Golf Course Design Fees

Are you planning to build or develop a golf course and need advice on design fees? This guide explains what is involved in calculating the fee of a golf course architect and what you can expect in terms of investment level for the design element of your development.

Types of projects

The types of projects undertaken by golf course architects can be categorised into three principle fields of activity:

  1. New build - the design of new golf courses and golfing facilities usually requiring planning permits, detailed design work, contractor selection, construction inspection, financial evaluations and payment approvals
  2. Renovation, restoration, reconstruction - owners and operators may require the services of a golf course architect to design a new golf course layout to renovate, restore or reconstruct existing golf facilities
  3. Consultancy – this commonly involves preparing feasibility studies, acting as an expert witness, establishing reports and advising individuals and organisations on a wide range of subjects pertinent to golf course design, construction and management.

Golf course design & consultancy fees

The investment you need to make in golf course design fees is usually calculated in one of three ways:

  1. Percentage fees – the percentage figure used to calculate the design fee is inversely proportional to the construction cost* - the higher the construction cost of the project the smaller the fee percentage. The technical complexity and extent of services provided, which varies from one project to another, also has a bearing on the percentage fee. As an example, a typical 18-hole golf course construction project would incur a fee scale of 8-12% of constructions costs, while a modest renovation project’s design fees could be 12-15% (fees do not include travel expenses for the architect).
    Percentage based fees are more usual in public authority projects. Many public authorities in Europe commission design work based on a regional or national, pre-determined guideline, fee scale. In many cases these fee scales are derived from those used by building and landscape architects, consultant engineers or other construction industry professionals and are calculated as a percentage of the construction costs of the project.
    Some private clients fear there is a conflict of interest using percentage fees and claim that the architect has a vested interest in increasing the costs of the project in order to increase his fee income. If this is the case, fixed fees may be negotiated.
  2. Fixed fees - every golf course design project is unique in its scale, the services required and those available from the architect. Many architects negotiate a fixed fee based on predefined and agreed service requirements (see chart below) and adapt the fee when zoning by-laws can be quickly modified and planning permits easily obtained.
    Fixed price fees are generally applied for many types of consultancy work, particularly for golf course appraisals, feasibility studies and reports and may be negotiated on the basis of a percentage of the estimated construction cost at planning stage. Typical fixed fees for an 18-hole project would be in the range of 8- 12%, excluding travel expenses. Variables that may affect a fixed price contract include: planning permits studies, financial appraisals, feasibility and technical studies, contractor selection and supervision, the frequency and number of site visits and travel expenses.
    Private developers, commercial operators and members clubs tend to prefer fixed price fees as they enable the design fees to be capped.
  3. Time rates – a project may require a golf course architect to visit a site, give advice, attend meetings which have not been included in other fee proposals, or carry out additional design work not specifically included in the original contract. If extra services are requested, whose fees cannot be calculated prior to carrying out the task, or services required are difficult to define, a time rate is applied.
    Time Rates may vary and be broken down into different rates for work carried out by different members of a design team, for example, secretarial, administrative, technical or work done by the principal designer. Time rates may be billed by the hour (for design office work) or by the day (for site visits).

Depending on the project and nature of service delivered, your golf course architect may propose a combination of fee calculation methods. For example, percentage fees for stages up to and including detailed design, a fixed price fee during the construction phase and time rates for the planning approval phase.

Golf course design fees stage payments

Schedule of Services

Download PDF:
Schedule of Services

Each golf course architect will have his/her own schedule which will be agreed with you. The contract may be broken down into stages which are reflected in a payment schedule (the letters relate to the Schedule of Services – click on the icon to download).

Design Phase:
Appointment of Architect (*A)
Feasibility and Routing (*B)
Design & Planning Permits (*C)
Specifications and Tendering (*D)

Construction Phase (*E):
Appointment of Contractor
"Grow In"

The table below shows a typical breakdown of payment stages showing the range of variation that may be experienced within each phase of the project.

Phase* Detail Typical % of Contract value Possible Range %
Signature of Contact 10 5-15
(A) Preliminary 5 5-15
(B) Feasibility, & Outline Layout Plan 10 7,5-15
(C) Planning Permit & Detailed Design 30 25-30
(D) Specifications, Bills of Quantities 5 5-15
(E) Project Inspection and Construction 40 30-50
* Letters refer to the Schedule of Services breakdown below.

Site visits and expenses

Your golf course architect will need to visit the site frequently in order to keep the development on track. Whether this is daily, weekly or monthly depends on a number of factors, including: permit requirements, size of budget, technical complexity, location, scale of project, precise conditions of contract, your own requirements, the presence of full-time project management staff and other experienced personnel, and the normal working practices of your architect.

The architect’s travel expenses (transport and accommodation, etc) do not usually form part of the design fees and are payable in addition.

Quality of service

The golf course architect you choose to work with is the dominant factor in the level of design fee you need to invest in. Their fee reflects the extent of their expertise, service and current workload. Engaging the services of an EIGCA member gives you a high level of confidence in the quality of service and expertise you will receive. Search our member database to find a member to take your golf course development from concept to completion with minimal fuss and unnecessary cost overruns.

* Golf course construction costs are notoriously difficult to define. Clients may have one vision of costs, the architect and contractor may have a different one. A golf course project may include infrastructure, maintenance equipment and buildings, club house, driving range (equipment, fencing and shelters), assorted legal, design and surveyor fees, etc. For the purposes of this guidance "construction costs" are defined by the work designed and specified by the golf course architect in his/her construction documents used for tender, and any other works that may fall under his/her supervision and responsibility

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