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By Design

Appealing to this broad

demographic sometimes requires a

change in perspective. “Golf courses

often seem to be judged on the speed

of their greens. I’m not saying that’s

not important, but so many other

things contribute to making a good

municipal course,” Norby continued.

“The key is to make it fun. So

we pay particular attention to the

placement of hazards, slope of greens

and how thick the rough is. We

include multiple tees and also look to

eliminate forced carries. This enables

us to marry the desire to deliver fun

with the provision of a challenge.”

Norby’s renovation of Coal Creek

was instigated by storms that

damaged the course, but he took the

opportunity to introduce changes

that would make it more appealing to

a wide range of players. New forward

tees were introduced, bunkers were

repositioned and hundreds of trees

were removed. Norby also moved two

holes to improve sightlines.

As well as differentiating Coal

Creek from other municipal courses

in the area, the work also meant the

course was better able to withstand

extreme weather. When storms

hit the site again in 2015, newly

introduced drainage and collection

areas meant that no significant

damage was incurred.

Of course, if a municipal course

succeeds in its goal to broaden appeal,

and attracts more players, it must also

be able to withstand high levels of play.

“I like to provide wide, unencumbered

means of access and egress between

paths and tees and greens to better

spread wear,” says Mungeam.

Mungeam also prefers softer slopes

around bunkers and tees for ease of

access and maintenance. “I will often

shift or eliminate bunkers and trees

to speed play, reduce maintenance

and eliminate ‘cattle tracks’ created

on the edge of features”.


To attract large numbers, many

municipalities are working out ways

in which their golf courses can be

opened up for other activities.

In Fargo, North Dakota, Gill has been

hired by the Park District to redesign

El Zagal Golf Course. New city levees

reduced the space available from 25 to

22 acres and the primary focus of the

work is grading and drainage, so the

course can improve flood recovery.

Gill created a series of concept

drawings highlighting ‘convertible’

elements. The nine-hole short course

could be converted to a driving range

with target greens in the spring when

the course was flooded by the Red

River. This type of innovative thinking

was key to securing the project. “We

have found municipal courses to be

very receptive to suggestions that

would enable them to become multi-

functional facilities,” says Gill.

The new course will be among the

first (if not


first) in the U.S. to be

specifically designed for footgolf. The

concept originally presented to the

Park District included integration

of traditional golf, footgolf and disc

golf. Gill believes golf facilities need

to embrace these types of alternative

ideas to attract customers. “It enables

multi-generational and multi-use

enjoyment—you could have a group

going out and playing three different

forms of golf, all together”.

There is often scope to incorporate

completely different recreational

activities, such as fishing ponds, lawn

bowling, bocce ball courts, and trails

for walkers, joggers and cyclists.

And the green outlook provided by

hospitality facilities at golf courses can

be a unique selling point, particularly for

large functions such as weddings and

conferences. These can deliver revenue

and also raise awareness of what the

facility offers to people who might not

have otherwise considered visiting.

Green infrastructure

There are additional benefits that can

justify municipal golf operations. One

obvious example is the preservation

of green space. “In many parts of large

cities, like New York, New Orleans and

Minneapolis, if it wasn’t for municipal


The key is to

make it fun

When Kevin Norby, ASGCA,

renovated Coal Creek Golf Course

in Louisville, a key aim was to make it more

appealing for a wide range of players

Photos: Kevin Norby