Ask the Expert: Swan Golf Designs

William and Howard Swan, architects at Swan Golf Designs. It seems that there are a significant number of injuries on golf courses from errant balls. Do you consider that the safety of design is increasingly focused upon by clubs?  It is quite apparent from the number of enquiries which we receive relating to incidents on or around golf courses that there is a problem relating to the layout of predominantly older golf courses on smaller acreages where the holes are close together or they are close to the boundaries of the land. Regrettably, not only are people injured in such incidents but insurance claims and subsequent court cases often ensue.   Is it your experience that clubs generally pay lip service to safety when it comes to the layout of the golf course? My feelings are that often clubs do not consider that they may have a problem with the layout of the golf course and the dangers which are associated with it relative to incidents occurring to either golfers or members of the public on or around the course and the adjacent land … until there is a problem and there is an incident. Then of course it is simply too late for the person who was hit. What considerations would you be giving to safety in designing a new golf course or working on an existing one? We carry out a great number of audits and appraisals of golf courses in the United Kingdom and abroad which is always the first step in any renovation programme. No audit, even if it is to look to improve one or just a few holes, is ever undertaken without making a safety analysis of the whole golf course and pointing out to the club where we feel there may be issues that need to be addressed. It is, in our view, paramount that this is done on each and every occasion. Are there any guidelines in existence about the safety of design? Yes there have been a number of publications over the years - from United States golf course architects who have put pen to paper in writing books on golf course design – Bob Graves, Mike Hurdzan, Desmond Muirhead included - and around the turn-of-the-century the British Institute of Golf Course Architects put together design considerations for its members which related to how golf courses could be safely designed. These included recommendations relating to the separation of golf holes, the juxtapositions of greens and tees and measurements which were considered the minimal distances to external boundaries. These vary greatly dependent upon the sensitivity of the hazard to the exterior and clearly the likes of buildings, roads and public thoroughfares but are paramount in the consideration of laying out or revising the layout of any golf course safely. In certain regions of Spain laws have been enacted which relate to the safety of courses particularly with respect to residential accommodation which surrounds many of the resorts. The margins which are specified in...
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