Golf Course Renovation 101

By Phillips, Hal | Parks & Recreation, June 1999 | Go to article overview

Golf Course Renovation 101


Phillips, Hal, Parks & Recreation


Course renovation brings convergence of industry trends

In late 1998, when Lohmann Golf Designs signed a long-term agreement with the city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to renovate and potentially expand its four municipally owned course facilities, one trend was born and two more gathered momentum.

While it's not at all uncommon for golf course operators to secure long-term, multicourse management contracts with specific municipalities, LGD's design partnership with Cedar Rapids is the first of its kind. Over the course of a 10-year masterplan agreement, Marengo, Ill.-based LGD will fully and methodically refurbish the city's three 18-hole golf courses -- Ellis Park, Twin Pines, and Squaw Creek -- in addition to its nine-hole track, Jones Park Golf Course. Design planning is underway and should be completed this winter; actual construction will commence in the fall, according to LGD founder and president Bob Lohmann.

Depending on the rate of golf's near-term growth in Cedar Rapids, LGD may add nine holes each to Jones Park and Squaw Creek, said Lohmann, whose term as president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects expired in March. Golf's growth in Cedar Rapids will also determine whether LGD will design a brand new 18-hole course on the city's north side.

"Demand is certainly growing out here," vouched Tom Lavrenz, director of golf for Cedar Rapids, a city of 120,000 located in east-central Iowa. "Our junior golf program has gone from 88 students to more than 400, and our junior golf passes have skyrocketed ... The golf courses we operate now do about 200,000 rounds a year. Two were built in the 1930s, while the others were built in the late '50s, early '60s. They need help."

While groundbreaking, entrusting this sort of wholesale renovation to a single design firm is illustrative of two established national trends that influenced the city's decision to renovate Ellis Park, Twin Pines, Squaw Creek, and Jones Park. First, while golf participation may not be growing at a rate desirable by the club manufacturers, it has grown enough to overburden older municipal layouts like those in Cedar Rapids. It follows that any course constructed before 1960 will require modernization in order to withstand significant play increases.

Second, as the golf industry continues to churn out the equivalent of 300 new 18-hole courses each year -- 85 percent of which are upscale daily-fees -- market pressures have obliged some municipalities to upgrade their golf facilities to effectively compete for rounds.

"We see this all over the Midwest. And my term as president of ASGCA has shown me this phenomenon isn't limited to a single region," said Lohmann, who cited proposed municipal renovations and expansions in Noblesville, Ind. (Fox Prairie); Dallas (Tenison Park); Los Angeles (Rancho Park); Naco, Ariz. (Turquoise Valley); and Berlin, Conn. (Timberlin Park). "It's happening all across the nation, especially in densely populated markets where new daily-fees are coming on line hand over fist.

"Golfers have never enjoyed more play options than they enjoy today," he continued. "Obviously, this is good news for golfers, but sophisticated cities and towns have seen the handwriting on the wall. They recognize that municipal courses are significant revenue-producers. They also recognize they can't afford to stand idly by and watch their rounds and revenues go elsewhere -- mainly to these new daily-fees down the street. Municipal courses have a sort of built-in clientele, and renovation is a cost-effective way to keep those clients coming back."

"We have a couple different options when it comes to how our renovation master plan will unfold," Lavrenz explained. "We're not yet sure whether we'll spread the work over 10 years, or do it over a shorter period of time. Those decisions will hinge on the dependent cost of our plans. One thing is certain though: Golf is growing here, and we have to bring these courses to the next level. …

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