Whistle While We Work

Paying a visit to European Golf Design can be a musical extravaganza. As you walk through the office a diverse array of musical tastes can be heard as you pass from office to office.

At EGD peoples doors are always open. First you pass by Stan Eby’s office, you’ll find him listening to classic 60’s & 70’s Rock, one of his favourites being Little Feat. Next you swing by Ross McMurray’s room, he’ll be generally sat at his drawing board tapping his foot away to the Blues.

When you enter the main office you can hear more than the sound of keyboards tapping and phones ringing. Generally it’s a mixture of the radio or peoples playlists on Napster. There’s 6 of us so banging out Metallica all day doesn’t please everybody!! It’s a fine balance, something interesting, but not too distracting, but there are times when you can’t beat the good old sound of silence.

Going past the print room you come to Robin Hiseman and Gary Johnston’s offices. The doors are right next to each other and standing outside you can sometimes be greeted by a wall of sound. There’s a mixture of Indie from Rob and Dance/Rock beats from Gary.

Let’s us know the music that does it for you when you’re designing or need inspiration at work?

Designer Stan Eby’s favourite – Lowell George and Little Feat

The Basics of Drainage on a Golf Course

For some drainage might not be the most exciting subject, but when it comes to golf course design it really is crucial. Not only is drainage important during design and construction but also after the course is open. Surface and sub-surface drainage is an ongoing part of a good overall maintenance plan.

On a golf course drainage is needed to remove water away from the playing surfaces allowing it to remain playable following and even during heavy downpours. Good drainage will also help prevent damage to the turf which can occur when water accumulates into puddles and is left standing for too long.

From the outset establishing how and where surface water will be directed has to be defined. If water is going to enter existing drains or waterways permisions will have to be obtained. Depending on climate conditions surface drainage can run into millions of gallons per month/year. If the golf course is part of an overall development this can have major implications on cost and design. Climate change concerns that water resources will be limited in coming years is now also influencing design. Ideally water will be collected in lakes and then re-used as part of the irrigation system. 

The design process will begin with a site visit, following which a Site Analyis Plan is drawn up to establish low points, valleys, slopes, watercourses, wetland areas and existing services. Existing geology and soil types also need to be identified as they can affect how water will drain, flow and collect.

The designer will always be thinking about drainage during the grading of the course. Indicated by contour lines on a plan the design will allow for surface drainage while retaining the flowing lines that make a golf course visually pleasing. Drains will collect surface water and divert it to low spots, the drainage system, streams and irrigation lakes.

Water can be directed away from the line of play using swales which then run into depressions. Catch basins in the depressions are then used to collect the water and filter any debris before it enters into the drainage system. Another option is to use trenches and french drains to gather water along the fairway. An extreme option is pumping which can be used to lift water out of an area of low-lying land.

Most golfers will have experienced problems with waterlogged areas on the fairway. These areas not only make playing golf less enjoyable but also damages and scars the fairway turf. To reduce this problem slit drainage can be used to drain fairways. This consists of parallel sand slit trenches that run along the fairway perpendicular to the water flow direction to remove excess water before it has chance to pond. The slit drains connect to collector pipes laid in a lattice of lateral drains which then link to main drains that tend to run parallel to the fairway(except where slopes do not permit). The lateral drains consist of a trench with a perforated pipe at the bottom and backfilled with gravel. Turf is placed over a permable membrane which makes them almost invisible to the eye.

Gravel Sumps are another means by which to collect water in low areas. Gravel sumps are commonly used in out of play areas where the topography does not permit the use of a piped drainage system. A Gravel Sump is basically a pit filled with drainage stone material and often lined with a textile fabric to prevent the surrounding earth contaminating the stone. 

Sand Bunkers can be difficult areas of the course to drain as they are normally set lower than any other part of the surrounding course. Bunker drainage is notorious for becoming blocked and ideally surface water should be directed away from the bunkers. This can be done by shaping surrounding ground to divert water away. Typically the drainage pipes in bunkers are designed in a herringbone pattern.

Green drainage is especially important to avoid puddles and general wet areas which will impact on play. Green drainage consists of perforated pipes or drainage tiles laid out in a herringbone pattern. To make the green drain efficiently it’s important to lay out drainage pattern perpendicular to the flow of water across the slope.

Drainage maintenance is an ongoing process. Regular drainage maintenance may involve sand slitting, aerating, top dressing and clearing debris from ditches and the like. Catch Basins have to be regularly maintained to clear debris from the grate on the surface so that the drainage is not inhibited, and periodically the trap at the bottom of the catch basins have to be cleaned. It is proper maintenance practise to keep an up to date drainage works plan to record all repairs and maintenance to the drainage system.

The theory of Drainage is simple, it works on gravity…water always runs downhill!

  • Sand bunker drainage at Euphoria in South African
  • Laying Drainage pipes at Woburn G&CC in England
  • Slit drainage being laid on the fairways at Rowallan Castle in Scotland
  • A catch basin with grates ready for installation. In the background drainage pipes are stored

The Importance of a Site Survey

Whatever the scope of works, if design work is required then almost certainly a detailed survey is also required.

What is a site survey ?
In it’s simplest terms a site survey is the accurate measurement and mapping of a tract of land.

A survey will mark features such as boundary limits, buildings, roads, fences, vegetation, waterways and services as well as the topography of the site and elevations of important features. The information will typically be presented to scale on paper and in a common digital format that can be read into CAD and Modelling software.

Depending on the landform and other site factors modern surveys are produced using Total Station, GPS positioning and airborne LIDAR surveying techniques, either solely or in combination.

A Total Station measures using infrared light which reflects off a prism. Angles and distances are recorded into a data logger which are downloaded to a computer later.

GPS postioning works using a network of satellites which send signals to reference stations usually mounted on tipods. The Surveyor uses a Rover Receiver which then transmits the postions to a data logger.

Air surveys (LIDAR) involves a aircraft and a laser surveying instrument. Using GPS positioning and laser beams the equipment is able to measure thousands of points per second the distances between the aircraft and the earth’s surface.

How it’s used.
Once we’ve got the survey we can begin the design process. Based on the survey we will do a full topographical analysis which helps us to establish the areas best suited to golf.

A comprehensive design package will then be produced, all of which are done using the survey as a base. On site, the staking plan is used by the surveyor to mark out the key locations such as tees, turning points and greens. Clearing work and mass earthworks will then take place.

Golf Course Staking

Above : Dave Sampson on site at Zavidovo in Russia checking the Golf Course Staking. In the front is a Staking Pole used to locate the Tees, Turning Points and Green Centre Points. In the background smaller poles are used to locate the golf course features such as green / bunker / fairway edge.

The surveyor will use the 3D digital information we provide throughout the construction phase to set-out, level and check the complete golf course. Much of today’s modern construction machinery is fitted with GPS technology which allows the machine operators to accurately follow the design and ensure that what is built is exactly how it was designed.

Peace of mind.
A good site survey can be one of the most important decisions  a client can make. Cutting corners with a site survey at the outset can have a massive impact on budget down the line. If levels or boundary lines are found to be incorrect during construction it may lead to redesign fees or additional earth movement costs as well as delays to the construction programme. Accurately locating and marking out sites of historical, archaeological or environmental importance as well as all underground services is vital as they can all have major design and contruction implications.

It’s also important to have a surveyor onsite during construction checking the works as they progress, compiling detailed as-built plans of all golf features as well as the location of other construction elements such as drainage and irrigation lines.

Is there an alternative ?
Not really. Although you can get detailed aerial images and OS data from the likes of Google, which may be very helpful for presentation work or concepts, a full site survey is something that should always be allowed for in the overall costings.

Golf Course Design Process – Grading

A very important part of any golf course design project is how much earth is going to have to be moved. The balance of cut and fill has to be thought about right from the start of the design process. If a balance isn’t possible then material will have to be imported or exported which can increase costs and construction time. Factors such as the budget, geology, vegetation, archeology, underground services, water table level, floodland restrictions and planning authority regulations can all impact on the amount of earth that can be moved. Once construction begins, earth may be stockpiled in designated areas and haul routes used to transport it across the site. One of the most common ways to generate fill is to design lakes in or around the golf course. Lakes can be used as a hazard or to store water which is then used to irrigate the course.

Working from a detailed digital site survey base, the Designer will typically draft the layout and grade the golf course by hand. Rough earthwork volume calculations will be made for every golf hole to make sure the cut and fill figures balance. Once the design has been drafted it will be handed over to the CAD department where the plans are converted into digital format. Earth Modelling Software is used to verify all the calculations and 3D visuals are used to check the design for sight lines and layout.

Detailed Plans
A detailed Grading Plan will be produced which will show the final layout of the golf course with all the existing and proposed contours. The plan will also show the exact position and sizes of all the golf course features, such as tees, greens and bunkers. Other elements such as water hazards, cart paths and walls will also be detailed. Grading Analysis plans are also created to graphically show the areas of cut and fill, colour coded like a topographical relief map.

Above: Grading Analysis Plan.

The golf course Contractor uses the detailed plan for all mass and local cut/fill works. The 3D digital information can be uploaded to survey instruments, so accurate earth movement can take place. The plans can be to used to determine haulage distances and locate material stockpiles.

Case Study – The TwentyTen Course, Celtic Manor
The design of the TwentyTen Ryder Cup Course at the Celtic Manor Resort involved various challenging factors for the design team, not least the issues associated with catering for over 40,000 spectators per day! Safety, corporate hospitality, vehicular and spectator movements, logistics and viewing all had to be considered in creating a fantastic venue for all those attending and participating in what is considered to be one of the world’s biggest sporting events.

To satisfy spectator viewing, the final three holes were designed to sit within dramatic amphitheatres on the side of a steep hillside overlooking the golf course. The creation of these holes involved cuts of up to 10m deep through rock, and on the 18th hole alone 350,000m³ of material was moved to form the golf hole, as well as the large platforms where hospitality units capable of entertaining 3,000 people at a time are located. This vast amount of material was then used to build up and raise flatter, poorly drained areas at the bottom of the valley to accommodate the main tented village and the newly designed holes 1-5 alongside the River Usk. A new lake was also created to enhance the strategy of the par 3, third hole, with the extra material generated from this excavation also utilized in the shaping of the course.

Throughout the design process amendments were made to incorporate the location of water mains, gas mains and overhead power cables. Also during construction, areas of important archaeological interest were discovered which meant inovative design solutions had to be found to prevent delays in the construction schedule, without impacting on the overall quality of the golf course.

3D Modelling Software was used extensively throughout the design phase of the Ryder Cup Course to accurately calculate cut and fill figures and generate sections of the various design adjustments the site conditions presented. Data was exchanged efficiently with the Contractor and Surveyor on site so that the construction accurately followed the design. 3D visualisations proved invaluable as the course could be viewed from any angle or height, reassuring the design team the new changes would provide maximum spectator enjoyment and allowing the client to understand the nature of the proposed work. In addition, once rendered, the 3D models were able to be used in marketing and promotional work for Celtic Manor Resort before the course took shape. 

Seniors British Open 2009 – Sunningdale

It was great to see all my golfing heroes up at Sunningdale last week for the Seniors British Open. They were all there, Faldo, Norman, Torrance, Langer and Tom Watson. Surrounded by trees Sunningdale is a heathland course west of London and just a few miles away from Wentworth, it has 2 courses the Old and the New. The Old Course was designed by Willie Park Jr in 1901 and the New by Harry Colt in 1923. Recently both courses have undergone renovation work mainly to the bunkers by Artchitect Martin Hawtree. The club emblem is an oak tree after the huge oak tree standing majestically beside the 18th green. Recently the course has hosted the Seve Trophy, Open qualifying and British Ladies Open in 2008 won by 21-year-old Ji-Yai Shin. The Old course is rated by many as one of the best courses in the world.

The Seniors Open had added interest for me, working with the staging team at the European Tour I produced the course graphics for the event. Planning for such an event is huge and began over 12 months ago. Work on site began over a month ago to erect the stands, tented village structures and putting in place the thousands of metres of cables for TV and communications.

The event also brings an added boost to the local shops with a noticable amount of extra business being done by the small shops, pubs and cafes. From our 1st floor office we have the perfect spot for people watching which can be great fun in a town like Sunningdale.

Watching the players of yesterday brings back many great memories, but don’t be fooled these guys can still hit the ball and the hunger can still be seen. After 4 fascinating rounds Loren Roberts eventually won in a play-off. Many big names were narrowly beaten as the final leader board shows.

Looking back it really was a great event, from the relaxed atmosphere to the exciting golf. It was so nice to see the crowds of young fans queueing up for autographs and the friendly banter between the players.

A last mention for our Director Michael King who along with being a member at Sunningdale is an ex-player and without injury would have been in there at the end as his great friend Sam Torrance was.

  • The 5th hole during the 2009 Seniors British Open
  • EGD's Sarah Casey and me Matt Sturt
  • The course plan showing the tented village and the on course facilities

AIB Ladies Irish Open – Portmarnock Links

Italy’s Diana Luna hit 18 greens en route to a stunning final round of 68 and claimed her first tour win in five years at the AIB Ladies Irish Open supported by Failte Ireland. She said she enjoys Ireland. “The people and the atmosphere are so great. We always play great courses; links is my favourite,” she said.

“It is a very rare occurrence”, according to Yvonne Cassidy, Tournament Director of the AIB Ladies Irish Open for the Ladies European Tour, for every one of Europe’s top 40 ranked professionals to enter for a tournament. This demonstrates the success of the event in 2008 on the Portmarnock Links club and clearly establishing it is as one of the premier events on the Ladies European Tour.

During the event Laura Davies was made an Honorary Member of The Links Golf Society at the AIB Ladies Irish Open supported by Fáilte Ireland. The English star was awarded the first female honorary membership, in recognition of a lifetime of achievement in women’s golf.

From this weeks Spike Bar – by John Hopkins, Internet Sports Writer of the Year
Portmarnock Links is a course of two halves. You make your score on the outward nine holes, which are flat and quite open, and then hope to hang on to it on the inward nine holes which wend their way through sand dunes – a lengthy tongue of shallow dune land as the late, great Pat Ward-Thomas described it – by the side of the Irish Sea a few miles north of Dublin. Bernhard Langer is credited with the design of the course but Stan Eby from European Golf Design did all the work and deserves more credit.

Click to read the Times online Spike Bar

The Thirsty Traveller

It’s become a tradition at European Golf Design that whenever travelling to new countries or cities we bring back a national or local beverage to the office. From projects across the world we have a very comprehensive selection!  Each and every experience has its own memory or story,  from happy times spent with the client to a hard days work spent on site with the Contractor.  From construction and course opening to meeting up with old aquaintences and hosting tournaments the friendship never ends.

The collection even has artefacts that have been found during construction like at Worsley Park in England.  The site was an old Victorian dump site and many 19th century bottles were found during excavation work.

A toast is for celebration and what better way to celebrate completing a project or job well done than to raise a glass (or two) amongst friends.


  • The European Golf Design 'Drinks Cabinet'.

A Day in the Life

8am – Cup of tea, check Monty’s and Goosen’s fan email, they range from corporate golf days, design enquiries to autographs and endorsement requests. Check the press for any news stories. With all the recent Ryder Cup speculation around Monty there is always plenty to look through.

9am – Cup of tea, onto the main task of the day which is drawing up green details for a new project in Cyprus.

10am – Take a phone call from the European Tour to update the Tented Village plan for the Portugal Masters, needs to be done by lunch so plan can go to the printers for inclusion in the event brochure.

10.45am – Cup of tea, back to the green details.

1pm – Lunch, Waitrose ready meal.

1:30pm – Cup of tea, computer problem, fix laptop with network card issue.

2:30pm – Cup of tea, back to green details.

4:00 – 4:15pm – Break for a cup of tea.

4:15 – 6:30pm – Finish green details and onto some IT maintenance and backups, EGD’s file system is now over 1 terabyte.

7:30pm – Fill in the days timesheet over a can of beer.

8pm – Leave for home.

Arran – Well Worth a Visit

The Isle of Arran, Scotland, is one of the most southerly Scottish islands and sits in the Firth of Clyde between Ayrshire and Kintyre. Arran is 19 miles long by 10 miles wide but has a remarkable diversity of landscapes and seascapes.

With 7 golf courses, Arran has the highest ratio of golf courses to people (around 4,500) anywhere in the world. Another world record Arran holds is the golf course at Shiskine, Blackwaterfoot. It is the only 12-hole course in the world! Shiskine seaside links is a short journey across the island and is a true gem with stunning views over to Mull of Kintyre, this is the true heritage of Scottish golf; golf as it was played by Old Tom Morris, Willie Park and Willie Fernie too, who laid the course out. Golf World have regularly ranked Shiskine as one of the top 100 courses in Britain.

Often referred to as ‘Scotland in Miniature’, the Isle of Arran within a short compass captures many aspects of the beauty of Scotland as a whole, from towering granite peaks to peaceful sandy bays overlooked by palm trees growing in the warm climate of the Gulf Stream.