Monday 22 October 2012

Site Selection

All to often, golf course architects are hired after the most important decision regarding a proposed golf course has already been made.  Is this the best scenario for ensuring a financially feasible and successful project?

After market demand considerations have been weighed, and a suitable area for golf course development has been identified, developers should consult a golf course architect to help narrow the search for an ideal location.  Access to quality water for irrigation purposes is a must.  While the cost of land is an important factor to consider, not understanding the impact certain parcels of land can have on construction costs and long-term maintenance can have far greater financial implications and prove detrimental to the viability of the venture.  

In regards to land itself, flat terrain and heavy clay soils are the least desirable.  In the construction phase of the project, a substantial volume of earth will need to be moved to create positive drainage throughout the site, and form interesting topography for golf.  Barring capping fairways with a layer of sand, which is cost-prohibitive in most instances, a network of sub-surface drainage pipe is needed to speed drainage after heavy rain events.  The sub-surface drainage will ameliorate a bad situation, but it will never match the drainage of sand based soils.  It is easy to see how quickly the initial savings on the cost of the land can start to erode over less than ideal terrain.  Add to the equation losses in revenue due to course closures and restrictions on motorized carts due to the limited drainage capability of the soils in question and the business model begins to look less and less manageable.

Presenting high quality turf over flat fairways and heavy soil is a costly maintenance challenge.
Photo: Richmond Country Club in Richmond, BC
Contrast the scenario above with a gently undulating landscape over sandy soil and we can identify a number of large savings in the construction and long-term maintenance of the project.  Golf architects can find golf holes in such a landscape, as opposed to building them over the existing terrain.  Freely draining soils greatly limit the need for sub-surface drainage and provide an excellent medium for growing turf grass, which will lower annual maintenance costs.  Golf courses moulded out of such ideal terrain are not prone to course closure in the aftermath of heavy rain, and thus do not loss out on lost green fee and motorized cart revenue.

Golf holes are found rather than created on an ideal canvas.
Photo: Sand Hills Golf Club in Mullen, NE
In addition to the soils and topography of a site, golf course architects have a keen eye for identifying landscape features, views, vegetation and natural water bodies to be incorporated into the design and retain a sense of place to the finished product.  Further, golf course architects understand the acreage requirements for a new golf course, and the acceptable safety buffers needed to ensure adjacent land uses are not in harm's way. 

It is important to look beyond the monetary value of real estate when deciding upon a parcel for golf course development as real savings and project viability can be found beneath the surface of the landscape and in the contours of the property.

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