Richard Mandell, ASGCA Associate, highlights the importance of consulting a qualified golf course architect, The first part of this article was published in the Summer 2015 issue of “By Design” magazine and can be found here.
In the second part of this article, Mandell provides more detail on how a golf course architect brings value to even the smallest of design decisions for any golf course
So why should a club not save a few bucks by cutting the golf course architect from the budget? There are many ways the expertise of a golf course architect can reduce costs or increase value regardless of the scope of the work.
The most value achieved is when one task can serve two purposes. An example is when there is a need to cut down a mound or a ridge which may result in transport costs. With an open mind, a golf architect can most likely find a home for that material within close proximity, often resulting in solving small, nagging drainage problems in the process. The keen eye of a golf architect can help tie in a new feature to ensure positive drainage, ease of mowing, and a natural appearance, again minimizing short cuts that can become nagging issues for a very long time.
One task that many architects are dismissed from is re-contouring putting surfaces. Yet most clubs assume that the putting surface itself is the limit and everything can be accomplished within those defined lines. The results are usually awkward tie-ins with some steeper slopes than those that were softened in the first place. The value of a golf architect comes in knowing how to properly tie these grades. This knowledge may not be readily apparent at the time, but over many years of easy maintenance, design fees will be recouped ten-fold in terms of time and effort for the maintenance crew.
Tunnel vision takes hold of one’s mind based upon daily reminders of a perceived flaw that may not be one in the mind of fresh, professional eyes. Those eyes may expose the forest for the trees, so to speak, and remind a client that the majority of their patrons may not see the same flaw. One of the best tasks a professional golf architect can bring to the table is the attitude of ‘leaving well-enough alone’.
Addition by subtraction is another strategy a golf architect can bring to the table that drastically increases cost-saving measures. Instead of adding something to solve an issue, or continuing to fight a perennial maintenance issue, just re-directing the focus elsewhere can be worth its weight in gold. An example of this is the need to grow grass in areas that just never seem to take. Possibly these areas are out of play spots that could be ignored because they don’t affect everyday play.
How about the losing proposition of keeping grass alive around two sand bunkers between the putting surface and the cart path? Instead of constantly fighting the battle, removing one (or both) of the bunkers may spread out wear and tear and suddenly a decent stand of grass maintains its momentum there. In the sand’s place may be a re-shaped grass hollow or swale to balance another sand bunker on the opposite side of the green, creating more strategic intrigue.
The simple addition of a sand bunker in the corner of a dogleg can transform a boring hole into one of the ultimate strategic opportunities given to the golfer: the chance to gain an advantage cutting the corner of the dogleg. To compensate for the new bunker, why not remove one of a pair of bunkers on the outside of a dogleg elsewhere that only penalizes an off-target shot? This ‘double-bonus’ design strategy reminds one that many bunkers only exist for aesthetics and those are the first that should be eliminated.
It may be hard to quantify the cost savings a golf architect can bring to even the smallest projects in the beginning, but an architect’s knowledge and expertise will more than pay for itself in actual cost-savings on the back end or with much more value gained. No one ever says: “We could have saved some money by not hiring an architect”. Don’t make that first cost-savings cut of golf architecture guidance. Instead, let an architect find the first cut and the second and the third. One ride around the course will reveal the need and create just enough momentum to keep doors open, provide a cost-effective product, and grow the game of golf in the process.
Visit the Free Publications section of the ASGCA website to download the ‘Selecting Your Golf Course Architect: Questions & Answers’ flyer.
Richard Mandell, ASGCA Associate, organizes the Symposium on Affordable Golf, with this year’s event taking place in Canton, Ohio on 12-13 October. For more information, visit www.symposiumonaffordablegolf.com