More Courses Remodeling – All At Once Rather Than Phasing Over Time

By Greg Muirhead, ASGCA Past President

It’s an amazing spectacle; the way pro sports teams maneuver near the end of the season. Playoff contenders trade away long-term projects to get the player who can “make an immediate impact” and propel the team into championships. Meanwhile, teams already out of the race trade away players to better their chances in future years.

Golf course owners, managers, superintendents and others also face a decision pitting the short-term versus the long-term. When it comes to remodeling, what should the timeline be? Should the course phase the remodeling process in over time? Or is it better to do it all at once?

Increasingly, golf clubs are choosing the latter. They’re biting the bullet … closing all or a major part of their golf courses … and accomplishing all of their remodeling work at once.

More Golfers Need More Courses

The National Golf Foundation reported an increase of 1.5 million new golfers in 1997. The continued growth and increased popularity of golf has prompted the remodeling of numerous public and private courses throughout the country.

In the past, with fewer golfers and fewer courses competing to attract golfers, course remodeling was generally limited to small-scale projects, usually involving only two or three holes, or portions thereof. Traditionally, the work was targeted to address only the most severe deficiencies (i.e. flooding/poor drainage, significant lack of turf, safety/liability issues, etc…). Due to budget constraints and less concern over inconveniencing the golfer, remodeling was typically phased-in over a number of years.

The influx of new golfers and a significantly more competitive marketplace has created a new trend in golf course remodeling. Public and private facilities are less frequently phasing-in necessary improvements. Instead, these facilities are electing to close the course for a season and institute an 18-hole Comprehensive Remodeling Master Plan.

Comprehensive Remodeling Master Plans

The Comprehensive Remodeling Master Plan is a document that defines the overall goals and objectives for improving a given facility. The plan is prepared by a design team that typically includes various representatives of the facility (public or private), a licensed engineer and a qualified golf course architect. Members of the American Society of Golf Course Architects are recognized as the most qualified individuals in the course design profession and are experienced in providing creative and cost-effective design solutions.

While not every facility can endure the short-term financial impacts associated with closing its course for a season, those who can typically enjoy several beneficial results, including substantial cost savings over the long term.

Why Bite the Bullet?

Some of the benefits that are strictly a result of a comprehensive remodeling approach include:

Design Continuity: A comprehensive approach ensures that the entire Remodeling Master Plan is implemented simultaneously, under the direction of a single architect and with a consistent design style.

Phased remodeling, over a number of years, often results in the involvement of several architects and committee chairpersons, each imposing their own opinions and preferences regarding the implementation of, or deviation from, the originally developed Remodeling Master Plan.

Less Inconvenience of Golfers: Providing an overall, quality experience and improved service for the user has quickly become a top priority for clubs and course operators. By closing the course and implementing a comprehensive remodeling program, golfers are not confronted with the annual disruptions and inconveniences associated with implementing a phased remodeling program. These would include, but not be limited to: the continuous implementation of temporary tees, greens, drop areas and ground under repair zones, noise and dust from construction equipment, unsightly staging areas and the loss of available parking.

Selection of A Qualified Contractor: Given the current golf “boom” and the number of new, 18 hole construction projects available to pursue, top quality contractors are often reluctant to become involved in smaller scale remodeling projects that, in most cases, offer less profit potential. Conversely, a comprehensive remodeling project, essentially the equal of constructing a new 18-hole course, is quite appealing. The comprehensive approach encourages competitive bidding, amongst several qualified contractors, and thus an overall cost savings for the scope of work to eventually be completed. Additionally, mobilization of the construction force is a “one-time” and not an annual expense.

Consistency of Play: A comprehensive remodeling approach ensures the use of identical construction materials for the development of greens, tees and sand bunkers. This typically results in more consistent playing conditions. Greens receive and hold shots in the same way and roll at the same speed. Bunker sand tends to be more consistent as well.

Eliminates Destruction Of Previous Work: Despite the best planning efforts, phasing of a Remodeling Master Plan can result in the partial, or complete, destruction of a prior year’s work. For example, new turf and previously installed cart paths or irrigation components can be damaged while hauling materials during subsequent remodeling work.

Considering All Options

The preceding examples represent only a portion of the benefits associated with employing a comprehensive remodeling approach. It is important that a given facility – including its management, committees, engineers, superintendent, and architect – complete all desired improvements in a manner that is timely, cost-effective and otherwise appropriate for its method of operation. When possible, the concept of closing the facility and implementing a Comprehensive Remodeling Master Plan should be given strong consideration.