This article is an excerpt from an interview with golf course architect Kevin Norby.
What are the most important considerations for a developer when choosing a golf course designer? Knowledge and experience. As an owner, you want to make sure you’re working with someone who can guide you through the project approval process and provide some assurance that, when complete, the project will be successful. In particular, it is important that the client determine who they are building the golf course for: Whether the course is designed for private, public or resort play will have a considerable bearing into the design elements. These are important factors as an owner considers what their maintenance budget will be, as well as the caliber of golfer that will play the course.
A golf course architect is also valuable to the owner in terms of providing guidance regarding maintenance facilities, maintenance equipment, sighting of the clubhouse, the amount of parking required, finding good contractors, where to look for when hiring a manager or golf professional. In many ways, we become a sounding board for the owner because we have a wide variety of experience in getting these golf course projects up and running smoothly. That is where having an experienced golf course designer is particularly helpful for a golf course owner; simply in having worked through a lot of the unforeseen challenges that an owner can have when setting up their golf course.
It is also important that you find someone whom you can work well with. You will want to find someone who is really willing to listen to your goals and your concerns. You want to make sure you’ve got a golf course designer who isn’t just imposing their personal biases, style or budget onto your golf course. Issues like sizes of greens, species of grass, the type of sand in your bunkers are all important considerations whicxh all affect the initial construction budget and ongoing maintenance budget.
A designer without experience may lack the necessary understanding of how all these elements can affect the final costs. The last thing you want as an owner is for your costs to skyrocket and to jeopardize the success or the project. This is where knowledge and experience will be invaluable.
Having an experienced golf course designer is essentially like having access to a Rolodex of industry professionals whom your designer has a relationship with and they can call upon for specialized knowledge when necessary.
What is your philosophy of golf course design? What is really important for us is to have a clear understanding who will be playing the course and their level of skill. We will design a public course much different than a private course. The public and semi-private courses will typically have more play by higher handicap players. If you don’t set the course up to accommodate that, you will end up with a course that wont be enjoyable for the customer and will suffer from slow play.
People just don’t want to come back to a course that takes more than 5 hours to play. So in that case, we intentionally design this type of public course to be a little more forgiving, with wider fairways larger greens and more forgiving hazards.
Having said that, one of the real tricks to golf design is to create a great course that is fair and relatively forgiving for the beginning golfer, yet strategic enough that the better player feels challenged. We can do this by not only providing multiple tees but by manipulating the angle to the green, contouring of the green and landing areas, placement of bunkers and hazards and also by adjusting the width and angle of the fairways.
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