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Residential golf green design

Independent Golf Tips for the professional at Leisure

February 2008


Building a residential golf course


When considering a home golf area, you first need to run the numbers to understand the relative costs of an 18 hole, 9 hole, or single green practice area. 

Over the years I�ve watched acquaintances and friends build their own golf courses, and it�s a lot of work. 

I know Neil Hirsch, and I vividly remember his tales of horror about building his Eagle Vale golf course in Fairport NY, and I watched as my good friend Mike Fisher built his own dream course in Henrietta New York.  First, you have to attend a turf management class at Cornell, and there is a huge amount of work.


Land for your home course


A professional 18 hole course requires approximately 200 acres and a staff of four full-time groomers (@ $20k/yr.) plus one green management expert (@ $50k/year), for a cost of about $130,000 per year.  On the other end of the spectrum, a single hole can be created with as little as an acre, with very little maintenance (using artificial turf) for as little as $15,000.  The approximate costs per hole would be:

Fixed Costs per hole


  Low High Costs
Acreage 1 10 (@ $10k/acre) $10k-$100k
Green installation $15k $100k (low cost is artificial turf)
Tee boxes $1k $20k (mound, bench, marker)
Seeding     (assume 419 Bermuda)


Variable costs per hole/per year:


  Low High Costs:
Greens keepers $7k $130k (avg. $7k per year, per hole)



Green costs


Real grass greens can easily cost $100,000 each, plus you need an expert green manager to keep it trimmed and healthy.  One alternative to natural greens is artificial turf greens, which are far less expensive, but have several limitations, most notably a 15-year life and the undesirable propensity for the green to not accept balls like a natural green.

We decided to go with Turf Advantage of Stony Point, North Carolina, and they offer a wide variety of artificial residential putting greens.



See my notes on Residential Golf fairway turf design


Ensuring success in your home golf course


Creating a residential golf course in a major challenge and it requires the expert services of landscapers, turf experts and most of all, experienced golf course designers.  A home green is expensive, and fraught with peril.  Your only chance is to find a PGA pro who can design a residential golf green according to your needs.


We were lucky to find Brad Clayton, a PGA master professional and golf book author who had the connections that we needed to make our home pitch and putt work.

No residential golf will be adequate without expert design, and good golf course designers are reluctant to work on home greens and pitching areas.  Brad Clayton is also the author of a book on golf.


Brad is also a great fellow.  He lost his own right arm, but he does not let his handicap prevent him from being one of the best golf teachers I've ever worked with.  Brad also donates his time to teach veteran amputees, a charitable service that has brought the joy of golf to worthy wounded servicemen and women.


However, we were amazed to have Brad acquire the services of Rick Robbins, a world-class golf course designer, who travels the work with Jack Nicklaus in his Learjet G3, designing some of the world best golf courses.


Talmidge Burgess, Brad Clayton and Rick Robbins

In 1990, Jack Nicklaus asked Rick to join Nicklaus Design as Senior Design Associate in the Hong Kong office. Rick's responsibilities included golf course design for his own projects as well as assisting other design associates, as necessary, in the design and implementation of their projects.�

�Their most recent collaboration, Mill Creek Golf Club in Mebane, North Carolina was named, "Best New Course" in North Carolina by the golf panel of North Carolina magazine and was named the 6th Best New Affordable Public Golf Course in the U.S. by Golf Digest Magazine.�

To be successful in your home golf area you must start with a tabla rasa, and hire experts who know what they are doing.  A home golf putting area is too important to entrust to a beginner.

Start your home course with a blank slate

It's all about finding someone like Brad who has the connections in the golf world.  On your own, you could never convince a world-class golf course designer to visit your home, as the truly great golf course designers are in constant demand by the world's best luxury resorts.


Rick Robbins is a master golf course planner

 We were extremely honored to have Rick Robbins visit our ranch and provide expert guidance on all aspects of our custom design.  Rick was able to advise landscapers on the best turf (419 Bermuda in our case), and the best artificial turf for the putting and chipping areas.  Rick as also able to advise us on the best sand for our traps.  Sadly, Rick was unable to advise us on how to keep the barn cats from using the sand trap as a litter box, and one of our ranch hands will have to scoop it out every day.

This is my first foray into a residential golf course, and I cannot recommend Brad Clayton enough.  He knows the people who can get the job done right, and he is worth his weight in gold.



The following section documents the development of our home golf area:


L to R:  Travis Carter, Rick Robbins, Brad Clayton,
Talmidge Burgess and Janet Burleson





Laying out the artificial turf green







Note: The opinions expressed on these pages are the sole opinion of Donald K. Burleson and do not reflect the opinions of Burleson Enterprises Inc. or any of its subsidiaries.

Suggestions?  We are always seeking new tips for the professional at leisure, and any suggestions would be most welcome.  If you find an error or have a suggestion for improving our content, we would appreciate your feedback. 

Copyright � 1996 -  2010 by Donald K Burleson. All rights reserved.