The Scottish Association of Golf Course Architects is aware that golf clubs may never have used a golf course architect to appraise their golf course and have never considered using an architect to assist with improvements to their course.  The ScotAGCA is keen to ensure that clubs are aware of all the possible benefits of using a golf course architect and has developed the following FAQ’s to address the most common enquires received by our association.

Q.  Our club is considering making some minor alterations to our course, (moving a few tees and bunkers,) but due to cost we usually just do these changes ‘in-house.’  Why should we employ a Golf Course architect?

We believe that regardless of the scale of any alteration to a course, golf clubs should always seek the advice of a qualified GCA.  We look beyond the immediate impact of a potential change considering its wider implications for that golf hole, its aesthetics, strategy, visibility and playability and how this change may positively affect the whole golf course.

The ScotAGCA is actively trying to build relationships with golf clubs rather than being commissioned as and when design projects arise.  Our approach is that there is no project too big or small and reviewing and appraising existing layouts is just as important to us as re-design or new build work.

As qualified GCA’s we are passionate about improving golf courses. Hiring a golf course architect who is passionate about improving their golf course will be cost effective in the long-term by ensuring that the work adds real value to the course.  It is no more expensive to complete good work than it is poor work and hiring a GCA to assist with your changes will not only improve the aesthetic appeal and technical quality of your course but will also be more cost effective since one of the key roles of the architect is to ensure that the quality of workmanship is first class and the club achieves value for money. 

Q. What is the cost of bringing in an architect to assist with design alterations?

In recent history there are unfortunately more examples of bad work than good as the tendency has been to assume that hiring a golf course architect is too expensive.  As an association we are committed to changing this perception and providing value for money.  This commitment not only applies to our professional fees but also to becoming more involved with clubs advising them on how to get the most out of their resources, negotiating with contractors on behalf of our clients and ensuring there are no hidden costs or poor quality materials. We are also keen to educate clubs and club managers about the real costs of projects and design consultants to overcome the perception that architects are too expensive to consult for smaller projects.

Our architects will offer very competitive rates for design consultancy and project management of the clubs resources to complete the work. Contact our associations GCAs to get an idea of the likely cost for the services we provide and quotes for your specific project.

Q.  We were considering doing some renovation work and received some quotes from contractors but the cost was too high and the project was shelved.  Are there more cost effective ways to carry out renovation work?

There are two main options for carrying out renovation work.

  • Hiring a contractor to carry out construction work based on architects plans.

  • Using a golf course architect with professional shapers and the resources, (manpower and machinery,) already at the club’s disposal.

Either option may be the most suitable for any project but most commonly a golf course contractor would be used for construction work.  For larger projects where general earthworks are required a civil contractor may be preferred initially before a golf course contractor completes the more specialised golf features.  Your GCA will help assess the best set up for your project and will then ensure that the design is implemented in a satisfactory manner.

Without doubt the most cost effective method for making minor alterations carrying major benefits for a club is by using the clubs existing resources to do the work. Using your own staff under the direction of a golf course architect is an effective way of keeping costs under control whilst still achieving the best results. Initially some on-the-job training may be required to teach basic skills to the staff but we have found that most course staff are interested in golf course design and motivated by the prospect of learning new skills making the process much easier for future projects.

Although we always recommend carrying out topographical and as-built surveys prior to carrying out re-design work we appreciate that for smaller scale renovations it is unlikely that clubs will be willing to spend money to provide as-built surveys that would facilitate a complete design on paper.  This makes it all the more important to ensure that there is a GCA instructing the contractor or personnel on the ground to achieve the desired results.  However should a survey be deemed necessary our architects have links to surveyors who will provide competitive rates.

Q.  Do the association members only advise on design matters?

Our association members are professionally qualified as golf course architects.  This means that they are qualified to consult on the design of new golf courses and the improvement of existing golf course features and drainage ensuring that they are built correctly.  Our GCAs are also able to assist with master planning and the planning process in general.  Some of our architects also have specialised knowledge on subjects such as agronomy, irrigation, course management, environmental and ecological concerns.  All of our GCAs have access to experts in these fields from whom separate advice can be provided.  Any of our GCAs will be able to provide, directly or indirectly, all the requirements necessary to complete a project.

Just as your car needs regular check-ups so does a golf course.   Having a relationship with an architect at the outset will help to target the most appropriate areas for improvement and will allow the club to understand the costs and implications of certain decisions.  The architect will be able to define a timeframe for the work and may also be able to offer other options offering a better result for a specified budget or timeframe.

Clubs always say that their greatest asset is their course but sometimes the objectives of the club managers, committees and green keeping staff are not as aligned as they could be.  GCAs are experienced at gathering important information from all interested parties and developing a clear and concise development plan for the course.  

Q. Our club is considering upgrading our golf course, at what point should we consider consulting a GCA and how should we go about it?

It is crucial that you involve an architect as early in the process as possible.  It is important to get the advice of a GCA early because he is the only one who understands all the elements that impact on the course design. So, for example, getting advice on tree management / planting and acting on this before asking a GCA for advice could be counter-productive.

For many clubs the first step is to bring in an architect to appraise the golf course in its current form and present the findings back to the club. 

When deciding which architect to appoint we believe it is important that you select an architect who is qualified, respected, easily contactable, responsive and is based within geographical proximity to the club.  Scottish Association Architects can be contacted either by emailing the ScotAGCA direct or going to the members page and contact individual architects via their contact information there.

Q.  Our course is fine; it continues to receive favourable reviews and has done for years so why do we need to change now?

It is our firm belief that all clubs need to be progressive.  If clubs don’t continue to improve year on year they may find themselves behind their competitors in years to come.  With dwindling membership numbers at most clubs and a huge variety of courses available to visitors, it is more important than ever to stay ahead of your competitors. If good work is carried out word spreads very quickly in the golf world, unfortunately, word also spreads just as quickly if poor work is carried out. It is important to continually review where money is being spent on the course and our members are well qualified to direct clubs to maximize the potential benefits of whatever resources the club has at its disposal. 

Q.  Are the ScotAGCA members involved in overseas projects?

Yes, although the main objective of the ScotAGCA is to promote and develop golf course design and architecture in Scotland our members are experienced at working in all different types of climates and landscapes around the globe, (see the members tab for member’s biographies and company details.)  In addition to this we would also like to stress that although in Scotland most projects currently involve re-design work to existing courses our members are also involved in Scotland and around the world in exciting new build projects.

Q.  I am interested to find out more about becoming a golf course architect.  What is the best route to follow to establish oneself in the industry?

Traditionally there has been no specific academic route to becoming a qualified golf course architect and many of the most prominent architects have gained their prominence based upon a sound understanding of golf course construction and applying an interest in the history of golf course architecture to an opportunity that presented itself to them.  However, nowadays the routes into the industry are somewhat clearer.  Currently the European Institute of Golf Course Architects runs a diploma course in golf course architecture which will give you a sound understanding of the fundamentals and principles of golf course architecture. Most of the younger architects entering the industry these days have either done this or similar degrees and most selected landscape architecture as their undergraduate degree programme. 

If you don’t have either of these qualifications or do not have the time / money to embark on further education other recognisable routes into the industry would be to do an internship with a golf course design company or work for a golf course construction company. It is crucial for any aspiring architect to be proficient in design software programmes, particularly AutoCAD as this presents candidates with the opportunity to provide a service that makes them immediately employable to the more established architects.

It is a small industry where luck, patience and unwavering determination are key to success but if you have that passion and desire about golf course architecture opportunities do exist.

The ScotAGCA is fully committed to safeguarding the future of our industry and is currently investigating ways to develop a degree programme specifically for golf course architecture.  Please check the education section of our website in the future for details of this as they emerge.