Golf Course Designer Career Facts

Golf course designers work in an advanced and demanding area of landscape design. This is a big money industry, and the competition can be savage. Successful golf course designers are the superstars of their industry.

The Career Path

Golf course designers start as fully qualified landscape architects. That training gives a thorough insight into many of the technical issues in planning a golf course. Generally speaking, they work as assistants to professional golf course designers, learning the demands and the business elements in providing venues for one of the world's most popular games.

Those beautifully landscaped greens, roughs, and water features don't just happen by themselves. A golf course designer has to work with the land provided, and that can be a serious challenge.

The knowledge base required includes:

  • Topography
  • Survey
  • Drainage
  • Water feature design
  • Course maintenance issues in design
  • Erosion
  • Trees and related issues
  • Approach clearance and related issues
  • Best practice land management

Each of these issues can be a problem, sometimes an expensive problem. These are often critical construction issues, and landscaping can involve some design difficulties which are neither simple nor good business for professional designers if things go wrong.  

A very high level of competence and above all experience can be required in doing a basic golf course design. Golf course designers use proven construction methods to set up their courses at every stage. These design contracts can be worth millions of dollars, and mistakes are not appreciated. 

Design also has to feature the famous hazards and demands of the game, everything from the difficult approaches to the roughs and the immaculate greens. The golf course designer must have a good grasp of the needs of the game, particularly at the professional and senior player level. A golf course's reputation, and therefore its business, rests on design and playability.

The Golf Course Design Business 

The business element is the other component of the career path. The golf course designer has to deal with both highly experienced competition and a very tough commercial industry, in the form of the golfing industry. Golf course quality is a primary commercial concern of all golf clubs and associations. The design contracts aren't regular or easy to get, and neither are jobs in golf course design, for that reason. Experience is often a deciding factor at all professional levels, and a good design reputation is priceless.

At expert level, designers have achieved the level of career progression required for real achievements in their profession. At this point, both the opportunity for real design creativity and good business opportunities are part of the career track. This is where the talent and inspiration run wild, and it's where the fantastic designs of some golf courses are born.

Another element, the opportunity to train golf course designers, is also part of the upper levels of the profession. This is a highly selective process, and as a senior designer, you'll probably have a sense of déjà vu.

A further tier of the career, common among established golf course designers, is the consultancy role. This is a particularly important element of the business, serving the golf industry with technical advice regarding all elements of design and construction.