Golf course architects must possess a background in areas such as agronomy, engineering, site design, and - of course - golf. Degree programs in landscape architecture provide the foundational knowledge needed to design a golf course as well as other structures.
4-year bachelor's degree programs offer general training in landscape architecture theory and practice, while master's programs may allow students to specialize in golf course architecture as they look into more advanced skills. Prospective enrollees must have a high school diploma or its equivalent. A master's degree takes 2-3 years to complete. Applicants may be required to submit visual portfolios. Students at both levels often gain hands-on experience through internships.
Bachelor's Degree Programs in Landscape Architecture
According to the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA), most golf course architects have an educational background in landscape architecture (www.asgca.org). Programs may offer a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture or a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture; both of these are considered professional degrees and prepare graduates for licensure.
Courses introduce students to site planning, engineering concepts, environmental design, and mathematics. Perspectives in landscape architecture history and theory are taught, along with visual design skills, plant science, and construction. Students can expect coursework in the following areas:
- Land surveying
- Regional design skills and applications
- Environmental engineering
Master's Degree Programs in Landscape Architecture
Master's degree programs in landscape architecture offer professional Master of Landscape Architecture programs, along with research-based Master of Science and Master of Arts programs. Students who hold a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture may complete a master's degree program in two years, while those who hold a bachelor's degree in another discipline may complete a program in three years.
Graduate-level study of landscape architecture goes deeper into natural science, computer design and environmental concepts. Students often choose an area of concentration, which may include golf course architecture. Golf course architecture courses study the use and modification of natural landscapes for golf course design, construction, function, and aesthetics. Common topics of study include:
- Irrigation and hydrological systems
- Landscape architecture theory and history
- Advanced computer design and 3-D modeling
- Plant and horticultural science
- Urban planning
Popular Career Options
The ASGCA states that most architects begin their careers working as interns for golf course architecture firms, and further knowledge and skills may be developed on the job. Golf course architects need a strong understanding of golf rules and strategies, in addition to hydraulic engineering, construction, and agronomy. Entry-level experience can be gained through jobs similar to the following:
- Architectural drafter
- Landscape design assistant
- Grounds maintenance specialist
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The ASGCA noted that the golf course architecture field was extremely competitive (www.asgca.org). According to the BLS, a 5% increase in employment for landscape architects was expected between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also reported that the annual mean wage for landscape architects in the architectural and engineering industry was $63,810 in 2015 (www.bls.gov).
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 50 states in 2014 that required landscape architects to be licensed (www.bls.gov). To become licensed, one must pass the Landscape Architect Registration Exam. In most instances, a 4-year degree and relevant work experience are required to qualify for the exam, although some states allow other methods of qualification in lieu of a degree. Licensure requirements vary by state, and aspiring landscape architects should consult with their state licensing boards.
Aspiring golf course architects may seek master's degree programs in landscape architecture for higher credentials and a competitive advantage. Other graduate programs, such as a master's degree program in environmental design, may also be useful for golf course architecture careers.
Although there are no degree programs specifically for prospective golf course architects, interested individuals can enroll in bachelor's or master's degree programs in landscape architecture where they will gain the foundational knowledge and hands-on experience for the designing of all landscape structures.