Based on my history as a designer I've found that the following questions continue to come up. I hope this Q&A will be helpful in answering some of your most basic questions for your desired project.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many acres of land does one need to build a golf course?
Generally, you need about 120 acres. You might need 150 if you are dealing with some very steep topography and you're not able to use the land efficiently. Or, you may be dealing with a very flat parcel of land which would allow you to do the course on about 100 acres. I still recommend a minimum of 120 acres for 18 holes and a small driving range.
Does every golf course need a driving range?
No. The debate seems to be about dollars. Is it a waste of money or can it actually pay for itself? It's been my experience that driving ranges pay for themselves. People just expect a golf course to have a driving range so they can warm up before their play. For this same reason, there should always be a practice putting green so that the golfer can test the greens before their round. Let's face it, the game is usually won or lost in the short game.
How do you decide the difficulty of a course?
Difficulty can be the length of the holes, number of features such as sand and traps, or the width of the fairways. Are the fairways narrow and wooded on both sides or do they appear to have wide open spaces? There's a bit of psychology to draw from in terms of the illusion that is created by the design. Take water, for instance. Just having water anywhere near a green can intimidate the player even if that water doesn't come into play.
In determining difficulty, it's important to know your market. If you're aiming for a recreational player, you want to make it look tough but play easy. You want them to score well so they return again and again. There was a recent trend in the industry to create difficult courses. Golfers would play a time or two but would return to their favorite courses where their score card looked more respectable to their peers. I make it my goal to allow the every day player to feel that they've conquered something while leaving the avid golfers with enough challenge to return multiple times as well. This can be achieved simply by moving tee placement on a given day when the better players are on deck.
What is the most difficult hole you've designed?
Hole #5 at Fire Ridge, OH. I built a lake in front of the green. By hitting over the water you not only had to avoid the lake but I also placed multiple sand traps completely surrounding the green. The final play of the hole leaves you between a rock and a hard place. The water length is not very long but again there is a psychological element to the play.
Note: The initial design here was not to make the hole difficult. I was required to build the lake for irrigation purposes but it made for quite a challenging golf experience.
Do you enjoy hearing from golfers who've played one of your courses?
Absolutely! In fact, on a course I recently rebuilt, one old gentleman said that by adding the sand traps to the course improved his game because it stopped his ball from rolling out of bounds. It was the first man I'd met who was happy about a new sand trap.
I'd enjoy an authentic golf green on my private estate. How much space do I need?
A personal golf green takes about 2,000-3,000 square feet. A normal sized golf green on a course will range from 4,500-6,500 but for a single green you can go a little smaller.
What goes into a sand trap design?
First ask the question, "What is the function of this trap?" Usually traps are there for strategy. Instead of the golfer having the freedom to tee up and hit in any direction, a trap forces the golfer to think before swinging. Traps can also serve as a safety function so that balls don't encroach on other holes in play. Lastly, there are traps built and designed for aesthetic reasons only. What would a golf course be without an interesting sand trap design?
Are there many kinds of sand to put into traps?
Sand can be likened to trends in fashion, here one day and gone the next. For many years white sugar sand was used due to it's cleanliness of color. However, it takes more maintenance due to it's white color. Think of having white carpet in your home. It's gets dirty a little faster and tends to show every spec.
Currently, the trend is using sand that is indigenous to the area. Browner sands, red or orange sands are easier to maintain and in my opinion look better. As long as the sand meets the right specifications you do have options.
Of the holes that you've designed, which one are you most proud?
I've heard that my #11 at Fire Ridge is a favorite of golfers and I happen to love it myself. There's a creek that meanders through the hole with a beautiful stone bridge; pot bunkers up the right side and part of an old apple orchard. Your tee shot is up a hill and over a valley to a landing zone that is the same level as the teeing area. There's a dramatic feeling as you hit the ball over the valley and the green is above the landing zone curled up in the hillside and surrounded by a fence row of trees.
What is the overall feeling one is left with after playing one of your golf courses?
My hope is that one feels they have enjoyed the game of golf, played well and is excited about returning to in the near future. I invite inspiration from God on my design work and want the golfer to experience the nature and beauty of the land the course is designed on as well as the historical sport of golf.
I hope this information has been helpful to you as you plan your own golf experience and I look forward to hearing about your project and ways I can assist you in your dream design.