With many cities in China, India, the Americas and Europe expanding to ‘mega city’ size it is difficult to get the land required to build a full-standard, 18-hole golf course. The pressure on land has even seen existing golf courses within urban boundaries close to accommodate the expanding requirement for residential accommodation. – Phil Ryan
This does not necessarily mean the death of the full 18-hole golf course; it does however mean that if golf is to continue attracting participants the facilities for golf need to adapt to fit the needs. The enjoyment, challenge and even competition of golf can be recreated in smaller golf products designed to fit into the urban environment.
Pacific Coast Design has developed a number of what we call Golf Parks. These are normally a combination of between three to six par-3 golf holes (with complete path system), small club, a netted teaching area and a recreational putt-putt (mini golf) course.
The golf parks are normally associated with high-rise apartment areas and so need to be multi-use; by this we mean at certain times the golf is not played and residents use the facility to exercise by walking around the path. Normally, such alternative use is early morning and evening, and includes residents walking and or sitting on the grass, relaxing etc.
The golf park pictured is on a total area of 16,860 square metres (4.2 acres) and has all the ingredients of both a great golf training zone as well as a great introduction to golf for beginners.
Pitch & Putt
First played in Ireland from the 1940s this form of golf has a maximum total length for an 18-hole course of 1,200 metres (1,310 yards), each hole has a minimum length of 40 metres (44 yds) and a maximum length of 90 metres (98 yds). While Pitch & Putt is popular in Europe the restriction on the length of holes often does not provide the same variety that a larger par-3 golf course does for the regular golfer trying to tone up their golf game.
Players are allowed just three golf clubs, one of which must be a putter. There is an International Association for Pitch & Putt and also the European Pitch and Putt Association which conducts competitions.
The area required for an 18-hole Pitch & Putt depends on the elevations across the land (contours) but on average is between 54,611 square metres area and 80,940 square metres area.
Par-3 Golf Courses
Pacific Coast Design has also developed a range of par-3 golf courses which range in area from 65,800 square metres (16.25 acres) to 141,645 square metres (35 acres).
The design and range for a par-3 golf course is only limited by imagination and the site. Some of our favourites have been: The Bangkok Golf (Bangkok, Thailand) Par-3 done in 1998 which recreates nine famous par-3 golf holes from some of the great golf courses around the world. Imagine playing hole 7 at Pebble Beach, then hole 12 at Augusta, then onto hole 11 at St Andrews. Obviously the par-3 is not an exact copy as we cannot replicate the actual site conditions of each hole. However, the golf holes are remarkably close and do give a realistic simulation of both the shot values and layout of these holes. The par-3 course is under lights and has proven very popular with juniors as well as businessmen. A unique feature of the course is that every day there is a hole-in-one ‘jackpot’ where golfers pay an additional 50 baht (US$2) to enter and the caddie (aided by CCTV) has to certify any hole in one. The money builds up until a golfer wins it – it has been known grow to near 200,000 baht (US$6,500).
The exciting, nine-hole Blue Ridge Par-3 sits inside a ring of multi-storey residential apartment buildings in Pune, India. In the middle of the course there is a Golf Academy/Driving Range which also doubles as a party lawn, an excellent multi-use option for non-golf revenue where in India there can often be 1,000 people at a wedding. As with the Golf Parks, this Par-3 also is closed during certain times to allow residents to use the course for exercise and relaxation. Viewed above from the apartments on level 25 the lakes, bunkers and golf make a very special landscape statement and are highlighted at night with both path bollard lighting and lake-fountain lighting.
The Blue Ridge Club facility is also multi-functional as it serves as a community centre, restaurant, bar, gym, spa and multiple other non-golf recreational opportunities.
Many traditional golf courses are treated as “sacred”, with only golfers who pay to use the course allowed on and also strict rules governing conduct of people on the golf course.
Blue Ridge and other similar Par-3/Golf Park courses often take up a lot of the designated open space in these new urban environments and so have to adopt new rules to allow both golfer and non-golfer to enjoy the community open space. Therefore an important part of the design for such a facility is traffic management, water features, lighting and landscape. PCD has found that once the community has access to the golf zone they do respect the area as their own and generally obey the rules of staying off the main golf features such as bunkers and greens. All other areas are normally open to the non-golfers during the hours designated to them.
This means that modern urban golf courses may sit side by side with exercise stations along the golf cart paths and family fishing in the golf lakes. The more relaxed par-3 environment acts as a feeder system to introduce young people into the more-traditional, larger golf courses whilst still providing an excellent short-game training ground for existing golfers.
Different, non-traditional… yes – but also a lot of fun and this form of community golf should play an important role in future residential urban projects.
Speaking of fun, the latest Par-3 done by PCD is the ‘Dragons Breath’ course, a worthy addition to the already very successful 18-hole championship golf course at Black Mountain in Hua Hin, Thailand.
Opened in November 2011, the golf course is already attracting a full field most days of the week in this popular destination for both Thai and foreign golfing tourists. This type of Par-3 is subtly different from the urban style as it caters more to the serious golfer who is on holiday and provides the fun factor to balance the full International 18-hole championship golf experience.
The 1301-yard, nine-hole course is laid out along the entry road into Black Mountain with villas on the three other sides. The design uses a central lake system to create holes that really test the short game of any golfer. There are varied forms of bunkering, including deep pot bunkers, timber-wall bunkers – and even a bunker in the middle of the 8th green (we must admit… a first for PCD). The design of the greens allow for varied pin placements to be able to balance the difficulty factor for daily set-up, good undulations and excellent ultradwarf bermuda turf grass surfaces. There is even an artificial teeing mat on the roof of the small clubhouse for use during special charity golf events.
The site planning and golf design of these smaller golf products is in many ways even more important than their larger 18-hole cousins. To work properly the golf has to address the marketing and social needs of the urban environment, or in the case of the Dragons Breath Par-3, both urban (villas) and resort guest requirements. Such designs, often within large multi-storey residential apartment projects, also have critical safety and traffic management parameters. The design of urban golf products should also keep in mind the importance of landscape within the design, as the golf zone is often the largest open space environment within the project and visual amenity will be very important to both sales of residential as well as ongoing resident enjoyment.
The other critical factor in the success of these smaller golf products are the way they are constructed. These golf courses are smaller and have a more intense usage than the larger golf courses; the urban courses often have significant shade and air-flow issues which adversely affect the grass; and lastly they are under continuous visual scrutiny by residents. These factors mean that good maintenance is important for project success – and good maintenance starts with good construction.
Specifications for the smaller golf products should be to accepted international standards, with correct selection of materials, good drainage and irrigation and a quality construction program. Longer-term successful developers know that investing in good quality gives a good return, while trying to save money in unwise ways only leads to failure and often having to spend even more money to rectify the situation or redeem a reputation.
PCD have designed numerous award-winning championship golf courses across Asia but we still get a great deal of satisfaction in seeing the smaller golf products designed by our team being a part of a successful new urban project.