Golf Course Architecture - Issue 62: October 2020

57 increase in value. There have been a few exceptions to this rule where golf is the driving force, but these are few and far between and typically are either resort based or the uber- wealthy lover of golf creating and fulfilling a dream. These are great clients to have, ones we cherish and hope to have once in our career, but there are not many out there. “I think this is why we have seen a rise in the development of core golf courses – less land and less frontage – built in the last 10 years and less corridor golf – more land but much more frontage – being developed. Developers are willing to give up some frontage for less land used. When developers line fairways with house after house or a solid row of condos it takes away from the golf experience and typically developers are reluctant to give up the land to provide truly safe corridors for the golf. They tend to minimise the width and with today’s technology that width is antiquated. “Vegetation and topography play a huge role in what distance from housing is considered safe and in reality, nothing is 100 per cent safe as we know how golfers can hit the ball anywhere. But when the corridor is tight it makes golfers uncomfortable and therefore a negative experience and hence, the growing popularity of a core course. Some developers have embraced the idea that they will use less land and create a much better golf experience, thereby adding to the value of all homes because of the quality and reputation of the golf course rather than the quantity of golf frontage homes on a mediocre golf course.” Jason Straka suggests two themes that can improve the quality of development golf, without necessarily affecting its profitability. “Promote a walkable golf course,” he says. “Long connections between holes, through house lots, down roads, are awful. It totally prohibits walking in many cases, kills the experience and ruins the ambience of a place. Even with golf carts it takes more time. I fully understand the need for vehicular connections between some holes, but those can be done tactfully, without long walks. Keep or create environmentally rich golf courses. This usually means a themed development or selling lots with the understanding that the golf course will not just be a totally mown green lawn of irrigated turf. We’ve retrofitted courses as such but not all homeowners are on board. It’s easier to set the tone from the beginning.” American architect Drew Rogers, who has spent much of his career working on development courses especially in Florida, offers a conclusion that, perhaps, helps to explain why projects such as Cabot Saint Lucia are the exception to the rule. “It is really up to the developer – they have to be willing to sacrifice volume for quality. Golf courses need space for safety and strategic variety. When developers dictate or mandate maximum lot yields and frontage, that completely alters the golf experience. Most real estate developers truthfully don’t care much about the golf experience – their focus is selling lots and houses. The golf course tends to be an added investment that adds value and price to their product offering. As long as its green, they get what they want. And don’t forget, the developer is also looking to sell the club/course to the members once the real estate is sold, as they typically have no interest in managing things from that point forward. They don’t want to be in the golf business.” GCA The Old course has out of bounds on almost every hole, but is still a great playing experience because of the width created by holes that lie alongside each other Photo: St Andrews Links Trust