There are many resources like the NGF, articles, and blogs regarding the planning for golf driving range / practice centers. Most of the resources contain valuable information, but for the most part cover the same basic subjects. Here are some other important considerations you might not otherwise find when doing a search on this topic.
Drainage, Stormwater, Irrigation
The desire to insert many amenities into the practice center design can easily make use of all of the ground available for development. In some of the research I found many consultants who advocated including more amenities than what may be needed.
Developing a tract of land also requires providing for setbacks and for storm water management. Storm water management typically requires creating a depression where surface drainage from the hardscape areas like the parking lot and walks and the softscape areas like the turf areas can be detained for a designed period of time.
Ideally the detention area can be designed to a sufficient depth to provide for storm water management and have freeboard space available in order to use the detention area as an irrigation source as well. Harvesting storm water is an critical component in respecting the natural hydrology of the land, while making good use of this valuable resource. The detention area would have to be lined and supplemental water provided from an alternative source like city water, treated effluent, or a well for purposes of irrigation.
As a last resort if water must be sourced from a nearby city owned water main line you will need to engage the utility authority in a permitting process. Initially, it is important to know the flow rate, pipe size and line pressure (PSI). The utility authority may require that you create a pond area from which to irrigate as opposed to irrigating directly from the water line in the event the specifications for the main line (flow rate, pipe size and line pressure) are not capable of irrigating your practice center without compromising the system as a fire suppressant.
It is estimated that stand-alone golf ranges do anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of their business after five o’clock in the evening. Lighting the practice center can be instrumental in making the center a profitable business. The amount of light that can spill beyond the site could be an issue with regulatory boards and local neighbors. In this scenario, consideration must be given to incorporating berm lighting into the overall lighting scheme which will further reduce any obtrusive light and minimize impacts upon the nighttime environment. The berm lights are strategically located along the fairway and rough grounds and some floodlights may have to be installed off of a covered building or poles in the teeing area.
Artificial Turf Greens
Artificial turf on the target greens in order to reduce maintenance is a good option particularly when resources for maintenance practices may be limited. The initial investment can be significant, but it will result in lower maintenance costs over the long term, and it will address your limits in maintenance resources. I also am excited about an added benefit the artificial turf has in distinguishing the targets from the surrounding natural turf grass.
Winter, Snow, Heating, Extra Balls
In our practice center design we have a double deck building with space for 20 bays on each level making for a total of 40 bays. We recommended heating the 20 bays on the ground floor so that the facility can be used year around. In this situation additional practice balls may be needed in the event balls can not be picked up during snow conditions. One source recommended buying 30 to 40 dozen practice balls per tee station and up to 100 dozen balls per tee station at a busy range. A range in Connecticut has a double deck building with a total of 60 heated hitting stalls. They claim to have over one million golf balls (1,400 dozen per stall!) which can supply balls year around even if balls can not be gathered when snow is on the ground.
Once you work through the details of a practice facility you can appreciate the need for lots of storage. I was at a nice, private club with a 4 bay indoor teaching facility, yet only three bays were available for use. The fourth bay was filled with teaching aids and other equipment. There are a multitude of items to be stored related to turf maintenance, teaching, merchandise, service equipment, office supplies, food service, and so forth. Plan for storage; then add more!
Individual target greens are fine as long as there are no distance gaps that prevent you from playing every iron to a target green. Some ranges don’t allow you to hit a target green with all of your irons. To ensure most players can play to a target green with every iron there needs to be target greens that span the range of shots from 80 yards to 210 yards. This can be done with as many as 4 target greens or as few as two greens that are designed in a long, circuitous style.
The practice center should feature a fairway that fronts the target greens to simulate a real course. Ideally, the fairway continues for over 300 yards and includes a fairway bunker to enhance practicing tee shots within a golf course type setting. The fairway bunker adjacent to the fairway provides a realistic situation for practicing tee shots. Most driving ranges are too wide. It is difficult to have meaningful practice with the driver if there is not a fairway and bunker targets similar to what is experienced on a golf course.
Teaching Facility in Public Area
For many years I remember the standard practice range had a tee at the opposite end of the main tee and it was to be used for private lessons. Recently a teaching professional suggested that the teaching facility should be located in the area of the main tee in order to increase exposure to the membership or the general public.
How big to make a parking lot? Create enough area using the rule of thumb of 1car per 350 square feet;
Some architects advocate making the range over 400 yards in length due to equipment technology advancements;
Here are some interesting statistics from a local practice center in the northeast United States: 18 hole miniature golf course does 20,000 rounds per year; 3PGA pros give 2,000 lessons per year; driving range, miniature golf, golf simulator and full service club fitting and merchandise pro shop produces gross revenue of $850,000 (best year ever was $1,500,000).