Golf is growing at an increasingly strong rate.
In 2021, 3.2 million people played on a U.S. golf course for the first time, according to the National Golf Foundation. And this growth isn’t just an anomaly off the back of the pandemic — the industry has gained over 2 million beginners for eight straight years.
With the number of active golfers increasing every year, there is a great opportunity to build golf courses to embrace this growth and meet the sustainable demand.
But, how much does it cost to build a golf course?
In this article, you’ll learn about the main costs involved in constructing a golf course from scratch, with estimated figures based on a variety of sources.
Let’s jump straight in!
How Much Does It Cost to Build a Golf Course?
It costs around $3,000,000 to $8,000,000 to build a standard 18-hole, par 72 golf course in the United States. This figure includes design and construction fees and approximate land costs, which average between $2,000,000 and $3,500,000 for 120-200 acres — varying widely from state to state across the country.
When building a golf course, there are three major costs to consider:
- Land costs
- Design costs
- Construction costs
Each of these costs will vary by location and complexity. This article will serve to give you a useful range to estimate the costs involved in constructing a golf course.
Golf Course Land Cost
The first hurdle to cross when building a golf course is acquiring the land.
So, how much land do you need for a standard golf course?
In his guide, Building a Practical Golf Facility, Dr. Michael J. Hurdzan states that “a full-size par 72 golf course would need 120-200 acres.” This figure accounts for only usable land which does not allow for wetlands or restricted areas.
According to land data from over 200,000 Landsearch listings, the average price per acre in the United States is $17,394.
Land prices vary from state to state — ranging from just $7,559 per acre in Oklahoma, to $64,632 per acre in Florida. For more accuracy when calculating the total land cost, use the price per acre value of the particular location you’re interested in.
So, the land for a standard 18-hole golf course will cost between $2,087,000 and $3,479,000 — depending on how much land you choose to occupy. The lower end would feature more tightly-packed holes, while the upper end would have larger buffers between each hole on the course.
Average Golf Course Land Cost: $2,087,000 to $3,479,000
Golf Course Design Cost
Another significant cost to consider when building a golf course is the design fees.
In a Golf Club Atlas forum post in 2005, renowned golf course architect Tom Doak estimated the median design fees to be $200,000 to $250,000 per course. With inflation, we can expect this figure to be higher today — but it’s a useful guide.
Established designers, such as Doak himself, will attract higher fees of up to $2 million per course. In fact, the prestigious Pinehurst Resort recently announced that Doak will build the 10th Pinehurst course, occupying almost entirely undeveloped land.
The European Institute of Golf Course Architects states that typically, fixed design fees for an 18-hole project would be in the range of 8-12% of the total build cost.
Ultimately, there is a broad range as it depends on the scope of experience, as well as the level of complexity involved in the design. For instance, locations with lots of natural obstacles will require more strategic planning than vast, open spaces.
Average Golf Course Design Cost: $200,000 to $500,000
Golf Course Construction Cost
Finally, onto the major expense — the golf course construction cost.
It takes a long time to build a golf course, with the full process taking 2 to 4 years on average until completion. This includes time spent obtaining the necessary permits.
The process takes a relatively long time because golf courses require extensive work to ensure the turf reaches a playable standard — particularly the greens.
There are some other factors impacting the construction cost, including:
- The type of soil
- The amount of soil and trees to be moved
- The chosen green construction method
- The size of the greens in the design
- The amount of drainage required
- The contractor’s level of experience
According to ASGCA golf course architect William W. Amick, the average cost of constructing one hole is $50,000 to $200,000.
Therefore, a standard 18-hole, par 72 golf course will typically cost between $900,000 and $3.6 million to build. However, competition courses will naturally cost more.
Average Golf Course Construction Cost: $900,000 to $3,600,000
Total Cost to Build a Golf Course
In summary, there are several costs to consider when building a golf course:
- Land costs: $2,087,000 to $3,479,000
- Design costs: $200,000 to $500,000
- Construction costs: $900,000 to $3,600,000
In total, it will cost approximately $3,187,000 to $7,579,000 to acquire land, design, and build a standard 18-hole golf course in the United States.
Total Approximate Cost For 18-Hole Golf Course: $3,187,000 to $7,579,000
Expectedly, a 9-hole course will cost approximately half this estimated figure:
Total Approximate Cost For 9-Hole Golf Course: $1,593,500 to $3,789,500
By contrast, a par 3 course can be completed for significantly less as it occupies a much smaller land area — costing around $30k to $50k per hole.
In conclusion, there are 2 major costs when embarking on creating a golf course from scratch — land costs, and construction costs.
Design fees are a relatively low amount, as a proportion of the full cost. Therefore, it’s worth considering taking on an experienced golf course architect who will be able to add value to the project, at a great return on investment.
Land costs are largely dependent on location, and prices for an 18-hole course will vary widely from state to state. Of course, consider that more affluent areas will attract higher green fees and annual turnover, with greater demand.
If on a stricter budget, consider building a par 3 course. Not only is it less expensive as it occupies less acreage, but it can reach an entirely new demographic.
For instance, Justin Timberlake-backed 3’s Golf is working to reimagine the golf experience and bring it to a wider audience through short-form golf.
Ultimately, golf courses can be an excellent investment — provided that there is sufficient demand in the location without an existing oversupply.