I.D. List asks, ‘After satisfying environmental rules, how do you use natural land?’

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer

Not so fast. Although we get anxious do start, we need more analysis before designing golf holes. Here are some of the things we look at:

We need regular parcel shapes of suitable dimensions. Irregular "nooks and crannies" may be too small to support golf holes, as golf holes usually have surprisingly "rigid" dimensions. They may often be used for facilities like maintenance areas.

Typical American sites have "Quarter Sections," which are 1,320-foot squares. This is sufficient length for par-4 holes, but golf corridors need 225 to 350 feet of width. Having 1,320 feet allows six narrow ones or four wide ones, which is preferable, allowing safety and "wiggle room" to save trees. But, if we need six holes in that area, all that is compromised.

Clubhouse and maintenance areas need readily accessible roads and utilities, like electric, gas, potable water, telephone, Internet and cable television*. Preferring to reserve more money for course construction, we locate structures close to existing services. We also need, except for ultra-private clubs, a clubhouse easily found, with a good "identity."

There may be a favored clubhouse location, in a jurisdiction with lower taxes, utility rates, or better fire and police protection. Municipal courses must be inside city boundaries, to retain sales taxes, and distant from churches or schools, which could prevent alcohol sales.

Many sites have utility easements that affect design. Holes should not cross beneath overhead lines, future road right-of-ways or other easements. They can cross underground utility easements, but we can't alter grades there. At least I won't be around when a dozer cuts into a high-pressure gas line! We avoid placing greens, tees or bunkers directly over any easement, since they periodically tear them up for maintenance.

Surrounding Land Uses past, present and future may prevent construction.

Some of the examples I’ve experienced:

· Once, past railroad uses raised the potential of million-dollar cleanups. We rerouted the course away from these areas.

· We discovered historic structures from early gold mining in the area, and moved a hole. Archeology studies are now standard. Besides important structures, historians are now studying "everyday life" (perhaps believing another George Washington biography isn't necessary) and therefore study our ancestors' garbage. We now protect old garbage dumps as if they were gold mines.

· Most poorly drained courses result from the fact that virtually every "country" club ever built started in the country, which is now urbanized and with increased drainage runoff. The future will be similar, so we try to locate holes to minimize drainage problems, and we upsize pipe as budget permits.

· Occasionally, proposed golf course property is subject to questions of availability, ease of acquisition, or zoning issues.

· Nearly every site has some unique issues, which we try to predict.

After studying all that, we may start to route the golf course!

* To my readers in 2050, the idea of cables connecting anything must seem quaint. Even at this writing, wireless is replacing cable television and the Internet.