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The turf is spreading

The market for golf course design is ripening, writes Rahat Bano

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:44 IST
Rahat Bano

The turf is growing — for golf course designers. About 195 Indian Golf Union-registered and 20 unregistered golf courses dot the country. And more are coming up.

“About 20 are under construction and 50 are at the planning stage,” says Ashish Vaishnava, consultant for golf course development and founder and CEO, AV Golf, who works with various architects for conception and execution of designs.

Vaishnava, who has played competitive golf but didn’t turn pro, now hits the greens on and off. He has been involved in the development of the Cambay Golf Course and Cambay Golf Academy in Gandhinagar (Gujarat), Emaar’s Mohali Hills Golf Course and the Cambay Golf Resort in Jaipur. Vaishnava, 28, is currently consulting with various developers for projects coming up in Ludhiana, Jaipur, Bangalore, Goa and Pune.

“There’s definite growth in India. The game is becoming popular. The prize money is increasing,” points out Vaishnava.

The market is ripening with work for those with the expertise. In India, a lot of former army officials who play the game are utilising their experience for golf course development. Some international golf course designers, too, have bagged projects in different parts of the country.

“The hub (for golf) is north India but south India is picking up fast,” says Vaishnava, adding, newer centres are catching up. “Tier-two cities are looking at golf courses because developers believe golf courses add value to projects and ultimately, premium on the property they are selling.”

The grass is greener in the east of India’s border. At the moment, south east Asia is the “hottest” market for golf course development. “The maximum number of projects is in China,” says Vaishnava.
Here, the scope in golf course has grown but “you can’t maintain it” as the only service you offer, says Amit Khullar, architect, Enar Consultants, which designed Delhi’s Lado Sarai golf course and redesigned Jaipur’s Ram Bagh golf course.

What's it about?
Golf course designers are architects as well as golfers who lend their experience to projects. Globally, there are renowned former golfers, such as Greg Norman, who design signature golf courses

Clock Work
9.30am: Visit a site to check the status of work
11.30am: Back in office. Give feedback about the work to the design team
1pm: Lunch
1.30pm: Sit with a horticulture consultant to discuss various aspects of plantation at the upcoming golf course
3pm: Evaluate our design team's latest designs which are to be taken to another developer for a different project
5pm: Go to make a presentation to the developer at his office
7pm: Back to office. Debrief the team. Head to a golf course (designed by us) for a round of night golf

Please note that a golf course designer does not always do all these tasks in a single day. Designers work as part of a team. Sometimes, they may be engrossed in research from morning to evening.
Preparing a presentation for a client can take three to four weeks

The Payoff
An architect’s fee depends on the size of the project, his/her experience and reputation. It can be a percentage (8% to 12%) of the cost of construction, or a fixed amount. A designer can earn Rs10 lakh to Rs45 lakh on a project. An international designer conceiving a signature golf course can rake in top dollar fees

Skills
. Creativity — ability to put ideas to paper
. Quick learner, research skills
. Good understanding of the game, so you know the requirements of a player
. Ability to make the project environmentally sustainable

How do i get there?
Study science in Class 11 and Class 12, followed by a BArch programme. You can then go for a master’s in landscape architecture

Institutes & urls
. BArch/ Master’s in landscape architecture from institutes such as the School of Planning and Architecture,
www.spa.ac.in
. European Institute of Golf Course Architects, UK
www.eigca.org

Pros & cons


.

Projects take time; getting a large enough tract of land is often difficult in India


.

Number of golf courses in the country is growing but there still aren’t too many projects


.

Not many Indian designers. Emerging competition from international designers with global experience

Focus on eco-friendly courses

An architect talks about the challenges and trends in the field

Once you bag a project, how does the work begin? How do you go about it?
There are two-three primary factors that determine the development of a golf course. The most important is location. Golf courses normally are along a natural environment — next to a mountain, sea shore, or forest. It enhances the value of the entire facility. In places such as Noida and Gurgaon, you need to create such an environment. The Delhi Golf Club was set in a dense jungle, which was a part of the central ridge. You still have deer and peacocks there.

In Lado Sarai, initially the plan was to use Qila Rai Pithora as a backdrop.
After getting a project, first thing is to get a site evaluation done. One has to preserve its natural features. Next is soil analysis. One may also have to figure out how to market the course. One course may take about six to eight months of intensive work.

With no big-bang name (like a Greg Norman), how did you take your projects further?
It was a challenge. We researched, went through archives, and applied the basic rules of landscaping.

One has to try and make a golf course as eco-friendly as possible. As you know, courses are great guzzlers of water.

Are there specific challenges to designing golf courses, particularly in India?
The whole effort is on aesthetics and to design a golf course such that the players will feel challenged. What’s the level of difficulty you can pose to golfers? The player must get excited by playing there.

How many people are involved in materialising the design of a course?
There is a core team of two-three people. Engineers, horticulturists and irrigation specialists are included as well and of course, you consult golfers.

What’s the current trend in golf course design?
The focus is on creating environment-friendly golf courses, where you recycle water and use natural resources, including organic pesticides. In terms of skill sets required of a golf course designer, one recent one is, integration of technology. For example, in the national capital region, you see night golfing.

Amit Khullar, architect, Enar Consultants interviewed by Rahat Bano