Golf Course Design Fees

The EIGCA regularly receives enquiries seeking information about golf course architect's fees and the services provided for those fees. The EIGCA has prepared this guide to help prospective clients understand the complexities of the subject and to better understand how design fees may be negotiated with EIGCA members.


EIGCA members undertake commissions in many different European countries and beyond. The diversity of working practices, legislation and local conditions are such that it is neither possible nor desirable to impose a design fee scale for golf course architectural services. EIGCA members are free to charge whatever they feel is the appropriate fee for their own unique and individual services.

The EIGCA "Agreement and Conditions of Engagement for the Appointment of a Golf Course Architect" forms the basis of many of our member's design contract.

Golf course design fees can be calculated in several different ways depending on the type and scale of the project, its technical complexity, the planning approval process, the habitual working practices of the individual golf course architect and the services and conditions imposed by the client.

Types Of Work

Work done by golf course architects can be categorised into three principle fields of activity for which fees are usually calculated:

  1. New Build Projects
    The design of new golf courses and golfing facilities usually requiring planning permits, detailed design work, contractor selection, construction inspection, financial evaluations and payment approvals.
  2. Renovation, Restoration and Reconstruction
    Owners and operators of existing golf facilities may require the services of golf course architects to undertake such design work.
  3. Consultancy
    EIGCA Members are frequently asked to prepare feasibility studies, to act as expert witnesses, to establish reports and to advise individuals and organisations on a wide range of subjects pertinent to golf course design, construction and management.

Golf Course Design And Consultancy Fees

Fees are usually calculated in one of three ways.

  1. As a percentage of construction costs* (Percentage Fees)
    Many public authorities in Europe commission design work based on a regional or national, pre-determined guideline, fee scale. In many cases these fee scales are derived from those used by building and landscape architects, consultant engineers or other construction industry professionals and are calculated as a percentage of the construction costs of the project.

    Generally speaking the percentage figure used to calculate the design fee is inversely proportional to the construction cost. The higher the construction cost of the project the smaller the fee percentage. The technical complexity and the extent of services provided also varies from project to project and has a bearing on the percentage fee figure. A typical 18 hole golf course construction project would fall into a fee scale of between 8 and 12%, excluding travel costs, whilst a modest renovation project's design fees could be between 12 and 15% of the construction cost, excluding travel costs.

    The amount of work involved in the design of a project is not usually directly proportional to its construction budget, hence this sliding scale approach to percentage fees.

    Percentage based fees are more usual in public authority projects.

    Some private clients may tend to fear that there is a conflict of interest using percentage fees and may claim that the architect has a vested interest in increasing the costs of the project in order to increase his fee income. For this reason fixed fees may be negotiated.

    * Golf course "construction costs" are notoriously difficult to define. The client may have one vision of his costs, the architect and contractor may have a different one. A golf course project may include infrastructure, maintenance equipment and buildings, club house, driving range (equipment, fencing and shelters), assorted legal, design and surveyors fees, etc. For the purposes of this bulletin "construction costs" are defined by that work designed and specified by the golf course architect in his construction documents used for tender, and any other works that may fall under his supervision and responsibility

  2. Fixed Price Fees
    Every golf course design project is unique in its scale, the services required by the client and those available from the architect. Many architects negotiate a fixed sum based on the predefined and agreed service requirements (See Schedule of Services below). A fixed price fee is adapted when zoning by-laws can be quickly modified and planning permits can be easily obtained.

    Fixed price design fees may be negotiated on the basis of a percentage of the estimated construction cost at planning stage. Typically fixed fees for an 18 hole project would be in the range of 8% to 12%, excluding travel expenses. Variables that may affect a fixed price contract include: planning permits studies, financial appraisals, feasibility and technical studies, contractor selection and supervision, the frequency and number of site visits and travel expenses.

    Fixed price fees are generally applied for many types of consultancy work, particularly for golf course appraisals, feasibility studies and reports.

    Fixed price fees are frequently preferred by private developers, commercial operators and members clubs. There is the obvious advantage for the developer as design fees are capped.

  3. Time Rates
    Golf Course architects may be asked to visit projects in order to give advice, to attend meetings which have not been included in other fees proposals, or to carry out additional design work that has not been specifically included in the original contract. Clients may request extra services whose fees cannot be calculated prior to carrying out the task, or services that are difficult to define other than on a time rate.

    Time Rates may vary in cost and may be broken down into different rates for work done by different members of a design team: e.g. secretarial, administrative, technical or work done by the principal designer. Time rates may be billed by the hour (for design office work) or by the day (for site visits).

  4. Combination of methods
    The use of a combination of methods to calculate fees can be used on a variety of projects where variables are difficult to assess. For example: percentage fees for stages up to and including detailed design, time rates for the planning approval phase and a fixed price fee during the construction phase.

Fee Variables And Quality

The choice of golf course architect is undoubtedly the single most important factor affecting the final quality and cost of any golf course project.

Variation in design fees does of course exist between the individual qualified golf course architects Members of the EIGCA. However fee differences may be based more upon the extent of services provided, current work loads and negotiations between parties than upon more opportunistic factors.

Using a qualified EIGCA member as golf course architect brings to the project a degree of professional excellence that is second to none. He will have prior experience from previous projects, familiarity with planning approvals, meeting deadlines and avoiding unnecessary cost overruns.

Design Fee Stage Payments

A Golf Course Architecture contract may be broken down as follows:

Design Phase:
Appointment of Architect (*A)
Feasibility and Routing (*B)
Design & Planning Permits (*C)
Specifications and Tendering (*D)

Construction Phase (*E):
Appointment of Contractor
"Grow In"

These phases are usually reflected in the payment schedule breakdown. Each architect will have his own schedule which will be agreed to with the client. The table below gives a typical breakdown of a design fee and shows the range of variation that may be experienced within each phase.

Payment Schedule

Phase* Detail Typical % of Contract value Possible Range %
Signature of Contact 10 5-15
(A) Preliminary 5 5-15
(B) Feasibility, & Outline Layout Plan 10 7,5-15
(C) Planning Permit & Detailed Design 30 25-30
(D) Specifications, Bills of Quantities 5 5-15
(E) Project Inspection and Construction 40 30-50
*Letters refer to the Schedule of Services breakdown below.
Schedule of Services

Schedule of Services

Site Visits And Expenses

The factors which affect the frequency and number of site visits by the architect during the life of a project are extremely variable and will include:

Permit requirements, scale of the project, size of budget, technical complexity, location, precise conditions of contract, the individual clients requirements, presence of full time project management staff and other experienced personnel, normal working practices of the architect, etc.

Daily, weekly or monthly visits by the architect during peak construction activity may be negotiated as deemed necessary.

Design fees do not usually include the architects travel expenses (transport, hotel, etc) which will be billed directly to the client in addition to the design fee.

Golf Course Design
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