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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

An Afternoon Out

Yesterday Gary, Dave, Rob and Myself were lucky enough to play the Old Course at Sunningdale. After throwing the balls up on the first tee Dave and I were paired together (again). This gave us the chance of some revenge after our defeat at Sunningdale Ladies. Dave started very well and we quickly found ourselves up in the match. We reached the turn 2 ahead. Robin and Gary were still upbeat though after I had given them 2 ‘ooslam’ bits after some sloppy putting on the par 3’s.

After I won a couple of bits back at 13 and 14 Dave and I found ourselves 3 up with 4 to play. However, Robin then made a good 3 at the 15th to keep the match going, I then went missing for the last 3 holes and Dave couldn’t quite hang on despite a great double sandy par at 17, the match ending in a half after some impressive golf from Gary.

I quite like writing these reports, I can skim over a match and not mention the duffs and tops that I hit, the snap hooks that Rob hit and the big push slices that Dave and Gary hit…. oops I just did… sorry chaps!

I should also mention that the course was in great condition, the new bunkering looked great and fits in really well. It was a pleasure to play. A big thanks goes to our Director and Sunningdale member Michael King for organising the game for us. 

Celtic Manor – Year To Go

Invited by Celtic Manor to attend the Year To Go celebrations at the resort on Monday. The two Ryder Cup captains, Colin Montgomerie and Corey Pavin, played an exhibiton match on The Twenty Ten Course with Radio and TV presenter Chris Evans and Welsh opera singer Bryn Terfel. Played on a beautiful sunny day over 9 of the new holes designed by European Golf Design the match ended on the 18th green with an honourable half. Afterwards at the Gala Dinner the guests were treated to a question and answer session with the captains and entertainment from Bryn Trefel, and singer John Owen James as well as MC Chris Evans.

Thoughts on the day;

1 – The Captains – Both came across impressively during the day. Admittedly it was all pretty light hearted stuff but their mutual respect and competitiveness was  clearly evident.

2 – Chris Evans – Don’t take on Chris Evans in a game of golf , You’ll be beaten. A 15 handicapper going on 5.  Oh, and a superb MC.

3 – That Bryn can sing….Wow. Never been particularly interested in that style of singing before but to hear it live is a real experience.

4 – John Owen Jones… a star in the making. Thought he was the resident comedian…and then he sang! Great performer.

5 – Rhodri Morgan, The First Minister for Wales – A politician and a born entertainer. I laughed ‘till I cried!

6 – Gareth Edwards – You can only admire his passion and pride for Wales hosting the Ryder Cup, and on The Twenty Ten Course where he is Honorary Captain.

7 – The Ryder Cup – It’s difficult for anyone to understand the sheer scale of organization that’s required to host the Ryder Cup and you have to admire those responsible for its coordination.

8 – The Celtic Manor Resort – There’s no denying it will be a superb host for both teams.

9 – Sir Terry Mathews – a man who, if he’s told “it can’t be done”, proves it can!

10 – Sun block – Who’d have thought I would regret not bringing the factor 20 to Wales – in October!

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.

From Russia with Love

Construction on the PGA National Golf Course at Zavidovo is only one month away from ‘shut-down’ for the Russian winter, but progress so far has been unbelievable. The weather so far has been kind, very kind, (only one day been lost to adverse weather), however to have rough shaped the entire course, built every water feature and installed all the solid drainage in a five, yes five month period, will be an outstanding achievement by all.

So, who are these ‘miracle’ workers?
The main Construction Contractor’s are a local firm called GeoKam. (This is actually their very first golf project.)
By trade, GeoKam actually specialise in marina and lake construction, so their technical expertise in these fields are proving extremely valuable, especially considering the numerous water features being created.
From a structural construction stand point, Russia, with its huge temperature variance, is proving a totally different challenge, but very educational nonetheless. Familiar construction techniques cannot be employed and the use of concrete is very minimal. However, what these technical construction methods are creating, is a golf course which will be synonymous, appropriate and in character with its Russian setting.

With GeoKam’s lack of GC construction experience, the client has brought in Braemar Golf to oversee the Construction Management of the project. Braemar Golf has put together an experienced team of project managers and shapers, and under their guidance and direction, the high quality of the work has been maintained even with the extremely restrictive construction window.

Work is progressing well, but in the words of the GeoKam Managing Director (via translation), ‘There is much more to do, we must be ‘hard’ with each other………and now is not the time for any celebration!’…………….Ok then!

  • Construction of the Timber lake walls
  • Shaping up of the 6th Hole
  • Me, Dave with one of the shapers (Scott Laughlin)

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. 

Ruchill Community Golf Course

European Golf Design are pleased to announce the official opening of a new inner-city golf course in Glasgow designed by the company in partnership with Colin Montgomerie. Ruchill Community Golf Course has been developed on the site of the original Ruchill Golf Course which was closed by Glasgow City Council because of vandalism in the 1997. The completely new course has been built to provide accessible golf for the local community and in particular to offer golf tuition to juniors. In addition the course will act as a training centre for greenkeepers and club managers. The scheme has been aided by contributions from, amongst others, Sportscotland and The R and A and has the backing of the Scottish Golf Union.

The project received the enthusiastic support of Colin Montgomerie who officially opened the golf course this week.

Ross McMurray, one of the lead architects on the project for EGD said, “We were delighted to be able to assist Colin in the design of the golf course at Ruchill. This was an ambitious project which has taken a number of years to reach fruition, requiring the involvement of a wide range of different organisations working together in partnership. We are sure that this revitalised green space adjacent to the Forth and Clyde Canal will provide a focus for sport and education for the local community as well as a broader opportunity for social integration. There are few, if any, inner city golf projects of this kind in the UK but hopefully it will provide youngsters with a unique chance to develop an interest in golf which will last a life time.”

EGD Courses on Tour

This week two EGD courses stage tournaments on the European Tour.

The Seniors Tour travel to Casa Serena in the Czech Republic for the Casa Serena Seniors Open, the second year the tournament has been held. Won in 2008 by Bernhard Langer, his maiden Senior Tour win, Langer’s title defence could face a stern test from two fellow former Ryder Cup Captains in Sam Torrance and Woosnam, who are locked in a battle at the top of the Order of Merit.

Casa Serena Golf Course is the vision of Terry Gou, the chairman of Foxconn, the largest contract manufacturer of electronics worldwide. The course resides deep in the rural Czech countryside, alongside the castle of the same name that Terry Gou bought and refurbished to be his personal European residence. The course is for the use of the executives and guests of Foxconn and opened for play in 2007.

The second course to play host to the European Tour is Ribagolfe in Portugal. The First Qualifying Stage for the European Tour takes place from 15 – 18th September when 51 golfers will attempt to win a place through to the Second Qualifying Stage and ultimately a card on the European Tour.

European Golf Design designed two courses at Ribagolfe, located near Santo Estevao, 30 minutes drive east of the city centre. Ribagolfe 1 with Ex Walker and Ryder Cup golfer Peter Townsend and Ribagolfe II with Ex Walker and Ryder Cup golfer Michael King. Set within a forest of cork oak trees and the design makes full use of the sweeping undulations of the site, providing many spectacular golf holes across valleys and lakes.