The renovation or restoration of a golf course is a drawn-out process that can take years to complete.
If done correctly, the club, owners or municipalities turn to architects, engineers and consultants to help them produce the best course possible while getting the utmost value for their money.
It’s easy for a golf course superintendent to get lost in a myriad of committees, sub-committees, ad-hoc committees, board meetings, town hall meetings and walk-throughs. It’s easy for the impact that alterations could have on course maintenance and the maintenance budget to be overlooked. Failure by superintendents to have a voice on design decisions can lead to significant maintenance issues later.
As clubs make design decisions based on such factors as playability, water consumption and the intent of the original architect, it is vital that superintendents make their voices heard and show they are more than just grass growers.
During the process, superintendents must establish a relationship with the person or committee that the architect, irrigation company and consultants directly report to. Then, get involved in the architect selection process. This might sound like I’m suggesting you have five wisdom teeth taken out without anesthesia, but it will pay off in the long run.
During the selection process, contact the superintendents that dealt with the architects your club is interviewing. See how they were treated. Some highprofile designers won’t even talk to superintendents directly, only through their site bosses. Also, find out how often the architect makes a site visit and how long he stays at the course. All too often crucial decisions for which the architect is being paid to make are made by others.
Also, and this could take some leg work, find out on what other projects the architect is working on, especially if you are at a course that is not considered high profile or the job isn’t highly lucrative.
I walked one course last year with a superintendent to peruse a bunker restoration project. The superintendent related how it was obvious the architect had little interest in his course since the designer had been hired for a prominent job that would bring him international acclaim. The architect, unfortunately, left much of the bunker designing to the construction company. The difference between the bunkers when the architect was occasionally on-site and the ones that were built without him there, but which he approved, is embarrassingly obvious.
Once an architect is hired and a master plan proposed, superintendents must review the plans as soon as they are available and see if the changes are something that can be maintained with the current equipment, budget and manpower. Even the addition of something as simple as a step cut has significant ramifications.
Also, create a relationship with the person from the construction company that is in charge of the job and meet with him regularly, especially if it is a project where the architect or his staff is on-site infrequently.
The fact is the construction company will be making important decisions and having a solid connection to the company will give the superintendent a better chance at having input.
On a more esoteric level, a superintendent can protect the club against architectural fraud by doing some historical research on the course. Many designers claim to be experts at restoring or updating the works of various long-deceased architects but only a few have the knowledge and skill to do it. Make sure that proposed updates fit into the timeframe of when the course was designed.
Whatever happens, superintendents should not trust an architect that claims to communicate with dead designers, but they should make sure any living person associated with a renovation or restoration hears their voices.