Cart Paths

Cart paths are a preferred route that golf buggies should follow around the golf course. A recommended golf course design feature in warm climates, to help reduce turf grass wear on the golf course, can be an important component for the golf course presentation. In today’s resort golf courses cart paths provide a beneficial support for golf course operations.

Basically a mini road, construction can be concrete, brick pavers, asphalt or more eco friendly materials. Typically a cart path will be 2.25-2.5m wide with a 2% fall for drainage. Below the surface will be a 150mm subgrade of crushed rock and a compacted subgrade. Kerbing may also be necessary depending on the golf course terrain. Typically, kerbing may be installed in the areas of greens and tees to direct traffic away from areas of play.

Design of the cart paths is very important. The route should be efficient, unobtrusive and safe, avoiding steep slopes and tight turns. Where possible, paths should be placed away from play areas to avoid interference with play. The path will often follow the shortest route tee to green. Cart Paths may be installed in stages and partial systems are not uncommon. It should be noted that entry and exit points are areas that commonly exhibit turf wear problems and may require restoration.

Cart Paths can impact greatly on the overall construction costs depending on materials and terrain. Cart Paths can also help and support drainage by collecting runoff in channels along the path thus directing water away from the fairways.

Many modern construction methods are regarded as low maintenance, but poorly constructed cart paths can have a significant negative impact upon the presentation of the golf course and golf course maintenance.

As designers, we make great efforts to design cart paths to avoid disrupting the natural setting. Where possible we try to utilise the natural topography into the design of the cart paths. On flatter ground, mounding can be used to provide natural barriers to help screen the cart paths. Landscaping can also be used to screen cart paths from view.

We spend a lot of time considering the cart path route for a golf course to ensure that the visual impact for the players is minimal.

Brick paver cart path with kerbing

Golf Management – Career Change

By Brian Ridout

I had worked in live television sports broadcasting for over twenty years as a freelance editor. I was fortunate to have worked on World Cups, Summer & Winter Olympic’s and World Championships in a multitude of sports. I had travelled the globe and spent a large amount of time out of the United Kingdom. Two years ago I decided upon a career change, and decided the best way to facilitate my plans was to go back into education.

I was accepted onto the golf management (sports science) degree course at Merrist Wood campus in Surrey in September 2008. The first year was successful and in September 2009 I was presented with my assignments for year two. The module that captured my attention was golf course design. As a result of this I contacted various design studios seeking an internship for the year, allowing me to learn and develop an interest in this area of golf which I had no previous knowledge of. This would also satisfy another module on the program, professional development within the work arena.

Jeremy Slessor allowed me into the exciting atmosphere of European Golf Design at their studio, not far from Sunningdale Golf Club. I was impressed, what they thought of me I can only guess! However everyone welcomed me and made the entire experience extremely worthwhile. I was given the tour and introduced to Gary Johnston who would give me the benefit of his vast experience. What made things even easier for me was how much input the rest of the group gave me. The design team (Stan, Robin, Ross Dave), Sarah, Matt and Alex all offered help and I was given the impression that each of them wanted to see me succeed. A large open plan office allowed me to make myself at home behind a desk and get started.

I have enjoyed my time at EGD. As a mature student this placement has proved to be perfect for me. There is a great deal of professionalism at EGD, along with a wealth of talent and knowledge. Everyone does their best to make sure each item of work is the best it can possibly be.

My future plans are to utilise my previous experience and couple that with my new knowledge and work on Tournament/Event Management within golf. The degree program at Merrist Wood has a very good reputation, additionally I have been able to make many new contacts through my work at EGD.

The weekly abuse about me being the only Chelsea supporter in the office ceased this week when I pointed out that Chelsea had won the Premier league again! A win against Portsmouth this Saturday and it will be doubles all round I presume?

Brian working on his golf course design project

Golf Green Design

To me, at least, green design makes the difference between good and great golf courses. From big to small, flat to undulating, round to square (ish), heavily bunkered or no bunkers, they should all get the golfer thinking about the approach shot they are about to hit.

Drawn and designed at a 1:200 scale because of their complexity, they are accountable for a big chunk of time in the design process. One project for example could easily have 40 or more greens (including practice facilities) to design, each a different size and shape with different borrows to fit the golf hole that is laid out before it.

Every green design is painstakingly drawn with a high degree of detail, up to 6 contours per meter. The drawn design is not by any means set in stone, more often than not the Golf Course Architect will tweak (sometimes more than tweak!) slopes, humps and bumps when they are on site.

One thing that must be considered as a part of the green design process is creating areas that are flat enough to be ‘pinned’. There should be at least 5 suitable areas on a green for the pin, if, for nothing else, to cover the 4 days of a big tournament. To meet European Tour standards for example a pinnable area will generally have a gradient of less than 2%.

Along with Pin positions another aspect to be considered is the type of grass being used on the putting surface, the mowing height and potential Stimp reading as this will have an impact on the slopes and shaping. Generally Greens will be cut between 3-5mm depending on the time of year and during the summer they may be cut twice daily to keep the greens fast. The Stimp meter is a device that allows the Golf Club to gauge the speed of their greens. For Championship Golf they are normally a minimum of 10 feet on the Stimp. 12 feet is usually as fast as a professional golfer would see, Augusta’s Stimp however can run at 13 feet.

Now for some very basic construction information. Typically European Golf Design build greens to conform with the USGA recommendations for greens construction. Starting from the bottom upwards; The first job is to shape the green subgrade so that the contours in the subgrade reflect those of the finished shaping. A series of drainage lines are trenched into the subgrade, these will contain the perforated drainage pipe and be backfilled with washed gravel. Above this is a 100mm layer of the same washed gravel. Finally on top of this sits the seedbed mix which is a 300mm mixture of sand and organic matter. Occasionally a plastic membrane is installed around the green perimeter which is used as a barrier between the subsoil green profile edge and the gravel blanket and rootzone mixture.

One aspect I have not covered is grass seed. There will be a blog to come on this, so to find out more on Bent or Bermuda, Pencross or Penneagle watch this space!

  • Herringbone drainage which forms the lower layer of the green construction. Perforated plastic pipes in the herringbone trenches to facilitate drainage of water. Around the green perimeter is a plastic interface membrane used as a barrier between the subsoil green profile edge and the gravel blanket and rootzone mixture.  Photo taken at Euphoria Golf & Hydro in South Africa.
  • Spreading the washed gravel layer across the green area which forms a drainage base for the seedbed mixture above. The washed gravel layer is usually 100mm thick. The gravel is smoothed out using rakes. Photo taken at The Dutch in The Netherlands.
  • The seedbed mixture forms the top layer of the green construction. Typically 300mm thick and a mixture of sand and organic matter. Photo taken at Navarino Dunes in Greece.

A Classic Links Course

As I sit here working on the Staging plan for the 2010 Senior Open Championship held at Carnoustie I cannot help but think about the characteristics of classic links golf. Undulating fairways, sandy soil and dunes, wispy long rough, the smell of the sea from the coastal wind, thick gorse, firm well-drained ground and yes deep revetted pot bunkers.

Looking at the revetted bunkers in more detail not only are they inevitably a one-shot penalty but they are also labour intensive to construct and maintain. Construction involves stacking thick turf strips (approx 40mm thick) in layers. Each layer is set back from the one below depending on the steepness of the face. The turf is generally a bent grass / fescue mix which are more tolerant to wind and drought conditions. Maintenance is an ongoing process with a typical turf renewal every 4-5 years, although the life expectancy of the bunker face will be affected by exposure to the sun and wind which can cause the face to dry out and crumble. Additional Sprinkers are sometimes installed to include coverage of southern facing revetted bunkers exposed to the sun to try and prevent the faces from drying out but generally these bunkers need to be rebuilt more frequently. To accommodate the constant turf rotation links courses generally have large turf nurseries.

Thinking back to Carnoustie who cannot recall Padraig Harrington’s memorable first Open victory in 2007 when he defeated Sergio Garcia in a play-off.

  • EGD's Gary Johnston assisting the greenkeeping team with the renovation of a number of the revetted bunkers at Princes Golf Club.
  • EGD's Gary Johnston assisting the greenkeeping team with the renovation of a number of the revetted bunkers at Princes Golf Club.

Golf Course Grass Types

When the majority of golfers play their ball, either from the tee, fairway, rough or green, not many will give a second thought about the hallowed turf beneath them and how it is different from the grass they mow back at home each week. In reality a great deal of consideration is given to ensure the best possible grass varieties are used. Grass selection is based on climate, soil type, water availability and quality and the playing characteristics required by the designer. There are many specialized varieties of turfgrass for golf courses some of which require intensive maintenance and careful cultural practices.

Here are some of the typical grass types found on golf courses.

Bentgrass – A grass often used on golf courses in northern Europe. The bentgrass varieties have many advantages as they can be mowed to a very short height and are ideal for highly-manicured areas such as tees, greens and fairways. There are various types but browntop bents are well adapted for maritime and coastal climates such as in the UK, while creeping bent is commonly used, especially on greens, in both cool and some warm climate regions.

Fescues – A large family of grasses which can be used on all areas of a golf course, most usually in cooler climates. They adapt well to less fertile conditions and although some varieties are appropriate for close mowing they are most often distinguishable as tall rough grasses, particularly on links courses.

Rye Grass – This cool-season grass is used for roughs and fairways. Its use on golf courses has increased due to the fact that it is hard wearing, tolerates close mowing and the ease with which it can be striped by reel mowers.

Kentucky Blue Grass or Smooth-stalked Meadow Grass – A grass used for fairways and roughs, largely in cool-season areas, but also in some humid regions.

Bermuda Grass – A warm season grass variety which is very heat tolerant and found on courses in southern Europe and the Middle East. Bermuda grass can be used on all areas of the golf course and is commonly propagated by sprigging.

Paspalum – A warm season grass which is tolerant of salt water and heat. It can be used for tees, greens, fairways and roughs and provides a very dark green colour.

Taking three of the courses we have designed with Colin Montgomerie as an example it is interesting to note the differences in grass selection at each.

1) The Montgomerie at The Dutch in The Netherlands has creeping bent greens with a browntop bent / fescue mix in the fairways.

2) The Montgomerie at Papillon Golf Club in Turkey has bermuda grass everywhere except for the greens which are creeping bent.

3) The Royal Golf Club at Riffa Views in Bahrain uses wall to wall paspalum.

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. 

Environmental Certification Programme

Good things are always worth waiting for. The industry has long needed a verifiable method of demonstrating to those within and, more importantly, to those outside golf the environmental value that well planned, well constructed and well managed golf courses can bring to communities. In short, the industry has needed a credible environmental certification programme.

And now Golf Environment Organisation has delivered just that. Launched last week, the GEO Certification programme has the one thing that all previous attempts have not had – independence. No longer will the golf industry be involved in self-policing. Now, with GEO Certification, golf courses will be verified by independent experts from outside the industry. It will be transparent. It will have credibility. It will have legitimacy. Registration is free and simple – start by clicking on

It may be slightly melodramatic to suggest that the future of the golf industry depends on programmes such as this, but what is undeniable is that the industry is greatly strengthened by this. What kind of message would it send if every club in Europe was registered?

  • Flowers on and around the course at The Dutch
  • Flowers on and around the course at The Dutch
  • Flowers on and around the course at The Dutch

How to Become a Golf Course Designer

We get many requests from people with diverse backgrounds wanting to get into the industry and become a Golf Course Designer.

What is Golf Course Design: Golf Course Design is golf couse routing & strategy, detail design, drainage, irrigation, turf–grass selection, planning, construction, and environmental considerations.

Being such ‘niche’ profession it can be very difficult to break into and stand out from the crowd

The typical route would be to obtain a degree in Landscape Architecture. This would give a wide brush of skills in design, planning, the environment and plant species.

That being said coming from a design background in Architecture or Civil Engineering is also starting point to go onto further studies or enter the industry (or like both me and Jeremy, we have backgrounds in greenkeeping & construction and degrees in Turfgrass Science).

The European Institute of Golf Course Architects offer a Diploma course in Golf Course Architecture. Visit for more information. Also look at the American Society of Golf Course Architects website

We would also advise people to try and get a work placement with a reputable golf design company.

Another route in would be to have CAD (Computer Aided Design) skills in a relevant dispiline and enter at a support level and study while you learn the business from the bottom up.

You can have all the qualifications available but natural ability is also needed when it comes to laying and designing a golf course.

Good reading material:
– The Golf Course: Planning, Design, Construction and Management by F.W. Hawtree

– The Anatomy of a Golf Course: The Art of Golf Architecture by Ben Crenshaw and Tom Doak

– Golf Course Architecture: M Hurzdan

– Routing the Golf Course: Forrest Richardson

– Grounds for Golf: Geoff Shackleford

– Golf Course Design: R M Graves & G Cornish

– Golf Course Architure –

– Look out for seminars, exhibitions and golf shows.