Golf Architect

William W. Amick

ASGCA Golf Course Architect 















Most residential developers look for suitable land at an affordable cost in metropolitan areas to develop into housing.  This can be for single family house lots, multi-family housing, condominiums, apartments, townhouses, other types of housing and a mix of these.  Often large undeveloped parcels in urban areas are scarce and/or very expensive.

Opportunities for Developers

 In and near many populated areas throughout the U.S. during the 1990s and early 21st century, there have been a number of new golf courses opened for play.  Since 2000 the number of golfers and rounds played has not grown significantly, in fact, during these years those totals have decreased in some places.  This has caused some older membership clubs and privately-owned public courses to lose annual play.  Because of the competition, even some newer courses have struggled to find enough players to be profitable or even pay their expenses.  The result is that some golf courses are forced or have decided to put their land up for sale.  Golf club/course management companies have taken over the operation of some of these facilities.  However with a not large enough golfer market, in some cases interested course operators cannot be found.  So golf courses have gone on sale for other uses.

New Type Golf Courses with Housing

In the years ahead, housing developers could be buying other golf club and course properties.  But several things could stand in the way of golf holes being converted to home sites.  One is that existing zoning preventing housing from being built there.  Each property in each location can be different in the ability to change the zoning or restrictions.  A big talking point in favor of getting such a change approved could be part of the property remaining as a golf course.  This would be done by downsizing the size of the course into a smaller golf course.  The resulting golf course could become nine holes or remain 18 holes.  It would likely be labeled either an executive course or a par 3 course.  An executive course consists of a mix of par 3 and par 4 holes, with a total par for nine holes of from 28 to around 32.  Double those totals for an 18 hole course.  A par 3 course consists of all one-shot holes with a total par of 27 for nine holes.  The holes can be comparable in length and challenge to the par 3 holes on a typical regular-sized golf course.  Or its holes could be in the approximate 100 yard range or less, commonly called a pitch & putt course.  P&P courses are fine for beginners, kids, older seniors, parents wanting to play golf with their children and a golfer bringing along a non-golfing partner.  But such short holes have little lasting interest for regular golfing groups.  The appeal an executive course offers over a par 3 course is that a driver can be hit from some of its tees.  Most golfers like to pull out their driver to achieve maximum distance.  In this same vein, the more the holes of any course are similar to those of conventional courses, the more that course is attractive to serious and highly skilled golfers.  Naturally longer holes and a larger number of holes do require more land.

Fairway Frontage for Housing

Another important issue in downsizing a golf course could be the housing sold by the original developer which has frontage on fairways and greens.  There can be a possible solution to this situation, but it’s dependent on the configuration of the course and entire development.  If it is a core golf course, meaning all the holes are grouped together instead of stretched out similar to link sausage with housing on both sides of many holes, new housing might be planned only to replace interior holes.  This could allow existing houses to retain their favorable course frontage, while creating new frontage for the proposed new housing in the center core of the property.  All of this takes careful planning of both the newly configured course and proposed housing to meet the needs of each.

An Example of a Redeveloped Golf Course

We are likely to see more of this “shrinking” of the size of golf courses to allow for new housing to be planned on a portion of existing golf courses.  This allows keeping a portion of the original property as green space for recreation.  A few years ago the Shore West Company, on the west side of Cleveland, did this with the North Olmsted Golf Course they had purchased.  For that company I redesigned this 50 year old course to continue to be open, but as a nine-hole executive course.  This freed land for what is now a housing area named Viewpoint.  Then that course was turned over to the Northern Ohio Golf Association.  The NOGA operates the course and has even built its headquarter behind the #9 green. 

Contact a Redesign Expert

Is there an opportunity for some developers in some locations to obtain land suitable for future housing by buying and downsizing a golf course?  Yes in the right market, done by a capable developer, where and when a good buy in an existing golf course is available.  I will be glad to analyze an existing course to see what opportunity and challenges it presents for being made smaller for this purpose.  I am not qualified to appraise the course’s actual value or to project the potential profit from doing this.  Those functions are not my specialty.  But if you would like for me to look at a course and tell how it could be made smaller for freeing up land for housing, just contact me, Bill Amick, at (386) 767-1449 or

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Professional Golf Course Designer - Bill Amick
P.O. Box 1984
Daytona Beach, FL  32115
Telephone (386) 767-1449