Case Studies

Arnold Palmer Design Company

Honoring a legacy through golf course design

With a history of creating hundreds of successful golf courses and award winning projects in more than 37 states and 25 countries, Arnold Palmer Design Company (APDC) brings an unparalleled depth of knowledge and expertise to every project. Headquartered in Orlando, Florida, APDC has built more than 300 golf courses all over the world and is regarded as one of the premier companies in the golf course architectural industry.

Arnold Palmer Design Company

Founded in 1972, APDC has won numerous awards and its courses have served as the venues for many major tournaments. Each course is a work that is the culmination of more than 40 years of experience building golf courses of distinction. With a passion for strategic design, a personal commitment to each client and project, a hands-on approach to design and intense attention to detail, APDC is able to ensure that each client receives a one-of-a-kind golf course.

“We are very different from other golf course design companies,” says Arnold Palmer, retired professional golfer and president and CEO of APDC. “We are cognizant of the things that are important, such as the reseeding and continual care of each course and the use of water. All of these things are extremely important and that is what we put an emphasis on all of the time.”

A passionate team equals continued success

The company’s success is also the result of the experience and oversight of Palmer and his personal involvement with his design team. Senior architects Thad Layton and Brandon Johnson have combined 25-plus years of experience working closely with Palmer to implement his legendary design philosophies.

“This job allows me to take my interest in golf, my love of the outdoors, art and architecture and combine them all into one,” says Johnson, who in addition to being a senior architect with the company, is also vice president. “Mr. Palmer’s influence, mentoring and philosophical guidance is obviously a very big factor in what makes APDC successful.”

Johnson joined APDC in 2006, following a very successful tenure as manager of design for The First Tee, where he was instrumental in assisting the organization to reach its 250 phase-one facility goals. Johnson is a graduate of North Carolina State University, where he earned his bachelors of landscape architecture. Upon graduating from NCSU, Johnson continued his education at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, earning his master’s degree in landscape architecture in 1999.

Layton began his career with APDC in 2000 upon earning his bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from Mississippi State University. Known for his land planning, routing and injection of bold features, Layton’s goal is to always create a fun and strategic golf course for every level of player. With the philosophy that the best courses are built in the field, Layton can often be found on-site with a shovel in his hands working on a feature with a construction crew to get the details just right. “It’s really a dream come true to be able to create such beautiful playing fields,” says Layton. “Each course is like an interactive painting. You can look at a painting, but to be able to interact with that art form in the form of a golf course is one of the coolest things in the world.”

Breaking new ground

APDC is currently in the design phase for what will be the company’s first Scottish golf course. The Arnold Palmer Tribute Course is slated for completion by late summer 2018. APDC is collaborating with Castle Stuart Golf Links on the project.

Arnold Palmer Design Company

This project will provide APDC the opportunity to emphasize its hands-on, handcrafted approach by having a constant architectural presence on-site. While it is typical for APDC to spend large amounts of time on-site evaluating the property, understanding clients’ goals and expectations and then perfecting design concepts in the field, this project will accentuate that philosophy.

APDC is currently embarking on a new 18-hole project outside of Bradenton, Florida, another new 18-hole course in the Northeast and an extensive remodel of Shingle Creek in Orlando, Florida. APDC is also keen to keep strong relationships with past clients, course owners and memberships and is currently consulting with several of its existing courses to help them keep the architectural integrity and design intent intact, fresh and technically updated as the course matures and evolves.

Johnson points out that over the last four to five years, APDC has been much more selective on the projects it has undertaken and in turn, the team devotes more focused time, passion and creativity to the craft. This allows APDC to tend to the important details that make each course fun, unique and personalized. It also allows the business to implement sensitive design solutions, which lends itself to creating more sustainable facilities from an environmental maintenance and economic standpoint. By working with and accenting the existing lay of the land, APDC’s designers are able to mimic the natural surroundings and maintain the aesthetic nature of the setting.

“As a company, we try to be as hands-on as possible,” says Johnson. “The personal relationship we establish and maintain with our clients and the intimate knowledge we gain from our site walks and evaluations is key to discovering what we can utilize and enhance on each project and what is appropriate and essential to making our creation a success.”

With a focus and philosophy of respecting nature, building relationships and follow-up care, Arnold Palmer Design Company is honoring the sport of golf with the same excellence, precision and passion that its namesake brought to the game. 

Published on: January 4, 2016

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