golf course design
53. Golf course design is a specialist subject and expert advice could assist developers and planning authorities when new courses are being proposed. This section sets out some of the important siting and design matters that have to be addressed.
Siting and Maintenance
54. The existing landscape of the site and its surroundings will be the starting point for course design. The principle of a golf course and any associated development should be examined at this stage. Often the task will be to merge the course into the landscape, particularly where it is already of a high quality. As a result prominent or exposed sites on high ground or for example on islands, by the coast or on sites with an upland backdrop may need careful attention. In some cases however it will be possible to enhance both the on-site environment and that of the adjoining property.
55. Degraded landscapes particularly in urban areas, on the urban fringe and on land previously damaged by mineral or other workings may benefit from the environmental enhancement of a golf course. There are good examples on a former landfill site at Gartlea in Airdrie and on land recovered from colliery bings at Dora by Cowdenbeath and in Blantyre. Where a golf course has enhanced the local environment there may be scope for extending the benefits through further improvement schemes or using the amenity value of the course to attract other development. The development plan can indicate the opportunities taking into account overall environmental quality and the existing business and industrial land supply.
56. The plans for a course will show whether the design will be expensive to construct. Clearly if extensive earth moving is needed to create a new landform or water feature, or if the design relies upon the planting of mature or semi-mature trees, the construction costs are going to be relatively high. These costs may be reflected in the scale of related development associated with the golf course itself. In these circumstances a simplified design might reduce or remove entirely the need for related development.
57. A par-72 course should be about 5,500m-5,800m long with two equally balanced 9-hole loops depending on site constraints. Tournament play generally requires 6,l00m. Eighteen-hole courses typically cover 50-70 hectares; more where historic designed landscapes are used. 9-hole courses covering 20-30 hectares with a shorter playing time can benefit new entrants to golf.
58. Wear and tear takes its toll on courses which are not designed for all seasons; even the Open courses take two years to recover from the event. Some grasses are more robust than others on fairways and particularly on greens. While this is a detailed design matter, care of the course as a whole, which may contain rare plant communities or wildlife, ultimately lies with greenkeepers whose skills can run hand-in-glove with good conservation.
59. Coastal erosion on links courses subject to storm action has prompted some clubs as far apart as Royal Dornoch, Nairn, Elie, Turnberry and Southerness to take steps to stabilise dunes in order to protect greens and fairways. Planning authorities should consider very carefully the long term consequences of siting new courses in similar areas. The need for sea defences may alter local landscape or ecology to an unacceptable degree and be costly to maintain. Saline water tables may cause difficulty in establishing new coastal golf courses.
60. An essential quality of the early Scottish courses was that they took advantage of the natural features of the landscape. Links, parkland and moorland courses all feature natural hazards such as dunes, drumlins, moraines, tree clumps and rough ground cover. Proposals for any new golf courses in such areas should demonstrate that the landscape will not be adversely affected to an unacceptable degree.
61. Course design should show an understanding of the local landscape character, cultural heritage, nature and geological conservation and the opportunities for habitat creation and informal recreational use. There is considerable scope for choice in the placing and design of club houses and maintenance buildings within the 50 or more hectares a new course may occupy. On driving ranges the scope may not be so wide and the selection of the whole site may be just as important as the location of any associated buildings. Certain aspects of PAN 36: Siting and Design of New Housing in the Countryside and PAN 39: Farm and Forestry Buildings may be appropriate to the siting and design of some of those new buildings. Since the buildings may form the focus for holes 1, 9,10 and 18 they can be the key to overall course design.
62. Layout design should be based on a thorough survey and analysis of the selected site, including its ecology, archaeology and landscape history. A survey (which may contribute to an environmental statement) can indicate where tees may be constructed without the need for terraces; where they can be placed to minimise impact and how fairways might be kept within existing internal boundaries such as hedgerows and dykes. Artificial water hazards can be constructed in the less prominent parts of a site.
63. Lower investment in earthworking and planting can reduce the level of maintenance including the application of pesticides and fertilizers and help to minimise visual impact. Areas of existing native woodland, shrubbery, gorse and heather can form the basis for "roughs" augmented by indigenous planting where required. A management plan for the golf course should address long term objectives for the conservation of the natural heritage as well as daily maintenance issues. Advice on integrated management planning for landscape, nature conservation and heritage issues on golf courses is provided in "Golf's Natural Heritage", published in 1993 by SNH.
Cultural Heritage and Historic Landscapes
64. Considerable care in design and layout is required to avoid eroding the historic setting of listed buildings or scheduled monuments with for example associated development or large car parks. Experience has shown that the context of buildings and gardens and the pastoral character of many historic designed landscapes is difficult to reconcile with the contrast of new planting, rough and fairway which a golf course may require. In some cases planning authorities may conclude that the cultural value of a building, monument, or parkland outweighs the advantages of a golf course proposal.
65. Where it is considered that a golf development can be accommodated in an historic landscape or can include and re-use an historic building, planning conditions can ensure that ancillary development is properly phased in relation to the golf course and managed in the long term.
66. Historic Scotland and SNH are able to provide informal advice at an early stage to both planning authorities and developers. A detailed planning application is the best means of demonstrating that development can be accommodated on the proposed site in a manner which is sympathetic to the landscape or the setting of a listed building. Applications should demonstrate a thorough understanding of the site and its history and provide details of the scale and layout of the course including the extent and layout of any associated development. The extent of earthmoving and planting required will be important issues in the overall assessment of the effect of the development on the character and historic interest of the designed landscape and any listed buildings.
67. For sites included in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes (and the forthcoming update) or in other historic landscapes of known importance, planning applications for golf courses and associated development will require the most careful assessment by planning authorities. In general such developments should not be permitted in Inventory sites where a downgrading of historic landscape character or architectural quality would occur.
68. All construction activities associated with the development of golf courses which involve ground disturbance can have serious implications for archaeological remains. Such activities include earthmoving to create greens, bunkers and hazards, drainage, irrigation, tree planting, other landscaping, roads and tracks and the construction of any associated buildings. However golf courses can be created without disturbing archaeological remains provided these are identified before construction commences and the design suitably adapted. In order to identify any archaeological interest in a site and determine the best means to protect it advice should be sought at the outset from the appropriate Regional or Islands Archaeologist or from Historic Scotland. The National Monuments Record of Scotland maintained by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland is an additional source of information.
69. Where it has been agreed that archaeological remains are to be preserved it is important that their protection is secured throughout the lifetime of the golf course. This is particularly important where design or management changes involving ground disturbance are planned after the golf course has been established. The position and extent of protected remains should be accurately mapped in consultation with the archaeological authorities. Planning conditions or agreements may be necessary to ensure the long term protection of the archaeological heritage. Further information on the management of archaeological remains is contained in Historic Scotland's leaflet Managing Scotland's Archaeological Heritage.