Cost to Build a Golf Course [Land Size & Building Rates]
There are nearly 25 million people who play golf in the United States. That means starting your own golf course could be a great investment. But if you’re interested in doing this, one of the first questions that you have is likely, “how much does it cost to build a golf course?”.
Building a golf course from scratch costs between $7 and $15 million – not including the price of land. That means if you still need to buy the land for your course, you could be looking at paying even more than that.
But that doesn’t mean that building a golf course is a bad idea. You may still be able to turn a profit by doing so. We’ll cover everything that you need to know about this topic below.
An Overview of Golf Course Building Costs
Building a golf course is a multi-step process. It involves:
- Purchasing land ($400,000 – $7,000,000)
- Turning the land into a golf course ($7 – $15 million)
- Building amenities like a clubhouse and bathrooms ($1 – $2 million)
We’ll give you a breakdown of the costs associated with each of these steps in the sections below.
How Much Land Do You Need For a Golf Course?
If you want to build an 18-hole course, you need between 100 and 200 acres of land to do so. The price for this will depend on the state that you’re located in.
Here’s a breakdown of the average cost-per-acre of land in states where golfing is popular:
|State||Average Cost Per Acre|
Given this data, your average cost for the amount of land that you need to build a golf course is between $416,400 and $6,980,000.
But keep in mind, your costs could be higher or lower than this. Your final price will be determined by where you want to build a golf course.
How Much Does It Cost to Convert Land Into a Golf Course?
This is the most expensive part of building a golf course. It takes a lot of work to turn raw land into an enjoyable golf course.
There are three main phases to this process:
- Preparation Work
- Shaping the course
- Constructing add-on features
We’ll look at the steps in each of these phases and their costs below.
Grading is the first step of the golf course building process. This involves adding and removing hills and other landmarks to your course. The goal of this is to make it interesting to play.
Grading requires lots of heavy equipment and plenty of workers. It typically costs between $5 and $10 per square foot.
Next up is adding a drainage system to the course. You need this so the course doesn’t flood and get ruined when it rains. The price of this can range from $10,000 to $80,000 per hole.
Your golf course also needs an irrigation system to keep its grass healthy. Some estimations say that irrigation systems can cost more than $2 million. But your costs may be lower than that.
Shaping Your Course and Installing Greens
Once you’ve installed your drainage and irrigation systems, you’ll be ready to start shaping your course. This is when you establish where the fairway and rough will be.
There isn’t a set price for the shaping process. Your costs will depend on factors like:
- The complexity of the design you choose
- Your location
- How difficult your land is to work on
When you’ve finished shaping the course, you can begin installing your greens. These are important to get right. Because they impact how golf balls roll and, thus, how your course will be played.
To add greens to your course, a designer has to do a lot of math. They have to make sure that they get the slope and angle of the greens correct. Otherwise, people won’t want to play your course.
Once again, there is no set price for this. The amount that you have to pay will depend on the unique factors of the land you’ve chosen to build your course on.
Finally, you also need to install tees on your course. Thankfully, this isn’t very expensive to do. The costs for this are minimal when compared to other expenses associated with building a golf course.
Constructing Add-on Features
You want your golf course to stand out from others so that people come to play it. To make that happen, you need add-on features that distinguish your course from others.
This is a list of things that includes:
- Water features
- Cart paths and bridges
- And other distinguishing features
The cost of these features is totally dependent on what you choose to build. If you want to keep things simple, you could spend under $1 million on add-on features.
But if you really want to stand out, your costs for this could be $2 million or more. You have the flexibility to choose how much you want to spend on these things.
How Much Does It Cost to Build a Golf Course Clubhouse?
If you’re building a golf course, you also want somewhere for players to relax in-between holes. That’s why it’s important to budget for building a clubhouse in addition to your course.
The best golf course clubhouses have:
- Full-service kitchens with foods and drinks
- Comfortable locker rooms
- Gear shops
- Lots of comfortable seating areas to relax
Putting all of this together isn’t going to be cheap, unfortunately.
The average private clubhouse costs between $300 and $400 per square foot. But a luxurious clubhouse can cost as much as $700 per square foot. The average golf course clubhouse is about 10,000 square feet. So you could easily pay $3-4 million to construct a clubhouse for your course.
How Long Does It Take to Build a Golf Course?
If you’re going to spend millions of dollars on a golf course, it’s important to have realistic expectations for how long it’ll take.
Research shows that the construction process for a golf course can take 1-2 years to complete. But that doesn’t include the amount of time that it takes to build a clubhouse. You may be able to build your clubhouse while building your course. But that will depend on your unique situation.
How Long Does It Take to Get Permits For a Golf Course?
Another thing that you might not have considered is that you need permits to start a golf course. This can be a lengthy process.
Experts say that it can take about 1-2 years to get all of the permits and approvals needed to start building.
When you add that to the construction time of 1-2 years, you can see it’ll take between 2-4 years to complete your course. That’s based on your starting the permit approval process today.
Are Golf Courses Profitable?
If you’re going to spend millions making a golf course, you also want to make sure that doing so will be profitable. Otherwise, you could lose more money than you make in the long run.
The standard income streams for golf courses include:
- Membership dues
- Pro shop sales
- Food and beverage sales
- Golf lessons
Some golf courses are highly profitable with these income streams. But others cost more to run than they earn in an average year.
That means there is no final answer to this question. A golf course can be profitable or not profitable. It will depend on how well you manage your expenses and how much income you bring in.
There are things you can do to increase your profits, though. These include:
- Selling some of your unused land to a developer
- Opening up a driving range
- Opening up your restaurant to the public
- Offering lessons from expert golfers
How to Finance a Golf Course
Depending on your financial situation, you may need help paying to build a golf course. If so, you could qualify for financing.
Here are the most popular types of financing for golf courses:
- Small business loans
- Private equity financing
- Conventional financing
- Loans from life insurance companies
- Commercial mortgage-backed security loans (CMBS)
The financing option that’s best for you will depend on your goals. If you want a personal relationship with your lender, conventional financing could be best.
But if you don’t want personal liability, choosing a CMBS loan could be a better option. Your choice will come down to what you value and the types of financing that qualify for.
Should You Build a Golf Course?
Building a golf course from scratch is an extremely costly endeavor. Doing so will also take you between 2 and four years to complete. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that building a golf course is a bad idea.
If you know the costs and timeline of constructing a golf course, building one can be a smart decision. You just need to make sure that you have a business plan that enables you to get a positive return on your investment.