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problems,” explains Mandell, who is

now working on municipal golf projects

at Braemar GC for the City of Edina,

Minnesota and Hyannais Golf Course for

the Town of Barnstable, Massachusetts.

High specification

While city-owned golf courses can go

long periods without investments in

their infrastructure, when renovation

work does go ahead, the work required

is often of a high specification. Garrett

Gill, ASGCA, who is currently working

on projects for the cites of Fargo,

North Dakota and Virginia, Minnesota,

explains: “The one thing we have

noticed is that while the money for

investment does not come round every

year, or even every ten or twenty years,

when it does, governments ‘build to

last’. There are no shortcuts, and work

on tees, greens and irrigation tends to

be done to a very high specification.”

Gill also observes that while the

volume of privately-owned golf

projects under way at any given time

is closely linked to the underlying

performance of the economy,

municipal projects seem less affected.

This may be due to projects being

borne out of the necessity to fix

‘broken’ course elements. Also,

the extensive bid process and

consultation period —including

various government departments and

the public—means the time it takes

for municipal projects to get off the

ground is often longer, and more tied

to due process.

“Consideration of aspects like

bonding, insurance, and the entire

public bid process—which might see

you having 70 questions to answer

from various contractors—means that

municipal projects involve a high degree

of coordination work,” adds Norby.

Legislation relating to wages for

public work, such as the Davis-Bacon

Act, also has an impact. “This can add

25 percent to the cost of the work,”

says Mark Mungeam, ASGCA. “So any

way we can design features that are less

time-consuming to build is a benefit.”

Mungeam works with the City of

Boston on their two courses: the

George Wright Golf Course and the

William J. Devine Golf Course in

Franklin Park, part of Frederik Law

Olmsted’s chain of Boston parks

known as the ‘Emerald Necklace’.

“By 2000, the George Wright course

was really run down,” says Mungeam.

A Donald Ross design from the 1930’s,

it had been through tough times under

various management companies.

The City resumed control of course

operations just over a decade ago

and Mungeam participated in the

development of a Master Plan to restore

and upgrade the course. “Over the past

eight years we have overseen numerous

projects to restore and upgrade both

City courses. George Wright was always

considered a good and challenging

course. Now it is recognized as a real

gem and with William Devine GC

(also a Ross design), will be the first

public courses to host the prestigious

Massachusetts Amateur in 2018.”

Broad appeal

In order to both serve the widest

possible cross-section of the community,

and maximize revenue generation,

a common objective for municipal

projects is to ensure the design does not

exclude any segment of golfer.

“One of the primary differentiators

with municipal golf is the need to

appeal to a much wider target market,”

says Greg Martin, ASGCA. “But this

doesn’t mean dumbing-down the golf

course. The design actually needs to

be very sophisticated to work for this

broader range of players.”

At the Phillips Park municipal

course in Aurora, Illinois,

Martin’s long-term Master Plan for

the course includes changes that

make it more challenging for better

players, but with wider fairways and

large greens to make it more playable

for those with lesser ability. “We

reduced the yardage slightly but in

tournament play scores haven’t been

lower than four-under-par.”

“In this day and age the pendulum

has swung away from difficult,

narrow setups and it’s going back to

fun and enjoyment,” says Mandell.

“It can be harder to sell that to the

better, low handicap golfers, but

it really doesn’t affect them that

much—widening fairways from 25 to

40 yards isn’t going to dramatically

reduce the course record. But a lot of

golfers that would have taken eight

or nine shots on a hole are then

taking six, which really enhances

their enjoyment.

“My whole philosophy is ‘less is

more.’ Hazards should challenge, not

penalize, golfers, and we should have

strategic options. That translates into

width and angles. This works well for

municipalities because it promotes all-

inclusiveness. Golfers of all levels can

play these golf courses.”

“At private clubs the average golfer

maybe plays more, and is looking

for challenge,” says Norby. “Whereas

municipal golfers are often shopping

for price or value, and may not carry a

handicap card. They might often shoot

more than 100, or not even keep score,

and perhaps not play more than two or

three times a year.”

Mark Mungeam, ASGCA, works with the

City of Boston on their two municipal courses