Need an art degree?

Start here!

What is Golf Course Design?

Golf is one of the most recognized and popular recreational activities around the globe. Nearly every continent on the planet has at least one golf course. Although some of these may seem plain and uncomplicated, even the simplest golf course often requires quite a bit of planning.

Sometimes referred to as golf course design, golf course architecture is a specialized area of landscape architecture. As its name suggests, it involves planning, designing, and creating every aspect of a golf course, from the most basic holes to the complicated water traps. Even many of the types of grass and other plants must be carefully planned out before any work can begin on a golf course.

What Does a Golf Course Designer Do?

A golf course designer is the individual that plans and designs every part of a golf course. These professionals are responsible for creating courses that are somewhat challenging on one hand, but not so difficult that no one can complete them.
Before the designing stages can begin, a golf course designer must first meet with their clients and discuss what they hope to achieve. This can include such things as the layout and difficulty level of the course. During these initial meetings, a designer will also usually discuss a proposed budget as well. After these initial details have been discussed, the designer will then usually draw up plans of the course using advanced computer software. He may also build a model of the course as well.
Typical golf courses usually have either 9 or 18 holes. Each of these holes consists of several different areas, including the teeing ground, fairway, rough, and green. There are also usually several obstacles, referred to as hazards, scattered throughout the course.

The teeing ground is the area where golfers start playing a hole. This area is usually flat, with relatively short grass. The majority of golf courses typically have different areas where players of different skill levels can tee off. The most common tee areas include the championship tee, men’s tee, and women’s tee.

Once a golfer hits the ball from the teeing area, it will usually travel along the fairway. This is the area of a golf hole that lies between the teeing area and the green. In some instances, the fairway is a straight shot to the green. To make a course more challenging, however, golf courses designers can also create curved greens as well.

The rough is the area of a golf course that borders each side of the fairway. These areas are usually covered with long grass, which makes hitting a golf ball rather complicated. On more difficult holes, the rough is sometimes located in a space between the teeing area and the green.

Golfers who are able to get the ball down the fairway and avoid the rough, must still avoid the hazards that golf course designers scatter around the course. These can be located just about anywhere, but they are often placed at the edges of fairways and greens. Sand pits and water hazards, such as ponds and creeks, are generally the most common types of water hazards on a golf course.

The greens are the parts of a golf course where the holes are located. These are typically some of the most difficult aspects of a golf course to design. The ground surrounding each hole will typically be sloped at slight angles, which makes it challenging for a golfer to tap the ball into the holes.

Besides the main components of a golf course, a golf course designer will also usually design some of the less prominent aspects as well. This can include such things as walking trails and golf cart roads. Most golf course designers will also usually decide which types of grass and other plants should be used on a golf course as well.
The variety of grass used, as well as the slope of the land, will also play a big part in what type of irrigation and drainage systems should be used on a golf course. Some types of grass in drier areas, for example, may require more robust irrigation systems. On the other hand, since standing water can be unhealthy for most plants, planning a proper drainage system on a golf course is equally important.

Where do Golf Course Designers Work?

While earning their degrees, some aspiring golf course designers may be lucky enough to participate in internships at large landscaping design firms. These opportunities allow students to work alongside skilled and experienced professionals. In the process, they will often be able to hone their own skills. After graduations, these companies may offer permanent employment to their interns.

Once a designer gains enough experience, he may also opt to open his own design firm, specializing in golf course design.
What Skills and Education Requirements are Necessary for a Career in Golf Course Design?
Most golf course design careers typically start with nothing more than a love for the game. The majority of golf course designers are skilled golf players, and they typically know what makes a good golf course.
Besides being avid golfer, individuals interested in golf course design careers should also be interested in landscaping, and have great drawing skills. Computer skills are also helpful, since most designs are drawn up using computer software.
In order to start a golf course design career, an individual will usually need to earn a degree in landscape architecture. Some design and architecture schools may also offer courses specifically geared toward aspiring golf course design.

What is the Average Annual Salary for a Golf Course Designer?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not record any data regarding golf course designers specifically. Salary statistics for landscape architects, however, are available.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of a landscape architect in 2010 was $66,880. More experienced and talented architects and designers, however, made even more, with the highest ten percent earning over $100,000.

Learn about art schools accepting students now: