The traditional approach to golf housing has been to line the fairways with as much housing as possible to maximise the bottom line. But is this approach as applicable and acceptable today as it has been for the last 20-odd years? Mathematics has often been the precursor to golf housing design, and formulated the initial number of desired villas. The sums were simple – 6,500 metres of golf, 25 metre-wide villa parcels times both sides of the fairway equals some 520 front line villas. Nice numbers, but they aren't achievable as it assumes that the entire length of both sides of the golf course is completely allocated to housing plots. In reality some land is likely to be unusable plus road crossings and the clubhouse area have to be taken into account.Most importantly, what does this do to the villa owner's sense of exclusivity – not to mention the golf experience? For a long time, the emphasis during the master planning project stage has been to create a mix of single and double-fairway routings. This was done to achieve as many front line golf villas as possible, all the while creating an acceptable golfing experience.
Undoubtedly, this approach has spawned outstanding golf residential developments all over the world, but with the increasing sophistication and expectations of developers and buyers, new approaches must be sought. There is a definite sense of 'sameness' pervading this type of development, with the planning being more or less the same no matter what continent or climatic region. It comes down to the architecture and the landscape to help differentiate one country's developments to another's.
While numerous studies have been carried out on the premiums achieved for front line villa plots, few talk about the advantages – if any – for the second and third lines of villas. This linear approach is more of an all or nothing result, with the golf frontage villas reaping all the benefits and often completely blocking the views from the rear plots.
An alternative approach is to study the traditional village and architectural styles of the local region – be it Europe, Africa or Asia. Taking design cues from these areas can lead to the use of more clustered housing forms which can lead to denser development parcels. This creates space so that residential parcels further back can see through to the golf course. The combination of villas with apartment or townhouse clusters breaks up the continuity and sets up a rhythm and offers more variation.
The results give a less constricting feel to both residents and golfers. Instead of looking straight across a single fairway into a house, a mix of linear villa plots and clusters can be designed to provide more oblique views up and down the fairways and thus provide more privacy.
The use of villa or apartment clusters creates a sense of community that is harder to achieve within linear developments. The use of short roads, courtyards and entry gates add to the urban design and fabric of a development. There are more opportunities for chance meetings with neighbours – something that is vital to the creation of any community.
Ultimately a balance between built and open space areas is sought for the various parties that make up a master planning stage of a development – the owner/developer, the golf course architect, the master planner, the architects and environmental and infrastructure engineers. It is the creative combinations and the interplay between these elements that provide the differentiating factor within and between developments.
Golf residential developments are here to stay for the foreseeable future, but it is important that they evolve as much as other types of developments.When compared to mixed-use or retail design, which have gone through huge changes as the components and their design have been refined, golf residential development design has remained relatively static. The components and design approaches are fundamentally the same as they were 15 years ago.
There are younger generations now who want to play golf and live comfortably but who don't want to give up an entire weekend day to play. Nor do they want a part of the golf establishment with its rules and codes. These generations have made a lot of money and are beginning to spend it on their housing and lifestyle. To capture this market, the fundamentals may need to be revisited – maybe even reinvented.