Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Features and topography before a first site visit

I am visiting a new client this week. The project is to rebuild a green complex later this year, and look at some tee options. The course is 60 years old and has several different styles throughout. 

Prior to my visit I was able to compile a Google aerial image and recreate all of the golf features - greens, tees, bunkers, ponds & fairway. This is probably the most accurate set of feature areas in the courses history. I can now easily calculate the square footage of each green, tee, bunker...

The superintendent also shared an available county topographic website, which I was also able to compile and chart. Above is the illustration I can bring to my first site visit to begin working on a specific problem and also start to work on a long term master improvement plan.

Every piece of information is now in one file and I will make any site visit notations or future design changes in this same file as well - everything will always stay associative.  Drainage, irrigation, earthwork, cart path or anything mapped via GPS.

As for the topo, the darker the brown the higher the elevation, the darker the grey, the lower. It is now easy to spot the valley along with the high and low spots throughout the course.

Research, facts and preparedness makes for a much easier site visit and better results.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Golf Course Economics by a factor of 28!

Sometimes we are asked how our methods are cost effective.  Our potential client may assume we cut corners or are over-estimating the benefits when we say we can complete a project for 30-50% less.  What would they think if we said we could perform a task for 4% of their planned budget.  They would certainly think we were nuts.

Here is the story.  A high end club has embarked on a bunker renovation.  They will be changing the bunker edge style and replacing the sand.  Why change the edge style?  To keep up with modern fashion I suppose, but it won't be long (5-10 years) before their changes are either out of fashion again, or the owners realize how much more these fancy new edges cost to maintain.  But I am not going to discuss maintenance costs, only capital costs today.

Listed below are the quantities and some estimates for this bunker project as compared to our imaginary one.  The Tonnage of sand is accurate.  One big difference the members of the high end club are anticipating is the color of the sand.  Their new sand will be white as snow.  This looks pretty and I can understand why some prefer this look.  Our sand is beige.  Their sand costs $100+ a ton, our sand costs $35 a ton.  Their sand gets transported across multiple state lines - gas is expensive.  Our sand is local.  The square footage number is calculated based on 4" of sand installed in a bunker.  400,000 square feet of bunker is absurd when the site isn't all sand to start.  This is where good design trumps over-design.  Their installation would include rebuilding all the new edges and has a cost similar to the material costs.  We would just replace the sand and clean up.

I've never told a client that replacing their bunker sand would cost 28 times more if you hire a different architect for the original design.  Maybe I should.  The picture above is one of our bunkers.

Lastly the industry says that bunkers should be rebuilt every 5-10 years.  We don't agree here either, but I sure hope no one tells the club that their bunkers will be bleach white forever.  They sure do try to keep 'em white however, by cleaning out every piece of debris in every bunker, every morning.  How much does that cost?  Did I mention how much sand they need to warehouse for regular maintenance and the facility they need to store the new sand?

The data:

High End Private Club Bunker Project
Tons Sand 7,000 
Price/Ton $100.00+ 
Distance (mi) 350 
Truck Loads 389 
Sand Price $700,000 
Cubic Yards 5,385 
Cubic Feet 145,385 
Square Feet 436,154 
Installation $700,000 
Project Cost = $1,400,000 

Wolf Point Club
Tons Sand 963 
Price/Ton $35.00 
Distance (mi) 20 
Truck Loads 53 
Sand Price $33,704 
Cubic Yards 741 
Cubic Feet 20,000 
Square Feet 60,000 
Installation $16,852 
Project Cost =  $50,556 

Cost Ratio = 28!!! times as expensive to replace the sand at the high end club as compared to Wolf Point.
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