Renovation Approved! “Let’s Get Started”

By John LaFoy, ASGCA Past President

The hard work is over. Let the fun begin. This is not entirely true, as there is still a great deal of work to be done, but successful renovation projects can be a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction. Some architects do not particularly enjoy renovation and restoration work, but others find it very rewarding. In most cases, they are working for clients who truly love and care about their golf courses. They are not under the eye of a developer who may care more about lot count than the quality of the course. The feedback from the membership is almost immediate, as the excitement begins as soon as the first spade of dirt is turned.

Once the approval process is completed there are a number of things that need to take place. A full-scale project takes a great deal of time and proper planning is a necessity.

Some of the more critical steps are:

Hiring Your Golf Course Architect

  1. Qualifications
  2. Availability
  3. Fee
  4. Scope of Work
    • Preliminary Plans
    • Detail Plans & Specifications
    • Inspection Visits

Hiring a Contractor

  1. Qualifications & Track Record
  2. Availability
  3. Bidding vs. Negotiation

Owner Oversight

  1. Design Approval Procedure
  2. Owner’s Representative

In practically every stage of planning a renovation project, there are pitfalls. Just as they were discussed in the first steps of the process, there are several others that may occur after the project has been approved. Most of them are quite innocent, and regardless of how careful you are to warn clubs of them, time after time they will fall into one trap or the other.
Some pitfalls to look out for include:

Budget Mistakes (Similar in earlier planning process, but now these are for real)

  1. “Growing Like Topsy”
  2. No Contingency or Buffer

Poor Architect and Owner Communication

  1. Construction Committee
  2. Architect’s Responsibilities
  3. Unrealistic Expectations

Environmental Concerns

  1. Permits
    • Water Source, Tap fees for Irrigation
    • Storm Water Retention
    • Erosion Control
    • Wetlands
    • Timing/Waiting Period

All too often, a project is getting ready to start when it is discovered that one of the pitfalls listed above creates a significant delay in the start of the project. It is very disappointing in light of the fact that the timing for practically all golf course construction is based on planting seasons. Delay of just a month can throw off the schedule for six months to a year, especially for projects that are on a tight schedule. If the latest planting date for a warm season course is July 15 for the fairways, it is unlikely that they can be planted on August 15, and be grown in for a late Fall opening. That one month is critical. It can mean major disruption in revenue and could very well cause the club to incur additional construction and grow-in expenses. Certainly, such a delay would draw the ire of the membership toward those in charge of the project.

Although environmental concerns have not been a major topic of this particular seminar, practically every renovation, regardless of how small, can ill afford to ignore the reality that it may come under the jurisdiction of some local, state, or federal agency. There have been instances, when a particular project has been brought to the attention of local agencies, that their response was “we do not know if there are any permits or approvals required, but we will try to think of some.” No, these are not actual words, but they might as well be. Many local agencies are fully aware of the nationwide trend in permitting almost anything.

Suffice it to say that you, golf course superintendents, managers and owners should be aware that your project may very well require permitting. Since most architects do not include that in their scope of work, it is your responsibility to attend to it. Do not wait until the last minute to find out your local requirements.

Assuming that you have avoided many of the pitfalls, it’s time to think about starting the construction process. This too can be a great learning experience and one that will help you in the future. Hopefully, all of the previous planning has paid off and you are ready to begin a smooth transition into the construction phase.