Golf course design : reclaiming strategic design and providing community greenspace

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McNerney, Brian P.
Spangler, Ronald L.
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Thesis (B.L.A.)
College of Architecture and Planning
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A vast majority of golf courses in the United States provide open space for golfers only. The US has more than 17,000 golf courses, roughly equaling the area of Delaware and Rhode Island combined (source). The game of golf has moved away from traditional strategic design to various other styles that promote unnecessary club and ball technology and course length. The shear amount of land being consumed by golf courses appears to be too great, considering they only serve as open space for 25.4 million Americans, which is the number of Americans 18 years or older who have played a round in the past 12 months ( As a landscape designer, these factors pose many challenges, but provide an opportunity to provide multi-use open space for a broader community, and refer back to strategic design theory to strengthen the tradition of the game. Landscape Architects have been present on golf course design teams for most of the 20", century, particularly since the 1950's. This study attempts to understand principles of successful open space design and merge them with golf course design. Several model projects including the old course at St. Andrews, Scotland and the Campen Course at Purdue University will aid in demonstrating aspects of successful golf course design.The project site, Riverside Golf Course, in Indianapolis, Indiana is a 150 acre, 18 hole golf course leased by the city of Indianapolis to RN Thompson Golf Company. Riverside is north of 30`h street and on the west side of the White River. The White River Greenway is also adjacent to the east. The golf course is a basic "freeway" design with little topographic character other than the ridgeline that leads to the last four holes.The masterplan for Riverside Golf Course is intended to meet three goals. The first, improve the course layout through principles of strategic golf course design. The second is to provide opportunities for active and passive recreation in harmony with golf activity. Also, the masterplan attempts to improve site facilities function and appearance. The proposed site includes a new course layout, but attempts to utilize as many existing site features as possible to minimize environmental impacts. Strategic design principles are apparent on every hole including the new par four eighteenth hole, which provides a great finish and a great view from the clubhouse. The clubhouse and surrounding area attempts to organize the golfing experience so golfers are treated to great views and easy movement from their cars to the first tee. The clubhouse features a pro shop, snack bar, meeting hall and second level restaurant. The maintenance area has been consolidated and screened from the view of patrons. Riverside will also be a place for activity during the winter with "sledding on the 13'''" and cross-country skiing on the cart paths and on-site trails. A lookout tower with access from the White River Greenway is located in a woodland area that provides great views and a harmonious separation between pedestrians and golfers.