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Golf Course Routing Considerations

Public Course Considerations

  1. Locate the golf clubhouse and a place where you can have excess to the first and tenth tees and finishing greens so that both nines loop out and return to the clubhouse in convenient locations. This normally requires that the clubhouse be in a more central location. Utilize nine hole loops in different rotations (clockwise/counter clockwise); this helps balance the quantity of dogleg left and dogleg right holes.
  2. With a public golf course facility it is extremely important that the starting tees and the practice range tee be in close proximity to each other and with visibility from the golf pro shop. It is less important that the finishing greens be visible from the clubhouse, but should be in convenient locations. In a public golf course, it is extremely important to have control over the starting tees as the start and flow of the round of golf is important. During busy times, the golf course will typically have a person known as a starter who makes sure everyone tees off at their appointed time. During slower periods, the use of the starter is expensive and the tee times are usually coordinated from the pro shop.
  3. Make the starting holes on each nine are Par 4's of moderate to short lengths and either straight or dogleg right. Do not put a long Par 3 or a reachable Par 5 within the first four holes. The reason for this is that long Par 3's and reachable Par 5's slow play and do not get the golfers off to a good start. By the term "reachable Par 5", I mean a shorter Par 5 of 500 yards or less in which the better players can reach the green in two shots. If you must have a Par 3 or Par 5 within the first four holes then make sure that the Par 3 is short, not more than 160-165 yards and the Par 5 is at least 530 yards.
  4. Locate the golf course maintenance area either at the end of the practice range or as close to the starting holes as possible. This proximity requirement is necessary since the greens mowing equipment is slow moving and needs to get out early in the morning to mow the greens and stay ahead of the golfers. Also locate the maintenance area away from the environmentally sensitive areas for obvious reasons.
  5. When designing Par 4 and Par 5 holes try to keep the angle at the turning point or dogleg to a less than 45 degrees from the initial line of play. The greater the angle of the dogleg the shorter the hole. The average player has difficulty hitting the ball far enough to reach the dogleg and therefore is penalized on the sharper dogleg angles especially on long difficult golf holes.
  6. Avoid blind shots. A blind shot is defined as not being able to see the point where your ball is suppose to land. This is a safety issue.
  7. Try to keep the distance from the green to the next tee as short as safety will allow to encourage walking instead of using golf carts (this will save on cart path costs as well).
  8. Avoid road crossings (safety).
  9. Solar orientation: The best solar orientation for a driving range is due North. The worst is East or West or slightly South of East and West. If you have no other choice, due South is O.K. Likewise, do not orient starting golf holes into the rising morning sun in the East nor should you finish your completion holes toward the West. You should also give the same consideration to the orientation of the clubhouse. The clubhouse is typically located on the tops of hills or ridges, looking down on the golf course, especially in a country club environment.
  10. A good knowledge of how the game of golf is played is essential to laying out a good golf course. Understanding who is going to be playing the course and their abilities should be acknowledged in the design process. Current golf courses are typically designed with at least 5 tees on each hole at various yardages to allow for the varying abilities of golfers. The Championship tees play from 6700 to over 7000 yards. The Blue tees play from 6400 to 6500 yards. The regular tee plays from between 6000 and 6300 yards. The advanced lady's tee or senior's tee is usually in the range of 5600 to 5800 yards, and the forward tee would measure approximately 4800 to 5200 yards in length.
  11. Under the United States Golf Associates Rules for golf there are minimum yardages by which par is established for both men and women. On Par 5's the minimum yards for men is 472 yards, for women 401 yards. On Par 4's the minimum yards for men is 270 yards, and for women 230 yards. There is no minimums for Par 3's.
  12. Use variety in your golf course routing both with the sequence of Par's and with the yardages.
  13. A good golf course, public or private, should fit the topography well. In other words, it should flow with the land, to minimize the impact to the natural features of the land. Some architects, myself included, look for green sites and work backwards. I also try to find the difficult portions of the site and work backwards. A natural golf course has a better feel to it.

Private Golf Course Considerations

  1. Typically, private clubs have less play and have more of an emphasis on clubhouse visibility to the finishing holes for esthetics. With the fewer number of rounds on a private course the starting holes can be slightly remote from the clubhouse.
  2. In planned unit developments, the lots behind greens normally do not have a very good view because of the nature of the way that greens are constructed. Only put lots behind the green when they have an elevation advantage and can look over the height of the green.
  3. Try to minimize road crossings to 2 per nine holes. Any more is not considered good design. It is far better to loop nine holes of golf with only one crossing for access to the interior. (Only in terms of playing the golf course.)