Golf Course Designer  What They Do

Just the Facts

Landscape Architects Career Video

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dotDo you love golf and have your own idea about how the "perfect" course should play? Why not design golf courses? Golf course designers create lush, beautiful and challenging courses that blend perfectly with the natural surroundings.

Successful golf course architects have a broad background in landscaping. They need skills in engineering, landscape architecture, cost estimation, chemistry, agronomy (soil fertilization) and turf grass. Of course, they also understand and enjoy golf!

dotCourse designers visit a prospective site and analyze its soil, climate and land slope. Then computer-aided drafting (CAD) is used to create the course design. Designers work with structural engineers, architects, civil engineers and environmental scientists.

"Job duties are to visit a potential site [150 acres of raw land], analyze the conditions, design a plan for 18 holes of golf and its related facilities, prepare construction drawings, and oversee construction," says designer Lorrie Viola.

dotGolf course designers split their time between the beautiful outdoors and the office. Successful designers must travel where the courses and clients are, and projects could be in the same city or a different country. Golf courses have been built in Thailand, Australia and Alaska!

"For me, travel is quite sporadic. Perhaps one week a month out of state and one time per week within driving distance to a site or potential site," says Viola.

dotA designer's busy day can include creating designs and models, client meetings, cost estimates and research. Outside of the occasional paper cut or smashed finger, it's a hazard-free career.

"Hidden hazards are just the bugs and insects from outdoors. Other than that, keep out of the way of bulldozers. They can make you kind of flat!" says Steven Halberg, president of a golf course architecture firm.

dotA typical week runs from 40 hours to a whopping 50 to 60 hours. Self-employed designers may work longer hours to meet construction or design deadlines. "As owners, we need to do whatever it takes to get the work done. That means weekends, evenings and even all-nighters. That is the price to pay when you own the shop," says Halberg.

dotCourse designers need to be computer savvy and comfortable with CAD, other drafting tools, measuring devices and cameras. "We use computers, computers, computers! We use a CAD program for computer-aided drafting. We also use spreadsheet programs, a word-processing program, copiers, and the Internet for research purposes," says Halberg.

At a Glance

Landscape lush and wonderful courses worldwide

  • Golf course design is extremely competitive
  • You have to know computers to design greens
  • Education: landscape architecture, civil engineering or soil science