Golf Course Design – Constructing a Natural Environment

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“You’re just lucky,” I heard someone say behind me as I was lacing up my shoes in the locker room after finishing up 18 holes just before dark with a couple of friends.

“I may have gotten lucky with that slope on the eighth hole,” said another man who took a seat next to me on the bench, “But that tricky dog-leg on the fourth hole gets me every time.”

They both started to laugh and then continued to carry on about every detail on the fourth hole. The way the waterfall sounds if you land in the sand pit by the lilies, and the way the owl swept up some kind of snake in the tall grass by the rocks. They even talked about what degree slope the putting green has if you land up by the cypress in the south east corner of the green.

It never ceases to amaze me how much attention each golfer pays to the intricacies of each hole. My local course is no exception. I’m sure that inside busy clubhouses across the world, enthusiastic golfers talk about the challenges at each hole and how they will play it different next time. They make plans to play again and then go on bragging about their game in the office.

For many of us golfers, we are only as good as our last game. However, the experience we get from playing 18 holes goes far beyond how we actually played the game that day. The way a green gently slopes past a natural hazard on the third hole, or the way the sun reflects off the birch trees on the 18th hole naturally draws us back to our favorite course, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Creating that mesmerizing experience for golfers takes place long before any of us will ever step up to the tee on the first hole.

When it comes to the design and the construction of a new golf course or remodeling an existing layout, the process can be exciting.

Building a golf course encompasses many different operations. It takes a team of qualified experts who understand market analysis, site selection, cost estimation, permitting, master planning, detailed design, landscape architecture, construction and grow-in.

It’s important for golf course builders to work with an experienced golf course architect who has the specialized experience and skills required to turn a concept into a reality. Qualified golf course architects should have a vast knowledge of the game of golf, its history, players and design strategy. They should also have expertise in finance and permitting, as well as familiarity with heavy construction projects, hydraulic engineering, geology and civil engineering.

Having a full understanding of landscape architecture is also very important for creating a golf course plan that will highlight and preserve the natural environment. Hills carefully carved into valleys that incorporate streams, cascading waterfalls and rockwork as natural hazards help create and preserve a natural environment for golfers to enjoy.

It takes a team of highly skilled artisans and designers to create realistic environments with an accurate sense of the natural randomness of nature. With precise planning and attention to every ecological detail, realistic lakes, streams and waterfalls can create a sustainable environment for vegetation and wildlife for years.

This experience, combined with unique creativity, engineering skills and use of natural and artificial materials, is what it takes to create a golf course that fascinates golfers and beckons them back again and again. The Naples Grand Country Club in Naples, Florida and the 90-foot-wide by 45-foot-tall waterfall that creates a striking backdrop at Haesley Nine Bridges in Seoul, Korea, have something in common – each water feature was brought to life by a qualified team of golf course designers, architects, engineers and builders.

Creating the perfect experience takes strategic planning, countless hours of design, sheet drawings, renderings and 3D scale models to visualize and stage the project long before construction even starts. Coordination with golf course architects, working with varied terrain characteristics and planning and executing the actual construction phases are imperative to creating a natural environment.

Next time you see a deer run across the fairway on the ninth hole, or an alligator basking in the sun on the banks 50 feet from where you chipped your last shot, take a minute to tip your hat to all the professionals and skilled artisans who made it possible.