The Landscape Guide

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Golf course architecture

To work as a golf course architect you require a knowledge of golf, and preferably a reputation, and a full range of landscape design skills. Golf course design is often integrated with the planning and layout of luxury residential estates, appartment complexes and holiday villas.

Golf course architecture in America

The American Society of Golf Course Architects  (ASGCA - a non-profit organization of  golf course designers in the United States and Canada) states that: 'The goal of the golf course architect is to design a great golf course. A great golf course must, like life, offer intrigue, diversity, mystery, and the opportunity to experiment; it must require creativity and problem-solving; and it must challenge your limits, and test your character." So far as it relates to the game of golf, this is a good clear statement. But if we apply Vitruvius' principles to golf course design then two additional considerations appear:

Aesthetics: shouldn't a 'great golf course' also have scenic quality?

Firmness: shouldn't a 'great golf course' have the quality of ecological sustainability, with inputs of fertilizer, herbicide, water and energy used as frugally as possible?

The Golf Arizona website comments that you can 'Give an artist a blank canvas and his or her creative mind will generate a breath-taking product. The desert is that canvas for golf course architects.' Some golf courses  'are visually superior to others because architects took enough time to quiet the right brain and listen to the feelings that enjoy horizons and sunsets.'

Golf course architecture in Australia

The Society of Australian Golf Course Architects website has a section on Golf and the Environment which advises that a well designed golf course should

  1. Provide wild life sanctuaries
  2. Preserve open space and remnant vegetation within urban environments
  3. Protect topsoil from degradation
  4. Protect water resources
  5. Rehabilitate degraded landscapes ie tips, mines, intensive use/mismanaged land
  6. Promote physical and mental well being, reducing stress for more than 2 million Australians
  7. Promote indigenous flora and fauna and the Australian Landscape Experience
  8. Improve air quality and moderate temperature
  9. Utilise and treat water resources such as; sewage, stormwater and urban runoff thereby reducing load on waterways
  10. Beautify the environment and provide community education on environmental issues

Golf course architecture in Europe

European Institute of Golf Course Architects website has an article on environmental issues facing golf in Europe. David Stubbs makes some good points:

  • the golf industry as a whole has become much more aware of environmental issues
  • golf authorities have sponsored a number of golf-ecology programmes -notably the European Golf Association Ecology Unit (from 1994-1999)
  • in Flanders,the Environment Minister was prepared to back calls for the region's only two links courses (Royal Zoute and Ostend)to be converted into nature parks and the golf courses relocated to new sites on agricultural land
  • in Catalonia,the regional water authority issued a decree in November 2001,that all golf courses in the region must stop using ground water and can only be irrigated with treated waste water
  • most environmental consultancies treat golf projects like they do any other development, be they roads, housing or industrial. So we end up with formulaic Environmental Assessments, fulfiling the legal requirements but not really getting to the
  • core of understanding the ecology of a site and identifying the potential opportunities a golf course may offer

Conclusion: golf course architects should also have a training in landscape architecture so that they can understand, and implement, the Vitruvian objectives. It is gratifying to note that Edinburgh College of Art runs a programme in Golf Course Design.