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Be a Golf Course Designer: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a golf course designer. Research the education requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in golf course design.

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Should I Become a Golf Course Designer?

A golf course designer is a landscape architect who understands both the game of golf and how to use the available space to create a course for amateurs and pros alike. Many designers travel all over the world, working with professional golfers to build courses. When deadlines hover, work hours might be especially long for golf course designers. The following table contains some common requirements to become a golf course designer:

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Landscape architecture
Experience 2-8 years of experience
Licensure and Certification Licensure required in every state
Key Skills Written and verbal communication skills, customer service, English language, administration skills, active listening skills, problem-solving skills, decision-making skills; desktop publishing and graphics software, e-mail software, spreadsheet software, computer aided design (CAD) software; construction materials and methodology, design plan, drawing and blueprint knowledge, scanners, global positioning system (GPS) devices, digital cameras, engineering technology
Salary $69,530 per year (Average for all landscape architects in 2014)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Careerbuilder.com job postings (January 2013), ONet Online

Step 1: Earn a Degree in Landscape Architecture

A bachelor's or master's degree program in landscape architecture gives students an understanding of natural resources and how to use those resources to design beautiful and practical spaces in different settings. Courses cover planning and implementation, technical and foundational design theory, ecology, environmental design theory and visualization. Some professional degree programs last up to five years, since students continue their professional training through internships, projects, research, independent study and professional practice.

Success Tips:

  • Take advantage of internship opportunities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that many employers prefer applicants who have completed an internship during their education program (www.bls.gov). The experience gained through internships provides needed skills in daily operations such as budgeting, fee generation and client lead generation.
  • Learn the game of golf. Golf is a sport that can be played from childhood to senior citizenship. One can either pick up the game by practice and self-teaching methods or by taking lessons from golfing professionals. By playing a variety of courses, anyone thinking about becoming a golf course designer can compare the designs of others, taking in what he or she considers effective.

Step 2: Become a Licensed Landscape Architect

The BLS reports that all landscape architects that do not work for the government must be licensed through the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards. To become licensed, the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (L.A.R.E.) is offered several times a year. Although requirements vary by state, the test is typically to those with a degree and 1-4 years of supervised experience. Each section of the 5-part exam must be passed to gain licensure. Some states also require landscape architects pass a state examination.

The Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards helps to support the licensure boards in 49 states and Puerto Rico by administering the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (www.clarb.org).

Step 3: Find Work with a Golf Design Company

Golf course designers can opt to work for independent companies owned by experienced designers or team up with golf professionals, who often start their own golf course design companies when they retire. Companies may require golf course designers to travel all over the world to support clients. Clients can be private clubs, communities or organizations.

Step 4: Consider Joining a Professional Organization

The American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) is the oldest organization for golf course designers in the country, and is a resource for established designers (www.asgca.org). Candidates for membership must have designed at least five 18-hole golf courses. Applicants are interviewed by the peer-review board before being voted in by current members. The ASGCA is focused on developing golf courses that preserve the environment, and members work closely with developers, the media and the government to achieve this goal.

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