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.