I started writing this column a decade ago with the hope it would lead to renovation commissions. While there’s “street cred” attributable to this magazine, only a few commissions have resulted. What has happened, at a ratio of over 10 to 1, are calls for free advice. While I’m glad my columns have impact, they can’t substitute for the work your green committee and/or architect, superintendent or consulting agronomists have put in to your unique problems.
Nor can I offer good advice from a distance. Much like doctors who insist on an office visit for my October allergies, I would need to see it first hand to diagnose ills and give good architectural advice, especially when some differences of opinion possible revolve around club politics. As an architect, I’ve been in the middle of some contentious renovations and have seen small factions of club memberships try to call in another architect for a “second opinion.” It rarely helps solve the problem.
In one case, dissenting club members cited one of my earliest articles to support the proposition of minimal change without any major re-routing of the existing course. They presented it as “proof from an expert who says you should never re-route your golf course.” After the architect, pro re-routing and pro no-change factions of the club contacted me, I re-read my article. I wrote that remodels without re-routing are generally less expensive than those that involve massive re-routing. While true, I did not say, however, that it was always the right thing to do.
The premise of that article was re-routing precludes saving many trees and any infrastructure, which is where the cost savings are. However, once analysis reveals (as it did at this club) that a course has major (and long deferred) infrastructure needs, and the master plan calls for totally new irrigation system, cart paths, and drainage, your big-ticket items are going to be replaced anyway. There are fewer savings to be had, and re-routing doesn’t add as much to the total cost, and can potentially yield substantially better results.
When I wrote that article, I had just secured a major renovation commission by virtue of a bigger name architect proposing a total re-routing while my proposal saved several holes, trees and money, winning me the job. No doubt, that affected my writing. However, problems like slice side safety, lack of length, some poor holes and/or no range can often only be solved with re-routing. It is almost always worth studying, at least as an option. My standard practice in master plans is to review any potential routing changes at the very beginning. Many of my renovations have had some re-routing, and a few were total re-routes.
In discussing this with all parties, via email and phone, I found the consulting architect at this club had 10 preliminary plans, from no re-routing up to the total reconfiguration for the club to consider, and the committee picked one of the re-routing plans.
A few members believed re-routing, infrastructure rebuilding and major design enhancements were unneeded and expensive. It’s a legitimate concern, and very common among older members.
It is rare that architects (or egotistic greens chairman) needlessly blow up a golf course to put their “stamp” on it. All clubs have cost constraints, committee structure and democratic processes as checks and balances to such “golf course abuse,” but that appears to be what these gentleman in opposition to the project believed was happening.
Ironically, had the opposition read my next column, they would have seen there are right and a wrong ways (and times) to achieve a difficult consensus. And their way – bringing in random outside opinions after the final vote to move forward – is the wrong way.
The master plan is a process. If followed correctly, and transparently, (which seems to have been the case here) it’s hard to believe a conscientious green committee and qualified architect would “miss the mark” as these members believed. They interviewed several architects, hired one whose method fit their needs, had him perform a thorough course needs analysis, provide varying, multiple preliminary plans, collaboratively refined the best one, and then voted as a committee. When you go through that methodical process, what are the chances reasonable people are all going to go awry? Very small... and you most likely will have the best master plan possible, despite some differing opinions.
This club’s “opposition” also proposed band aids to postpone major infrastructure spending. They are quick, easy and cheap, but rarely solve major problems. If you need it, you need it and well thought out comprehensive projects work better, and in the long run usually cheaper, even if costing more up front.
Deep down, most people know this, and yet, it is very common to endorse poor or partial fixes to save money. Say yes to value engineering a good plan, but no to a bad plan that cost less.