2021 Development of the Year Winners: First and Second place

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series. Third place and Honorable Mention winners will be announced separately. Winners were selected and featured in the Spring issue of Golf Inc. magazine.
  • Dumbarnie Links
    Dumbarnie Links Hole 4

St Andrews is to golf what a diamond is to a wedding ring, but just 10 miles away, another course in Scotland is showing some major sparkle.

Judges selected Dumbarnie Links as the winner of the 2021 Development of the Year competition for its world-class design and its focus on environmental stewardship and long-term sustainability. Designed by renowned course architect Clive Clark and built by contractor Landscapes Unlimited, the golf course is situated along one and a half miles of Scottish coastline on the 5,000-acre Balcarres Estate owned by Lord Anthony Balniel.

Clark’s goal was to create a high-end links that looked as if it had been there for more than a century, yet with a modern twist.

“This vision aspired to simultaneously showcase sustainable and environmentally friendly development principles, while generating employment opportunities and tremendous economic benefit to the local community,” he said.  

Each year, the Development of the Year competition seeks to identify the best new golf developments around the globe, and this years’ second place, third place and three honorable mentions also showcase just that.

Davis Love’s Birdwood Golf Course at Boar’s Head Resort in Charlottesville, Va., placed second. In addition to a new 18-hole course, it has a new practice range, a performance center and a 32,000-square-foot putting course.

Payne’s Valley Golf Course at Big Cedar Lodge in Hollister, Mo., took third place. It is the first public-access course designed by Tiger Woods and his design firm, TGR Design. Rock outcroppings and the Ozark Mountains create a backdrop for the 18-hole course.

All three honorable-mentions winners are outside the U.S. They are: Rancho San Lucas Golf Club in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; PGA National Czech Republic in Popovičky, Czechia; and Siam Country Club’s Rolling Hills course in Pattaya, Thailand.

Judging was based on a combination of how well the project realized the vision of the development team, course aesthetics, environmental and economic sustainability, course routing and land use.


First Place

Dumbarnie Links in Scotland

Owner: DGL Investors LLC

Developer: DGL Investors LLC

Architect: Clive Clark Design

Contractor: Landscapes Unlimited

Construction Cost: $7 million

The original vision of the developer was to create a stand-alone world-class daily-fee links course on the Scottish coastline while simultaneously showcasing sustainable and environmentally friendly development. Dumbarnie Links opened in May 2020 to much fanfare from local players and the media.

Architect Clive Clark’s vision differed from the traditional out-and-back style of the old Scottish links. Every hole provides a stunning view of the water, achieving the architect’s original bold vision.

“The course is certainly a thinking man’s course and is fair and playable for players of all levels,” Clark said.

Many holes offer risk-and-reward play, giving golfers the opportunity to

gamble and be creative.

“Among these, there are three potentially drivable par-4s where the heroic line involves cutting corners and risking entrapment in gnarly bunkers,” Clark said. “The creative routing, where every hole is unique, meanders through the rugged dune land, allowing the golfer to feel like he is alone on each hole and unaware of other golfers on the course.”

The total distance of the golf course varies between 53,00 to 6,900 yards. The once barren pastureland is now home to wildlife. The developers worked with local environmental regulatory bodies through the entire construction process.

Dumbarnie Links is scheduled to host the 2021 Ladies Scottish Open this summer.

What the judges said:

Judge Jason Sloan: “A unique project that ticks all the boxes in terms of the golf experience, starting with a beautiful routing of golf holes that provides multiple options from the tee through the created dunescape.”

Judge Mike Nuzzo: “By far the best routing of the entrants. The course zigzags through what looks almost like linksland, expertly creating variety and interest throughout the round.”

Judge Casey Paulson: “Beautiful seaside golf links with great shaping and routing. Looks like this will be another wonderful course for golf vacationers.”


Second Place

Birdwood Golf Course in Charlottesville, Va.

Owner: University of Virginia Foundation

Developer: University of Virginia Foundation

Architect: Love Golf Design (Davis Love III, Mark Love, Scot Sherman)

Contractor: MacCurrach Golf Construction

Construction Cost: $13.5 million

Birdwood Golf Course at Boar’s Head Resort was worn out and needing to be renovated. The owner wanted to create new, family friendly golf facilities to attract resort guests and members, which would require a whole new look.

Brought to life by Love Golf Design, the new 18-hole course, surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, was intentionally routed to capture the views. The plan was to stick with the natural lay of the land. As the site was cleared, areas of native vegetation were uncovered, which helped drive the natural look of the course and out-of-play areas.

Birdwood, which is home to the University of Virginia men’s and women’s golf teams, includes a practice range and a new six-hole, par-3 course to be used by the public and resort guests. And the new tennis stadium, built on the previous third hole, fits seamlessly with the new routing and course design.

Golf revenues are already reported to be 79% above budget projections, and there is a long waiting list for membership.

The total development encompasses about 250 acres.

Judge Mike Nuzzo: “The vision for the project improved the entire development by better utilizing the land and amenities, all while significantly improving the golf course and adding family friendly play.”

Check back next week for Third place and Honorable Mentions.

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