Golf Course

How Much Does it Cost to Build a Golf Course

An amateur golfer’s dream of teeing off on their own lush course can quickly become a financial nightmare. 

Building a regulation 18-hole golf course requires a massive budget of up to millions of dollars, including buying land, design work, earthworks, features, throwing, farming, water supply, buildings, staff, equipment, licenses, and other expenses. Even smaller executive style courses cost millions.

Land Acquisition Costs

Finding the right plot of land for a new golf course can be extremely expensive, especially in prime locations. The land must have suitable terrain, hole spacing, minimal environmental impact, and adequate acreage for amenities. Prime locations near metropolitan areas drive up land prices from the start.

Clearing land, demolishing existing structures, rezoning, and potential mitigation measures all quickly increase costs. Experts estimate that land acquisition for a regulation course will start around $2.5 million, if not more.

Golf Course Architectural Design Expenses

Professional golf course planners charge between 8 and 10% of the overall project budget. On a multi-million dollar course, design fees can range from $500,000 to more than $1 million. 

The architects investigate the site, conduct surveys, design detailed hole-by-hole layouts, incorporate challenging features, specify infrastructure requirements, maximise playability, ensure safety, and so on. Complex courses increase design costs. Numerous revisions and oversight during construction can raise fees even further.

Heavy Earthworks and Construction Costs

Moving earth is one of the most expensive aspects of building a new golf course. Fairways, greens, bunkers, hills, water features, and terrain variations are created through clearing, digging, soil transport, deposits, compaction, and precision grading.

With hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of dirt to move for 18 holes, heavy machinery is required. Strict quality control ensures good drainage and playability. Six-figure earthworks budgets beginning around $500,000 are common. Multi-million dollar earthmoving costs are common on hilly or difficult sites.

Golf Course Features

Features add challenge and appeal to holes, but they also increase construction costs. Greens with specialized soil, contours, and drainage typically cost between $80,000 and $100,000 each.

Stylish bunkers with imported sand cost $8,000 to $15,000 per hole. Water features such as lakes, streams, and waterfalls can cost thousands of dollars per linear foot to line, fill, and recirculate. Other features such as waste bunkers, chipping areas, drainage systems, and bulkheads increase the running costs. Courses aim for a minimum of $250,000 in features per hole.

Expensive Golf Course Turf Establishment

Upgrade golf courses are expected to have expertly manicured playing surfaces. Sod grown to strict specifications for greens and tee boxes must be perfectly harvested, transported, and unfurled. Recent turfing prices range from $10 to $15 per square foot. 

With approximately 250,000 square feet of greens and tee boxes spread across 18 holes, the grass alone costs $2.5-$3.75 million to install. Fairways and rough use sprigging, seeding, and special mix soils cost approximately $60,000 per finished acre after grow-in.

Complex irrigation and drainage infrastructure

Consistent watering and drainage over hundreds of acres requires a complex network of underground pipes, heads, remote controls, pumps, water storage, drainage layers in soil profiles, catch basins, and other components. Irrigating 18 greens with the latest precision heads and satellite controls costs approximately $40,000 per green. 

An automated fairway system can easily cost $100,000 per hole. Drainage across the entire course adds additional hidden costs beneath the surface. The average irrigation and drainage budget is in the six-figure range.

Golf course facilities, amenities, and utilities 

Outside the course, the overall budget must account for clubhouse buildings, pro shops, restaurants, locker rooms, cart storage, maintenance structures, and utilities. Luxury clubhouses alone can cost $5 million, $10 million, or more.

Budget an additional $3 million for a basic clubhouse and restaurant. The maintenance facility requires several storage and workspace buildings beginning at $2 million. Utilities, roads, parking, and landscaping can also cost seven figures.

Salaries, supplies, and operating expenses

Before the first tee shot, consider future payroll and overhead. Greenkeepers, superintendents, mechanics, and grounds crew are paid more than $1 million per year to maintain the course. 

Equipment, fuel, chemicals, and other recurring supplies cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Administrative salaries, property upkeep, taxes, insurance, licenses, fees, and contingencies all add up to additional costs after the business opens.


Building an elite golf course is prohibitively expensive and only available to the ultra-wealthy. With hundreds of thousands of dollars per hole and millions more for recreational facilities and operations, developing just 18 championship holes can easily cost between $15 and $25 million. Passionate developers with dreams of golf glory require deep pockets to make their vision a reality.

For example, top professional golfers may earn $10 million over their entire career. That’s less than the cost of building a single lavish course. Clearly, building golf courses makes the sport appear cheap. 

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