The Bid Process: Nailing Down the Financials at Giant's Ridge - Part 3

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer

When told that I design golf courses, many people remark that they thought courses just "magically" appeared. Well, I'm not the "new golf fairy," and nothing could be further from the truth. Lots of work goes into planning and constructing a golf course. As I mentioned last month, the plans for the second course at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, Minnesota, are now out to bid and we are awaiting the contractors' prices.

While there are many ways to build a golf course, our typical method is to draw a complete set of plans and put it out to bid to qualified contractors. Some architects build the courses with in-house construction crews, and there are numerous homemade efforts built by local groups with an interest in golf.

All construction projects for public bodies, such as city, county, state or federal governments, are generally awarded to contractors on the basis of competitive bids to ensure the lowest price. Typically, our firm is paid a fee to develop a detailed set of plans and specifications suitable for competitive bid. These plans can be as thick as 30 sheets or more, and the specifications book that accompanies them might run more than 500 pages.

These are legal documents intended to set forth the responsibilities of the owner, contractor and architect. If disputes arise, they can protect the owner from unnecessary change-orders or claims from an unscrupulous contractor, and vice versa. Yes, golf IS a game, but you can rustle up a willing lawyer anytime, anyplace. In fact, I've been sued twice by suppliers asserting their Constitutional rights to provide inferior products at greater prices than agreed upon. Now, I am no Constitutional scholar, but I must have missed that amendment.

It's always tense waiting for the bids to come in. Architects usually prepare cost estimates. But depending on the detail of their plans, these can be way off-base. While common sense says that we can't be responsible for how independent contractors determine bid prices, we do pride ourselves on keeping track of current prices and accurately estimating work quantities to give the owner precise estimates. When we aren't sure of costs, we design the golf course the way we think the owner should build it, and then provide for potential deducts through alternate bids to get the course built within budget if necessary.

We are usually 'optimistic,' designing a bit more golf course than we think the budget affords, because sometimes contractors surprise us with great bids. Once, an earthmover was actually trying to reduce his assets because of a pending divorce. He bid the project at less than half the going rate for earthmoving, and begged us to change the plans to move more earth! At his prices, we were more than willing to accommodate him!

We will begin in the next installment telling you how we did with the bid for the second Giant's Ridge course.