When your bunker project involves a remodeling or restoration approach, you’ll be considering many issues related to design. Whether you’ve got an older course or you’re considering upgrading course performance and aesthetics, one must understand that there are many approaches to design. Not all approaches will fit your course or your club’s culture.
This section is intended to provide a basic understanding for the design process and what results from it. Before engaging professional architectural services, it’s recommended that you create an internal planning and design team that can begin considering the aesthetic aspects of your course.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that golf course design can be a volatile topic within your organization and your membership/golfer base. You’ll need to acknowledge many points of view and carefully consider your options.
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When beginning the dialog with architectural firms, the conversation will quickly turn to the topic of Master Planning. Perhaps most critical in a course-wide perspective, master planning is a structure that allows facilities to organize, anticipate and execute every aspect of course maintenance and renovation.
Within the context of bunkers, master planning can shape ideas and actions for bunkers while considering the whole. With the considerable emphasis placed on bunkers in recent years (specifically with playability and maintenance), many facilities have chosen to prioritize bunkers as a separate plan. This is especially true when other course conditions and features have been properly addressed and a range of bunker problems exist.
Advantages of Professional Guidance – It’s important to reiterate the value professionals bring to your bunker planning efforts. Specific to design, recognized golf course architects have considerable knowledge regarding the history of the game and how architecture has shaped the game over the many years. This insight can provide immeasurable benefits to the ultimate success of your project.
Does Every Bunker Project require a Master Plan? – Quite simply, no. In many cases, minor remodeling projects or renovations only require that design be considered in terms of integrity and maintenance. Other factors that impact whether master planning is performed can include time, cost, and course condition. It’s important to point out that while master planning may not be performed, maintenance professionals should have a basic idea or list of objective that they follow over the years.
What a Master Plan Entails – When you consider master planning with bunkers in mind, the process helps consolidate your ideas and initiatives. It is an excellent method for informing your membership/golfer base about what you’ve got on your horizon and how it benefits the facility.
A bunker master plan helps frame the issues, puts bunkers in context with other course features and acts as a tool for change. It needs to be a fluid objective while also providing a structure for budgeting time, money, and materials.
A master plan will include illustrative drawings that reflect the architect’s intent and provide you with a conceptual idea of the finished product. Some architects will even provide their ideas (and alternatives) in photo-rendered sketches.
In its most basic form, master planning for bunkers can be a simple organization of thoughts from your course inventory/assessment (Part 1 of this Guide) that’s placed into a bulleted list. Master Planning is about general intent and is not about a strict, inflexible plan.
Your Planning and Design Team – To give your bunker project the best chance of being pursued, create an internal team that includes the club owner/manager, golf professional, golf course superintendent and a small representative group of your golfers/membership. Informal in nature, this team should be apprised of ideas and developments in the design process. When discussions and actions are required, people will have been kept in the loop and will be ready to put a context to the issues.
There are a considerable number of golf course architecture books that can be read for background. Being a golf course professional, you’ll also have impressions regarding design and what may make sense for your facility. You and your team should get familiar with design options and be open minded about possibilities and solutions for your bunker concerns.
Based on your course assessment and prioritized wish list (from Part 1 of this Guide), an architect will construct a preliminary design study and work with your internal team to determine a range of budget considerations. You’ll need to make important decisions on whether to perform particular changes and/or how the bunker project could be phased. What follows is a group of basic design components that you will need to consider when looking for these solutions.
Maintenance – Beyond any aesthetic concern, design needs to consider its impact to maintenance, specifically in terms of drainage performance and labor efficiency. Most bunker problems are caused by water and how water interacts with the mechanical/physical structures of the bunker. With today’s products and methods, finding the right balance between your renovation investment and labor savings is not difficult. You also need to view design in terms of longevity – using these products and methods to increase the life you’ll get out of the new bunkers.
Playability – You need to understand the flow of your course and avoid bottlenecks where possible. Designing to keep your range of players satisfied involves providing the right choices. You need to challenge the low handicapper while giving high handicapper an option for a safer alternative.
Shot Values – Linked to playability, bunker design needs to consider whether you’re taking a penal or strategic (risk/reward) approach. Bunker design should give the golfer a reasonable expectation of exiting the hazard without a penalty. Plan your bunkers so that enough reward exists to take bigger risks.
Aesthetics – Think about your course’s style and character. If you’re considering improvements to the aesthetic value of your course, changes should fit into the overall scheme that exists. Subtle changes in design can prove to be more successful than major, wholesale shifts is style.
Environmental – Bunker designs need to consider water use. Bunker mounding or grass facing can be a useful option, but you’ll need to review its potential impact on irrigation. With greater tightening of water use expected in the future, designs requiring increased use wouldn’t seem realistic.
There is no rule of thumb to consider when reviewing initial design ideas. Your internal team will need to carefully discuss design options and listen to all perspectives. An architect or designer can serve as a useful tool to reduce political pressure and get your team focused on a common set of objectives.
This stage of bunker planning is most important as it’s the time where your club’s intent will get formed into more precise design decisions. Take your time when evaluating the preliminary ideas. Architects expect these discussions and can help your team understand the implications of each design alternative.
Architects will include budget estimates for the bunker project with their initial designs. Based on more standardized costs, you’ll be able to begin thinking about your objectives as a cost/benefit analysis.
The consultation/change stage can actually involve several cycles. It will greatly depend on the culture of your organization and the ability of the architect to accurately interpret your objectives.
Once changes are presented and agreed to, an architect will create accurate, detailed construction plans that will be the basis for contractor bidding. There is a cost to change or adjust construction plans, so make sure everybody on your team is in agreement.
Beyond the more illustrative drawings, ideas, and plans presented initially or as a part of the Bunker Master Plan, construction documents are comprised of technical drawings (usually in AutoCAD format) and detailed construction instructions. Construction documents will detail items such as earthwork calculations, drainage mapping, liner applications, bunker shaping, irrigation diagrams, and grassing plans.
Included in the documents are general project conditions, specifications, and bid sheets.
The level of detail found in these documents allow for more accurate cost estimating and accounting while forming the basis of the contract with the selected contractor. In a bidding situation, they allow for a direct comparison of vendors and provide a framework for negotiating costs.It is useful to review the construction documents with the architect so that you have a line item understanding of the work. This will help you have greater control over managing the project and provide an additional level of contractor guidance during construction.
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