By Mike Besack
Spending $3 million or $4 million on an attractive executive golf course instead of $9 million and up on a lengthy 18-hole championship course seems to be becoming a more viable option for some developers. That’s the impression of several architects who see signs that shorter, user-friendly courses are more important to golfers than championship-length links.
Steve Burns of Burns Golf Design believes the golf industry has suffered as a result of overbuilding and overspending on courses over the past few years. Burns is beginning to field more and more questions from developers about designing shorter courses. He is currently developing his first executive layout, Charles Pointe in West Virginia, with Genesis Partners. Genesis hopes to someday host a tournament at the course, so Burns is designing a 7,000-yard layout. However, Burns is also creating an executive course. Construction is slated for next spring and an opening is scheduled for 2006.
Pulte Homes VP of Golf Henry Delozier is always considering options like par 3s and executive courses, although the company typically goes long to appeal to its targeted active-adult home buyer. Still, the company has been getting fewer calls for courses longer than 7,000 yards, and more for links topping out at 6,400 from the back tees.
Architect Ron Cutlip is seeing more interest for 6,000-yard courses – about the minimum that the USGA allows. Aside from cutting land costs with a shorter course, Cutlip believes some of the flair of a course is lost when players speed around in a cart. He feels more people are willing to walk during a round of golf – but not on a 7,500-yard course.
Cutlip is refurbishing Ramsey Golf and Country Club in Ramsey, N.J., which squeezes about 6,000 yards of golf into only about 68 acres.