County leaders seek input on future of Belmont Golf Course site

County seeks input on Belmont Golf Course

LAKESIDE, VA (WWBT) - Henrico County leaders will hold a series of public meetings to discuss the future of the Belmont Golf Course property.

Having opened in 1917, the course has a lengthy history here in the Richmond area.

“It’s one of the oldest golf courses in the state of Virginia and the oldest in the Richmond area,” Henrico County Division of Recreation & Parks Director Neil Luther said.

In 1949 it hosted a PGA Championship, and the winner from right here in the commonwealth.

"Sam Snead was a native Virginian and a character in his own right,” Luther said. “So there's a lot of emotional attachment to the property."

In 1976 Henrico County purchased the site as part of a bond referendum which created the park system.

However, a master plan for the property was never developed, unlike other green space purchases. Instead the county went on to operate it as a public golf course. The way the operation moved forward was to have Belmont be self-supported.

“It’s a classic golf course,” Peter Grainger, an avid golfer at the course, said.

Revenue from the course is supposed to cover the county’s expenditure budget, but county leaders say recent changes in the golf industry have put the county running the course at a cash loss of anywhere from $150,000 to $250,000 annually.

“Not as many people are playing golf,” Luther said.

However, the history and integrity of the course are just a few of the reasons why Grainger and Ron Stilwell would like to keep the course up and running.

“I believe a lot of that is due to golfers trying out this facility, seeing that it’s not where it could be, and they go elsewhere,” Stilwell said.

According to Luther, 40 percent of the golfers who use the course live in Henrico and 60 percent are from outside the county.

“We don’t have other revenue streams here, unlike a private course,” Luther said.

Numbers from the Division of Recreation and Parks shows 23,000 rounds of golf played by 6,000 golfers in 2018.

Stilwell said the course has seen an upswing in clientele over the last year, but adds improvements need to be made.

“Belmont has been underserved and underfunded for quite some time,” Stilwell said. “I think Lakeside deserves to have something of beauty in its community. With a little help, this could be revitalized to be that beautiful space that it once was. Lakeside wouldn’t be Lakeside without it.”

Instead of the course being required to make a profit to succeed by supporting itself, Stilwell feels operating costs should come out of the county’s general fund.

"Which would improve not only the quality of the course itself, but the opportunity for programming and improvements in human capital," he added.

Grainger would like to see it used by younger players to hopefully keep the course busy and popular all while growing the sport as a whole.

“I would like to see the local colleges, local schools all become part of this golf course,” Grainger said. “You build the future generation of golfers by encouraging the young. We need a club pro or somebody who can give lessons to young kids.”

Ideas like that are why the County will hold public input meetings April 16th, 30th, and May 6th at Belmont Recreation Center from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. about the future of the course.

“We haven’t put any pen to paper,” Luther said. “All we’re doing is setting out a conversation with the community to talk about planning for the future of the property. Whether its golf or something else, we want to hear from the community and residents about what they want."

Residents can already submit comments about the Belmont Golf Course master plan study on the County website. Click here to send your comment.

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