Guide for developers - How to build a golf course

Top of the list for any potential golf course developer should be the engagement of a golf course architect (search the EIGCA member database). Your golf course architect will lead your development from concept to completion and ease any bumps along the way, helping to avoid the project becoming unnecessarily complicated, drawn out and expensive.

We have written this guide on how to build a golf course to help you through the process. The specific roles of the golf course architect in making your site a course everyone will want to play are highlighted and at the end are some tips on how to select a golf course architect and the cost of building a golf course.

Feasibility Studies

From concept to completion, your golf course architect will lead your development

  • Technical – is the site you are considering suitable for a golf course? A golf course architect will examine the physical elements of the site, such as land area, topography, soils, geology, vegetation, drainage and water availability. They will also examine other restraints, such as legal and environmental restrictions surrounding use of the land, the local infrastructure and location of services, plus identify potential conflicts or safety issues.
  • Market – is there a market need for your golf course? Will your course fulfil market requirements, locally and potentially internationally? What demand is there and how can you satisfy this to best ensure long term success? Your golf course architect can help with this and advise on specialist research groups to carry out this study

Design Concept

Your golf course architect will assess design opportunities and restraints and review site surveys (see common limitations below). They combine these with your objectives and vision for a successful course to create a design concept which shows potential locations of all the major elements of the project.

Common limitations - the common limitations which restrict golf course development are:

  • Steep slopes – these often lead to extensive earthworks to make them suitable
  • Flat sites – these may require considerable earth movement to facilitate surface drainage and to create fill material to build features
  • Rock or poor soil conditions
  • Lack of suitable water
  • The need to conserve important natural habitats and public rights of ways

The ideal site has gently undulating landforms which can form natural locations for greens, tees and fairways.


Once the feasibility studies are complete, the Masterplan investigates how the design concept will convert into a course people are able to play on and enjoy. This is the stage when the golf course layout, including locations for the clubhouse and maintenance facilities, the playing surfaces and landscape character, location, style and size of features, e.g. lakes, streams, walls, bridges and pathways, will be prepared along with construction programmes and budgets.

The masterplan should be developed by a project team, which is usually led by the golf course architect and typically includes some or all of these specialisms:

Your golf course architect will provide a detailed design package to reflect local planning submission requirements and ease the planning process

  • Land Planner
  • Building Architect
  • Civil Engineer
  • Irrigation Designer
  • Landscape Architect
  • Ecologist
  • Planning Consultant

Planning Approval

Planning requirements differ greatly from one country to another and obtaining planning permission can be burdensome and lengthy. Your golf course architect will provide a detailed design package to reflect local planning submission requirements and make the planning process easier. Your golf course architect will also assist with the preparation of an Environmental Impact Assessment should it be required.


Your golf course architect will prepare detailed documentation, including contracts, plans and specifications to allow the project to be tendered. If you need them to, they will also assist in evaluating tender responses and select the best contractors for you.

The documentation may include plans for:

  • Grading
  • Drainage
  • Clearing
  • Irrigation
  • Grassing / landscaping
  • Green / tees / bunkers
  • Construction
  • Specifications and Bill of Quantities

Golf course construction

As your golf course architect understands all elements of the build and will be your project leader, they will assist in developing an accurate construction programme. Part of their role is to regularly visit the site during construction to ensure the course is built according to the contract documents and agreed timetable.


At this point in the development, your golf course will nearly be ready for play, leaving just the final details before it can open. Your golf course architect will mark out mowing lines for the greens, fairways and roughs, and sand lines for the bunkers. The final stage of making their design a reality is to establish a maintenance regime with the course superintendent to create the overall course character.

Selecting a golf course architect

  • Do you want to do your own research into suitable golf course architects and approach them direct? Search the EIGCA member database to find an EIGCA member who fits your needs
  • Do you want the EIGCA to do the legwork for you? Use our Member Referral Service by sending a brief to us and we will distribute it to our members on your behalf
  • Do you want to organise a design competition? Find out how by using our competition guidelines

All EIGCA members are bound by a code of professional conduct and practice.

Cost of building a golf course

Golf course design fees are dependent on a variety of factors, such as the type and scale of the project, its technical complexity, the planning approval process, the working practices of the individual golf course architect and the services and conditions imposed by clients. Fees are usually calculated in one of three ways:

  1. As a percentage of the construction costs
  2. A fixed price
  3. A time rate

To understand more about the amount you will need to invest in engaging a golf course architect, read our advice on golf course design fees.

Affordable Golf Facility Development

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Golf Course Design
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