimed but outdated golf amenity known as the Birdwood Golf Course – now playing on the grandest of modern scales next door. [END]