What Does It Cost To Build a New Golf Course?
By Tom Doak
It's the first question most potential clients ask us.
We are always glad to look at new projects and discuss the possibilites of a site. If you can send us a topographic map of the property -- even just a US Geological Survey map -- we can discuss the potential costs with a fair degree of accuracy.
The answer will depend on where you stop counting. Golf architects quote the golf course construction budget -- what a construction company will charge to build the course and seed it. Often, that’s less than half the total cost to opening day, when you factor in land costs, developing a water source, bringing power to the site, a clubhouse and parking, a maintenance building, buying maintenance equipment, and growing in the golf course between seeding and opening. Not to mention design fees!
Construction cost is also greatly influenced by the site and by the owner’s goals. Courses on sandy sites are less costly, because materials for greens and tees and bunkers do not have to be imported, and because there are fewer weather delays during construction. Clearing and earthmoving expenses can be high for one situation, and very low on the right piece of ground. Irrigation requirements depend on the local climate, but also on the owner’s standards.
Many developers equate big budgets with higher quality, but it isn’t necessarily so. It is always possible to spend lavishly no matter where a course is being built, and easy for architects to get used to spending unnecessarily. We have more conscience than that -- maybe because we live in a short-season market where unnecessary expenditures won’t be recovered. Two of our most acclaimed recent designs, Lost Dunes and Pacific Dunes, were built to world-class standards for budgets of $2.5 million each. We have seen sites where a course would cost more than $5 million, but apparently not as many as other designers see.
If you want a better idea of how your land is suited for golf, send us your maps, and we’ll give you a good estimate. For a full-length course, you’ll need at least 150 acres, but the more land you have the more we can tailor a routing to the ground, and keep construction costs lower. In most cases, it will take 6-12 months to put the permits in place [more if rezoning or development or financing are involved]; 3 months to put the project out to bid and choose a contractor; 8-12 months of actual construction; and 6-12 months to grow in the course before it can be opened.
So... the sooner you send us those maps, the better!