This discussion group is best enjoyed using Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari.
I have no clue on what it entails to be a golf course architect.Nevertheless, I have been self-employed, running a (little) printing business for over 25 years now. And people often say to me, that must be great, owning your own business - setting your own hours, choosing your schedule, etc. To which I usually just smile and nod....While I hate speculating, my life as it is, I'd guess the hardest and most time consuming aspects of being a GCA are related to the bureaucratic parts of building a course - permits and such. You're likely dealing with people who have little experience in the area, and really have little interest beyond being asked the permitting question(s). And in those bureaucrats' defense, they will likely be slammed by someone, regardless of the path chosen.
All of these things add up to a reality of the business that no one talks about: it's very hard to be successful unless you are already wealthy enough not to worry about them, or you have a secondary source of income. That's the one common thread between the famous amateur designers [Macdonald, George Thomas], and the guys who got into it part-time at first [Colt, Pete Dye], and the club pros [Braid] and Tour pros [Nicklaus] who have been successful. Without that cushion of support, it's a very difficult business to pursue, because you are constantly under pressure to sign up work for clients who are going to be a pain, or projects that are sorely handicapped. And then you get so busy doing those projects that you never have time to pursue the ones you really want.
I find most outsiders don't understand the time and effort that has to go into building a network of people who will support and promote your career. You can't build a business alone. Work doesn't come through cold calls, it comes through relationships. It takes a huge commitment and often a lot of your resources to build that foundation. But if you don't do this, nothing happens, there is no work.
To me, the hardest parts all fall under the category of "dealing with uncertainty":2. When you sign up a job, you don't have any control over when it will start because of permitting issues, financing issues, or even your client just getting cold feet, and it's hard to negotiate to get paid much of anything while you're waiting.