Land entitlements are the approvals necessary to make a project become reality. This is probably the most unpredictable part of golf course development. Problem solving and creativity is not just reserved for the design and strategy of golf courses. In this phase, they will be equally revered.
Typical Entitlements Required
The specific permits required for golf course construction will vary from place to place but many of them are relatively constant. Some of these are briefly addressed below:
Wetlands and Waters of the US – these permits are almost always a part of golf course approvals because almost every site contains some form of streams, lakes, marshes or other areas under the jurisdiction of either the US Army Corps of Engineers or the counterpart agency in the state government. Before any realistic planning can begin, all wetlands will have to be delineated with boundaries accepted by the jurisdictional agency. Once planning and golf course routings have been done, all impacts to wetlands will have to be approved before any work can be done.
Environmental Analysis – Most large developments will require a document called an EIS, short for Environmental Impact Statement. This rather large set of documents will describe in great detail all of the impacts to the site from the proposed development and give the ways the developer can reduce or mitigate these impacts. Wildlife habitat, threatened and endangered species, noise, traffic, flooding and other impacts to the area are included.
Zoning – This item involves the designated category of land use by the county or city in which the project is located. Each zoning type will have specific uses that are allowed in that zone and others that are restricted or are provisional uses. If the golf course is part of a larger real estate development, those uses must be considered as well. Because the process of rezoning large tracts of what may have been open or forested land for major development is a very public process, emotions and politics are usually involved. Concerns over increased traffic, school crowding, environmental impacts, noise and other issues will have to be addressed.
Sediment & Erosion Control Program – The state or local agencies will require the developer to have a well-defined program to control any deposits of sediment into water bodies and to prevent sloping areas from erosion.
Other Permits – Surface or groundwater withdrawal permits, special site plan requirements, clearing & burning permits and others are typical
The Role of the Architect
In every phase of the approval process the architect has a central role to play. The first step is for the architect to know what permits will be required and how they will affect the design. Then, they must find a way to design the golf course to fit within the requirements. By their training and experience, ASGCA member architects will know from their first site visit many of the issues associated with a site and will have creative ways to deal with them. Ongoing education sessions, often conducted by ASGCA’s Major Partners, help members stay in touch with ever-changing water use ideas, erosion control methods, irrigation system advancements and other relevant topics.
Often, the architect will be asked to address public meetings, testify at zoning board and city council hearings and work closely with the field personnel of the regulatory agencies in the delineation of jurisdictional areas. The golf architect will sometimes be the lead person in the team of consultants and will always have a key position in the group due to their specialized area of expertise. They will need to be able to work with the project engineer, environmental consultants, land planner, attorneys and others if the permit and approval process is to be successful.