Golf Course Designer Job (is it for Me?)

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Of all the jobs in the world of golf, that of a golf course designer is arguably the most sought after. Who wouldn’t want to travel the world, designing the most stunning and challenging golf courses?

But how do you land a job as a golf course designer? What skills and experience do you need to apply for a role with a leading firm?

In this article, we take an in-depth look into how to become a golf course designer and explain the steps you need to follow to land this dream job.

What is a Golf Course Designer?

A golf course designer is someone who plans, creates, and develops golf courses. It’s a specialist role that requires a high level of skill, as well as an understanding of the minutiae of golf. In fact, many of the best golf course designers are also elite golfers.

The role requires someone with knowledge of landscape architecture and a vision of how to transform a space into a challenging yet accessible golf course. Some designers work independently, while others partner with golf professionals to create stunning golf courses that they then add to their portfolio.

In the following sections, we explain what a golf course designer does and how you can train to become someone who creates beautiful golf courses.

What is a Golf Course Designer Called?

A golf course designer is also referred to as a golf course architect. In the United States, designers are represented by the American Society of Golf Course Architects, and the body represents former players and professional architects who have stepped into the golf industry.

The role of a golf course architect is highly skilled and complex. They require the vision to transform a barren or empty space into a fully functional golf course that is challenging, varied, and unique.

They then need to have the skill to turn their vision into reality, which isn’t something that everyone is capable of. That’s why most golf course designers have a degree and relevant experience in the field of architecture before trying their hand at golf course design.

So, you might hear the terms “golf course designer” and “golf course architect” used interchangeably, but they really just refer to the same position.

What Does a Golf Course Designer Do?

A golf course designer is responsible for planning and then creating a golf course. Some designers work from a blank canvas and transform disused spaces into golf courses, while others work on current golf courses and reshape them in line with their vision.

The primary role of a course designer is to sit down with the course developers and to create the best use of the space that you have been given. A golf course designer needs to think about how best to utilize the landscape while getting the most out of the natural contours of the land.

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Equally important are the additional hazards that the course designer plans to include on the course, with the likes of water bodies and sand traps playing a crucial element in all golf courses, no matter where they are.

The golf course designer will also have to think about the design of the clubhouse, pro shop, practice facilities, and all other facets of the golf course. In other words, the role is all-encompassing and demands a high level of skill and experience to get right.

What Skills Do You Need to Be a Golf Course Designer?

To be a golf course designer, you typically require a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture. But to really showcase your talents, it might even be necessary to complete a master’s degree in a relevant discipline to impress potential clients.

What’s more, you will also need to have sufficient experience in your field, with potential clients looking for golf course designers who have worked as part of design firms or teams in relevant fields.

After all, you’re not likely to be trusted to design a brand-new golf course if you don’t have previous experience in doing so. To acquire this experience, you can undertake an internship at a relevant design company and collaborate on various projects.

So, once you have your degree, accreditation, and some relevant experience in a design firm, you can start looking for golf design jobs in your area. Many will be entrusted to firms, while others will look to employ individuals on a contractual basis.

What is the Average Salary for A Golf Course Designer?

According to data from Zippia, the average salary for golf course designers is $54,685. However, as you become more experienced, there is ample opportunity to make significantly more than this, with six-figure salaries the norm.

As you progress in your career, you might even have the chance to establish your own golf course design firm. At this stage, you can work on huge contracts and earn a considerable amount of money for yourself and your business.

However, it takes time and experience to be able to go it alone in the industry, so you will need to work in various roles in firms before making a name for yourself.

Who is Considered the Best Golf Course Designer?

Legendary golfers like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Tom Watson are all considered to be among the best golf course designers out there. After all, their achievements on the course provide them with a unique insight into what makes a good golf course.

In fact, Nicklaus’ design company has been responsible for designing more than 300 golf courses in six countries, with many of the most prestigious US-based golf courses choosing Nicklaus as their designer.

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Another prominent golf course designer with an outstanding reputation is Pete Dye. Coming from a family of course designers, Pete has designed world-famous golf courses, including TPC Sawgrass, Whistling Straights, and The Ocean Course in South Carolina.

The Dye family has been responsible for many of the finest courses in the US and further afield, and you’ve almost certainly played – or watched a tournament – on a golf course that has been designed by Pete Dye or one of his relatives.

What are Some Reputable Golf Design Companies to Check Out?

If you’re looking to work for a golf course design company, there are many organizations that you can check out. Some of the most reputable include:

  • Arnold Palmer Design Company, Orlando, Florida
  • TGR Design, Jupiter, Florida
  • JMP Golf Design Group, Belmont, California
  • Nicklaus Design, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

As well as contacting these companies directly to seek out job opportunities in the field, it’s worth creating a profile on LinkedIn and other job boards to monitor the latest opportunities that arise in golf course design.

There are lots of opportunities out there as the world continues falling in love with golf, so you have a decent chance of finding a position within a firm if you have the required qualifications and skillset.

Are there Golf Course Design Schools for a Degree?

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a golf course designer, you will need to start by completing a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture. You can study for this degree at lots of universities in North America.

The course provides you with knowledge of the key aspects of golf course design, including site planning, engineering, environmental design, and mathematics. Securing a degree in landscape architecture shows potential firms that you have what it takes to design a golf course.

Following on from your bachelor’s degree, you can apply for a master’s at an accredited institution. Again, this will help to highlight your credentials to potential employers and clients and is a great option if you’re serious about making it as a golf course designer.

Once you have the relevant degrees, you can then start to look for internships and entry-level roles with golf course design firms, which will provide you with the perfect entry into this competitive yet extremely rewarding industry.

Conclusion

Working as a golf course designer is a dream job for so many people. After all, having the creative freedom to put together a stunning golf course is something that so many of us aspire to.

But it’s a competitive field to get into, so you need to make sure you have the right qualifications to succeed. As mentioned, you will need a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture, as well as sufficient golf knowledge to land a position within a firm.

Not only is a career in golf course design exciting, but it can also be lucrative as you work your way up the career ladder, so it’s undoubtedly worth considering if you’re passionate about golf.