Woods golf course at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Virginia survives tornado
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – It’s a day Jeffory Jacobs will never forget.
Working inside the modular clubhouse at Kingsmill Resort’s Woods Golf Course, Jacobs was in awe of the storm raging outside. That sense of awe turned to fear when the wind turned dangerous. The clubhouse door blew off, the roof collapsed and the chairs and tables on the patio went flying.
“It was hurricane winds and rain,” he recalled on a sunny day in Williamsburg, Va., last week. “The rain was coming in two directions. That’s what got me.”
The tornado tore through a valley in the course Saturday, April 16, causing havoc throughout the property and snapping massive trees like matchsticks. Amazingly, less than five days later, the 6,659-yard course reopened for play.
There were plenty of reminders of the devastation when I played the course last week – downed trees, broken signs near the tee boxes, workers grinding up trees into mulch along the road to the club – but the course and clubhouse looked fantastic. The tornado uprooted approximately 400 trees within the field of play and another 2,000 to 3,000 trees within the course’s boundaries, many in the woods framing the 10th, 11th, 16th and 17th holes. Those who play it for the first time will hardly notice anything is amiss along the fairway corridors.
Michael Garrow, vice president of sales and marketing for Kingsmill Resort, said the staff was feeling sorry for themselves until they realized how much worse it could have been. The tornado could have struck a path to nearby Busch Gardens, where thousands more people were huddled inside buildings at the amusement park. The devastating storms that struck Alabama days later put it all in perspective.
“If a tornado hit, this is the best place in Williamsburg,” Garrow says, noting the course’s remote location.
Garrow praised the efforts of the maintenance staff for the course’s speedy recovery, adding “there’s still much to be done.”
Although Kingsmill’s River course, former host of LPGA and PGA Tour events, gets the most attention, many locals and Kingsmill members like the Woods course the best. Designed by architect Tom Clark, with an assistant from former Kingsmill resident and two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange, the Woods Course has been ranked among the state’s top 10 public courses by Golfweek. The Woods offers a secluded setting void of houses. A double green with a bunker in the center shared by the par-3 12th hole and the par-4 15th hole is its most unique design characteristic.
Kingsmill Resort itself is undergoing change as well, after being purchased last year by Colorado-based Xanterra Parks & Resorts. For the first time, the 422-room condominium-style resort is offering water sports – like jet skiing and para-sailing – to take better advantage of its beautiful location on the James River. The spa is one of the best in the region, with superb facilities (large steam and hot tubs in the locker rooms) and many pairs of healing hands.
The resort’s six restaurants can cater to the taste buds of young and old. At sunset, head to the Marina Bar & Grille for drinks and dining on the water. Regattas’ Cafe serves casual comfort food like pizza and burgers for families. Eagle’s inside the clubhouse of the River and Plantation courses delivers great fare for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The wait staff will probably recommend a tasty hunk of steak or filet for dinner. They won’t lead you astray. Bray’s Bistro inside the main lodge offers a Friday night seafood buffet for dinner and Sunday brunch. Every menu follows the creative whims of Peter Pahk, the executive chef hired in 2010 who has brought sustainable food practices, not to mention wonderful new combinations, from his previous stop at Silverado Resort in northern California wine country.
Virginia’s largest golf resort, Kingsmill is actively seeking sponsors to host another professional golf tournament. The River is a perfect fit for the ladies at 6,831 yards.
The Pete Dye course has actually been softened over the years – a renovation took out his signature railroad ties – yet still demands plenty of shot-making to elevated greens. The finishing stretch along the river is as scenic as it gets (see No. 18 above). The resort’s Golf Academy can help players solve some of the River’s demands.
The 6,432-yard Plantation course, designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay, is the easiest of the three, so for a little relief, head there. The Bray Links, a 9-hole, par-3 course right along the water, is free for guests who want to settle a wager or just work on their short games. I played my first round of night golf during my stay, an experience I’ll never forget. The course can be set up for glow golf during corporate functions and group outings. The resort staff prides itself on delivering those once-in-a-lifetime memories.
Kingsmill’s location within easy driving distance of Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center make it a perfect vacation destination not only for golfers but families as well. For more visit, kingsmill.com.
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