Summary: First post in a series on golf range construction discusses layout and site planning.
Golf ranges are self-contained facilities that include a teeing ground and landing area. Typically built on 12-acre and larger parcels, they often include a building that serves as a food service and storage location for maintenance equipment. Smaller sites work with protective netting.
Golf ranges have been built on abandoned piers in New York City, and on large man-made lakes using floating golf balls. Public ranges on heavily-trafficked roadways generate seasonal revenue. Private ranges built on underused golf course land provide an important golfer amenity.
Golf range site feasibility
Conventional golf range construction includes a large grassed tee and a landing area with target greens. The land parcel should be square or rectangular. A site without wetlands is critical. Adjoining structures or parking lots create safety problems.
Choose a flat site, or one that accommodates an elevated tee; golfer’s like to hit shots down to a lower elevation. They don’t enjoy uphill practice; this disrupts distance conceptualization.
Assuming you have a suitable plot, start planning with a surveyed plot plan. A durable mylar copy permits extensive pencil sketching and erasing. Use an even scale like 1″ = 40 feet to permit easy distance measuring.
Next, determine the following:
- Location and configuration of the tee
- Distance from forward teeing location to back of range.
Locate the proposed tee on the plot plan by drawing the proposed forward and rear tee limits, then draw in the width of the tee box. Multiply the length times width to determine the square footage; it should be at least 5000 square feet. The bigger the better. As you increase the tee size be aware that fill quantities will increase. Allow a buffer between the back of the tee for any property offsets, walkways, or landscaping. Shape tees in a rectangle. Larger ranges use a tee shape that includes a subtle arc that mimics end-of-range limits.
Lawyers and insurance underwriter have many opinions about golf range construction. They agree that ranges shouldn’t be on plots that can’t contain any golf ball. Stray golf balls create lawsuits. I once saw a golfer hit a shot that went through my legs; he hit the shot directly behind me.
Netting will provide a suitable barrier if installed properly, but don’t underestimate the ability of a young, muscular golfer to power a golf ball using modern equipment and a tail wind.
A few years ago, I spent a day walking a proposed golf range. The owner, a non-golfer, owned a parcel 250 yards long and 200 yards wide. On a plan, I measured a distance from the front of the tee to the back of the range. I swung an arc to illustrate the landing zone of a golf shot. I said: ” Mr. xxxx, the golf ball can travel in many directions after being struck. I’ve started at the tee and I’ve moved the arc across your plot. The safe distance is 310 yards (before metal woods), and that house on the right is 230 yards from the tee.”
“That’s my cousins house,” said the owner. “He’s been fighting me for twenty years.”
“Someone will put a golf ball through his picture window on opening day,” I said.
“Serves him right. He sits in a big chair and stares at me all day through that window.”
The owner constructed the range despite his cousin. An insurance underwriter requested extensive netting around the landing area, and the owner complied.
Lightweight shafts, composite metal woods and weather condition create additional problems when creating a driving range. Consider the limits of a struck golf ball and the effect on people or places within a safe work zone. I use 350 yards. Starting at the front and center of the proposed tee, draw an arc out 350 yards. Do the same on the left and front forward tee surfaces.
Connect the outer limits of the three arcs to identify golf ball flight limits. Next, draw 45 degree lines from the front left and right tee surface. Many, but not all, golf balls will land in this area. Extend new arcs out 250 yards to form a semi-circle; this is the stray golf ball zone. Some golfers aim for off-site targets like schools and private homes.
If you can’t fit the arcs in your plot, you’ll need to explore other options. You can limit users to irons, but this rarely works because golfers want to hit drivers. Reduced flight golf balls are an option, but golfers want to hit regulation distance golf balls.
You also can add telephone poles and netting to insure safe operation. After driving long telephone poles every 50 feet, you’ll need to install netting on cables to insure safety. Netting costs of $100,000 are common.
Properly constructed golf ranges create opportunities to generate seasonal income. Adjoining learning centers add additional excitement to the facilities. Some ranges includes all-weather overhangs and artificial teeing surfaces. Don’t add artificial lighting unless you have prior approval. Consider how night insects will harass night golfers.
See part 2