What makes golf course views so valuable?

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer

Community golf course views can enhance the “sense of place.” Careful planning allows residents of each neighborhood without golf course frontage to enjoy golf course views from nearby roads, which raises value of even non-frontage lots significantly.

For individual lots, houses below the golf course with little view will not command a premium. Ideally, the golf course should be located in shallow valleys – ideally the fairway is 4-6 feet below the base level of the house – with houses on ridges above, looking down. Deep valleys may cause a view that overlooks the golf course to houses on the far side of the fairway!

On gently rolling sites, this relationship can happen naturally. In many areas of the country, such as Palm Springs where the land is flat and the desert sands are easily relocated, substantial earth moving can achieve the same result.

Even properly placed golf holes require certain design elements to command maximum lot premiums.

Homes fronting green complexes typically sell quickly, because greens contain color-contrast between putting-surface turf, surrounding-banks turf and sand bunkers and are typically designed to enhance the visual focus of the golfer. Lots behind the green are popular for long views and relative safety, but green features tend to face away, reducing visual impact, unless the houses are more elevated.

Tee views also sell quickly, as freeform design and their landscaping, flowers and shrubs enhance views. Such landscaping must not detract from the accessibility or playability of the tees. More than other lots, houses adjacent to tees trade views for privacy, since teeing areas are usually closer to houses. Congregating foursomes and noisy carts can be too close for comfort. Adequate distance buffers – 150-200 feet wide near tees is preferred, but often reduced to save land – is the best way to maintain privacy.

Fairway areas often sell less quickly, especially if they are just broad expanses of grass. Fairway landing areas with aesthetic mowing patterns and high-contrast sand bunkers, cleverly canted towards housing lots for visibility, sell much more quickly. Fairway-flanking mounds which block adjacent home-site views kill sales almost as quickly as developers try to kill the golf course designers who create them!

It’s rarely possible to plant flowering shrubs in play areas, as golf balls get lost and the pace of play is reduced. Turf and high-branching trees in fairway areas make sense for both golfers and surrounding homeowners. Native areas and transition areas between holes can sell very slowly.

Water is even a better view provider than golf. Positioning lakes requires consideration of the irrigation and evaporation rates as well as their benefit to housing value. While lakes are beneficial to golf, they can also be used in other housing areas to amenitize more neighborhoods or lots.

Lots near the clubhouse and maintenance areas are often undesirable (although club condos can be popular near the clubhouse). So locating the maintenance areas within the interior of the golf course, or in a far corner, makes sense, as does screening it well.

For all its beauty, there are negative aspects of golf course living. Occasionally, we hear of homeowners bringing lawsuits against golf courses for inadequate safety, invasion of privacy, change of views, or detrimental views, use of chemicals, etc., when we would expect that all of those potential hazards are common knowledge. Who doesn’t know that golf courses are mowed early in the morning?

Many developments now spell out homeowners’ and golf course rights in the covenants to prevent such misunderstandings. However, this is still America, land of the free, and the “free to sue.”

Jeffrey D. Brauer and his firm, GolfScapes, have designed 40 golf courses and remodeled 80. Canterberry Golf Course in Parker, Colo., and Giants Ridge are rated among the best affordable public courses in the United States, while his Avocet Course at Wild Wing Plantation in Myrtle Beach, S.C., was a Golf Digest best new course winner, Champions Country Club is rated 5th in Nebraska and TangleRidge Golf Club is 12th in Texas. President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects during its 50th anniversary year in 1995-96, Brauer also designed Colbert Hills Golf Club at Kansas State, which opened in June 2000 as the cornerstone golf course for The First Tee program as well as the first collaboration between the PGA of America and Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. To contact Jeff, call him at 817-640-7275 or send him an email at jeff@jeffreydbrauer.com.