The R&A - Working for Golf

Designing your course

Proposed changes to a course must not adversely affect play, maintenance or the environment.

A well designed or remodelled golf course will reduce costs and ensure long term business security.

How your course is designed will have a major impact on your day-to-day operations; financially, environmentally, socially and in terms of what level of surface presentation you are able to offer to your golfers. Taking time to thoroughly evaluate how the proposed design of a new course, or the remodelling of an existing course, will impact on these areas is an essential step to take in the development process.  These factors will all, to varying degrees, be determined by:

  • the natural topography of the land and any subsequent shaping work that has been undertaken
  • soil construction profiles for playing surfaces
  • selected grass species
  • irrigation and drainage systems
  • routing of holes, maintenance pathways and access points.

Forecasting the long-term implications of planned work will allow you to gain an in-depth insight into their overall viability. Working through this strategic review process will ensure that you have full confidence in the proposed works before anything is signed off with your construction company.

Some of the key issues to pay attention to during the design or remodelling review phase will include:

  • Grass selection. Choosing the right grass type for your soils, climate and surface requirements will be one of the most important decisions you make. It is always worth working closely with a professional agronomist or course consultant on this issue.
  • Water management. If you get your irrigation and drainage requirements on target, you will have taken a big step towards ensuring the overall sustainability of your golf course.
  • The environmental implications of proposed work. Consulting and engaging closely with local or national wildlife organisations is always a very worthwhile course of action. Well-designed golf courses can be havens for wildlife and there are often opportunities for clubs to positively collaborate with other organisations on this issue.
  • The social impacts of the development. New builds or remodelling work can both have implications for local people. It is important to thoroughly assess the likely impacts, such as noise or traffic disturbance, and to then take action to communicate these issues clearly with the aim of coming to positive agreements. Building good relationships with your local community will go a long way towards ensuring that your club has the support of local people in the future.

Paying due attention to these issues, and working to incorporate them into the design phase, will be an essential component of a sustainable long-term plan for your business. In return, courses that have been built or remodelled with these principles in mind will:

  • offer high standard and consistent playing surfaces which will help with attracting and retaining new members and visitors
  • blend naturally into the surrounding landscape, providing valuable habitats for wildlife
  • limit unnecessary earth movement and thereby reduce development costs
  • provide healthy growing environments for the chosen turfrgasses which will be well-adapted to your particular conditions.  Healthy grass is resilient to pests, diseases and thatch accumulation; all of which can be timely and expensive to manage
  • be responsible and efficient users of water
  • incorporate plans for future development, thereby facilitating progressive improvements in course operation over time.

The location, design, construction and remodelling of any golf course must always be carefully planned if it is to be truly successful and sustainable. Since this is such an important issue, it is highly advisable to consult the services of professionals in market research, course design, construction, grow-in and maintenance. Individuals from each of these skill sets should be part of the project team from the outset in order to make your course development project a long-term success.

The R&A has produced a document, Affordable Golf Facility Development: Growing the Game, which outlines the various forms of golf facilities that can be built.  It also describes some of the major issues relating to development projects, including the selection of a site and ongoing maintenance.