When I discuss leveling of an existing tee box with a client I bring a shovel and a laser. I identify the elevation of each corner then I calculate the current slope. If it’s an even 1%, the tee resurfacing will require little grading. If not, the contractor must perform significant grading to construct a flat tee surface at a uniform 1%.
A recent inquiry asked: I was recently elected by our board to figure out a way to repair our bumpy, domed, uneven tee boxes. We have a beautiful course and unfortunately out tee boxes are horrible. We’ve tried to level the tee boxes with sand with no success. Also, I would like to use green grass, not fairway grass, on the tee surface.
I encounter many courses with the same problem. Past tee construction scenarios involved fill placement with loam placement leveled by a bad bulldozer operator or unskilled finish raker. I can’t blame them; laser grading wasn’t available back then and insufficient compaction complicates the situation.
I’d begin by
Abstract: Before starting a golf course renovation project, identify irrigation system impacts. Contractors need mainline locations and elevations before starting work.
Golf course renovation planning begins by identifying all irrigation components within the proposed work limits. Superintendents know their system best, so they should manage this process. Some like to send this task to the contractor but this may result in irrigation disasters because they may not know all the specifics of your system. Identify mainline and lateral lines with hand digging or a wire tracker, available for rent from established irrigation suppliers.
Abstract: Tee root zone mix installation involves careful planning and execution to limit subsurface drainage impacts while insuring even compaction.
I’ve seen a few contractors ruin subsurface grading and drainage piping by jamming tee rootzone mix without any concern for tee subgrades and piping. They try to increase production by doing the following:
- Driving a truck or trailer over the tee subgrade (the surface under the tee mix). Good construction methods incorporate the tee surface slope into the subgrade because this allows a true mirror image of the tee top slope while insuring positive subsurface water flow. A tire track or two will disrupt this sheet flow and crunch the drainage pipes. Note: we always install subsurface pipes under tee mix.
- Plowing out the tee mix with a bulldozer without any compaction technique.
We use these methods to install mix:
- Establish subgrade and finish grade stakes on the four tee corners (assuming you want a square tee). Calculate the amount of tee mix needed and transport this volume to the edge of the new tee. Stack the mix in a big pile on the edge of the tee. Don’t drive a truck or trailer over the tee edge. When the pile is complete, plow out a few inch lift of tee mix over the subgrade floor.
- Plow out another lift ( a lift is an even spread of soil i.e. a six inch lift) or two to establish design depth. This process creates even compaction-the dozer or excavator tracks do a nice job with this.
- Run a few strings connecting the four corners, and add or subtract mix as needed.
[si-contact-form form "1" ]
Summary: Many golf courses can’t afford premium materials and elaborate management teams. A golf course in Massachusetts first developed conditioning goals. After eliminating expensive details, a scheme using native materials and a few skilled golf course personnel created a successful, limited budget, golf course.
I’ve built golf courses for owners with limited budgets who want modest golf course conditions. They don’t want slick greens, shaved tees and bentgrass fairways. They want a playable golf course that doesn’t require intensive grooming. This post will discuss one project in Massachusetts.
After site plan review and routing, a clearing contractor began work. The owner hired a professional forester to manage the tree clearing; a good investment because he identified valuable trees for harvest, reducing the clearing costs.
The owner wanted to hire a site contractor to perform bulk earthmoving. Usually done to save money,I’ve seen this fail on other projects. Site developers can’t create golf course features. The finished project will look like a parking lot. The change orders will inflate the construction budget.
After persuasion, the owner hired a skilled golf course shaper for all golf course earthworks and construction. Having one golf course shaper permitted logical work sequencing without the conflicts created by two companies with different earthmoving philosophies.
The shaper used a D-8 to perform major earthworks procedures. His comprehension of final golf course grades created sensible stockpile locations, making cuts and fills easier. Many golf projects suffer delays caused by poor stockpile locating.
The Owner wanted to retain stumps located in front of tee boxes. A cost saving suggestion, he relented after I explained that leaving stumps in front of a tee will save money, but they will decompose in a few years creating a safety hazard.
Grubbing, or removal of tree roots and wood waste, produced a clean topsoil ready for stockpiling. We grubbed the entire golf course playing surface knowing that the remaining woodwaste will complicate the fine grading process.
We removed about a foot of topsoil with the D-8, pushing it into locations not requiring cuts and fills. We didn’t screen any fairway or rough topsoil. After topsoil return, we removed surface stones and stray roots with a mechanical rake.
The cuts and fill were done with the D-8. The golf course shaper is a fine operator, and he created golf course shapes without water pockets. We eliminated loading and trucking costs by limiting cuts and fills to bulldozer pushes. Creative use of existing site topography limited earthmoving.
He roughed out the tees and greens with the D-8. The shaper planned his earthworks well. He shaped final tee, green, and bunker shapes with a small bulldozer and an excavator.
He built tees with native topsoil saving the expense of purchasing, rehandling, and installing custom blended tee mix. We installed fifty feet of drain tile in each tee. It cost about one-hundred dollars; cheap insurance from drainage problems. We screened the tee-top topsoil to remove rocks because we didn’t want golfers breaking wooden golf tees. We laser-graded the tee top, another important construction detail.
We plated bunkers with with screened topsoil. We were fortunate to find cheap, locally available bunker sand. Intensive compaction during construction and loaming insured that the seeded surfaces wouldn’t wash out. We added bunker drainage; this is another inexpensive detail that insures immediate play after heavy rain.
Green construction included standard herring bone drainage tile with a pea-stone backfill. We manufactured our own green mix with on-site loam mixed with sand excavated from a pond location. The ratio of 70% sand and 30% topsoil performs well.
An irrigation vendor designed the irrigation system without charge. His in-house designer created a sensible system on a site plan provided by the owner. We purchased all irrigation components from his company. The irrigation vendor assisted during the installation process.
We seeded the tee tops with low-cut bluegrass. The bunkers faces and tee surrounds were seeded with a bluegrass and fescue mix. We added a small quantity of annual rye for quick germination.
The Penncross greens provide durability to this public golf course. This course will never see extreme putting speeds.
We built the golf course for half the cost of a typical project. Abundant on-site materials created the opportunity to manufacture tee and green mixes that saved money. Lab testing insured agronomic viability.
The owner hired a grow-in superintendent with the following job description: ” You’ll work seven days a week with rainy days off.” The grow-in went well, and after a few months, the course opened for limited play. The course will never host the U.S. Open and that’s how the owner and his customers want it.
Summary: A dedicated strip of synthetic turf increases practice tees usage during inclement weather or tee renovation. Portable tee platforms provide teeing options to golf course superintendents.
Manufacturers now sell durable synthetic turf that mimics blue grass, bermuda, rye grass, and other golf cultivars. Some products duplicate low-cut bluegrass and bentgrass playability and color. Old style, poorly constructed, gaudy green carpets with limited life spans are rarely used.
A strip of synthetic turf works well on the rear of a grassed range tee, providing an ideal surface for iron and wood practice. Synthetic turf allows tee use during wet weather, over seeding, or sod establishment.
For range tee installations, I use a 6 foot width and a length equal to the width of the tee top. A synthetic range tee installation in Massachusetts included a tee strip 100 x 6 feet. It cost $10,000.00
Synthetic turf detail also works well on regular golf tees. If level, temporary tee locations are not available, construct a 10 x 10′ square on a frame and cover with synthetic turf. Add removable wheels and you’ll have a portable and playable tee surface. It’s a better alternative than placing tee markers in unsuitable settings.
Heavily-played golf courses also use synthetic turf on tee tops. Costs are justified by all-weather playability. Partial turf installations work well on par-3 tees.
Synthetic turf is installed on a sub base of 6″ compacted dense grade. Pitch the sub base 1% to improve surface drainage.After compaction of the sub base material, install the artificial turf with sod staples placed every 6 inches. The staples are hidden below grade. Synthetic turf is sold in 50 foot lengths. Longer installations require seaming, a process that uses a heat gun and two-sided tape with glue that melts when heated.
Quality synthetic turf accepts a wooden tee. It requires a light top dressing with fine sand every few weeks. Iron play is allowed, but the base material creates a harsh impact.
Synthetic golf green turf equals the color and putting speed of low-cut bentgrass. Green construction is similar to tee construction details. Add golf green shapes like swales and rolls increase golfer enjoyment. Test contours with a putter and golf ball before you fasten the turf. Sharp contours are difficult to modify after project completion. Synthetic golf greens in New England cost $10,000.00 and up depending on size.
Summary: Evaluate labor costs and turf structure before deciding to reinstall existing golf turf.
When golf managers ask about reusing existing rough sod in new construction, I tell them to evaluate the following:
- Condition of the existing sod
- Cost of labor to remove and store the sod
- Cost of labor to maintain the sod during storage
- Loss of sod during the removal and installation process
Check the existing sod for weeds, turf vigor, and root vitality. Examine the existing subsoil. Confirm that the new topsoil is similar to the existing subsoil; heavy soil laden sod installed on sandy soil will create dessication problems.
Determine if the existing sod will survive during removal, storage, and restoration. I’ve seen vibrant bluegrass sod fragment when cut and handled. Fescue sod grows in a bunched pattern making it difficult to rehandle. Cut a few test strips to see how the sod adapts to rehandling.
Develop a cost analysis by determining delivered sod prices. Multiply square footage times unit cost and transportation fees to determine sod cost delivered to the work site.
Commercial sod companies use mechanical harvesters that cut and load perfectly cut sod. The sod is placed on pallets in a unique pattern that knits one roll with another, creating a stable load. Spyders, or conveyance vehicles, transfer the sod to the work limit.
Next, itemize the cost of removing the existing sod. Laborers will cut the sod and place it on pallets. This is not the most efficient way to remove sod. Inexperienced sod laborers usually cut sod in shorter lengths. Thickness may vary. When the sod cutter completes a pass, a few inches of sod will be destroyed. They will drop a few rolls. You’ll loose 20% of the sod during the cutting and stacking process.
After unrolling the sod and placing it in a flat, shady area, the sod must be irrigated. Consider the cost to maintain the recycled sod. Hand watering, if needed, adds to the labor costs.
Additional labor is needed to roll up the stored sod, load it on pallets, and transport it to the work site.
Reuse of existing sod may look like a way to save money during the construction process. Commercially grown sod, delivered in pallets, or rolls, is a better option.
In another post, I’ll discuss the reuse of existing green and fairway sod.
Summary: Install golf tee boxes on pilings to resolve standing water problems. HDPE boxes filled with tee soil and sod create positive conditioning options for golf course superintendents.
A recent golf course bid included two tee boxes built on pilings. The design included a pressure treated timber pad bolted to pile caps (top of the piles). Four foot square HDPE boxes, 10″ tall, will contain the tee mix and sod. Irrigation will run along the tee perimeter. The tee box modules are designed to be handled with loading forks and a loader. The superintendent can remove and replace the modules before a big tournament. If I only had this detail during my superintendent days!
It’s an expensive solution to a boggy tee setting subject to heavy flooding in the spring. The timber piles are 10 inch wide with 12 feet in the ground, installed on 10 foot spacing. The tee box will be six feet above the existing ground. A 300 foot long timber bridge will provide access to the tee box. The bridge will run along the side of the fairway. I estimated 400 K for the installation.
Abstract: Flatten and grade uneven tee surfaces with the following procedures.
Tee leveling resolves surface drainage issues while providing a flat surface for golfers. If the tee mix and subgrade fill isacceptable, you can avoid an expensive rebuild by limiting the scope of work and cost of materials.
Evaluate the subject tee box. Is it an old style push up tee that is too small? Or is it a modern tee with good structure, but with bad tee alignment? Tee evaluation includes the following:
- Determine if the existing tee mix will sustain the agronomic demands of your golf course.
- Determine that the current tee fill is not settling,
- Evaluate tree impacts and future stump removal projects near the tee.
If the tee structure is acceptable, consider a tee leveling. Tee leveling involves removal of the existing sod, laser grading the surface, and installing new sod.
Determine current tee alignment. Take a Google Earth shot of the proposed work area. Digital overviews show the current tee orientation in relation to fairway bunkering and landing zones. Draw a line down the center of the fairway and draw parallel lines on the side of each tee. The current alignment will be obvious.
A golf tee must have surface sloping of at least 1%. This is a sheet-flow specification developed by civil engineers to insure that rain or irrigation water will shed off a grassed surface.
Determine the current grading of the existing tee. Use a slope laser and a survey rod that measures in tenths. I like tenths because it’s easier to add and subtract numbers in the field. Purchase a dozen wooden stakes, 1″ x 1″ x 36″ or similar size. Use a black permanent marker to mark the grades. Use a drilling hammer to drive in the stakes.
Set the laser on zero slope, or flat. Take a shot at the four corners of the tee top. Locate the highest elevation and install a wooden stake. Do the same for the other three corners, then measure the distance between the grade mark and the sod.
For example, if the tee has a slope of six inches front to back, then you have a workable slope that can be easily modified. On a 50 foot long tee, this pitch is 1% ( in 100 feet, the pitch will be 1 foot, or 1 foot in a hundred).
If the tee is flat, then you’ll need to establish a layout of the proposed slope to see where the new slope will land on the tee surface.
Choose the direction of the tee slope. The tee surface slope can go in any direction, although front to back is preferred. Slope toward areas that expel water. A cart path that sheds water is fine, but a berm will not shed water and you’ll end up with a wet spot on your tee.
Set the laser near the high point of the tee. Install a 1% slope downward on your slope laser. Add a one foot offset to the stake (measure up 12″ from the first horizontal mark and put another horizontal mark and perpendicular check mark). This will allow you to establish a grade at a location that will be several inches underground. Establish the high grade mark (including the one-foot offset) on the wooden stake. Take new shots on the other wooden stakes. Mark each stake with the new grade.
After the four stakes are marked with the proposed slope grades, measure down 12″ and you will see how much soil will be removed to establish your new slope. If you can’t measure down a foot, measure down and deduct the length from 1 foot. For example, If you go down 6 inches and you can’t go any further, than you have a six inch cut at that location.
If your tee is flat, you’ll see that several inches of mix will be removed at the low end of the grade to create a pitch. Dig down and determine how much tee mix is installed at that point. If you can’t live with the thickness, then it’s time to consider coring out the existing mix and establishing a new tee subgrade.
The tee leveling construction process involves the following:
- Strip existing sod, plus a few feet along the edges
- Remove irrigation impacted by the project
- Install grade stakes
- Cut slope with appropriate equipment
- Add fill and tee mix to edges if needed
- Laser grade
- Reinstall irrigation
- Fine grade
- Install tee top sod/seed
- Install side slope sod/seed
Part 4 in a series
In this post, I’ll discuss the tee construction process. My technique may differ from others. I prefer to build tees properly, not cheaply.
After you’ve developed a construction scenario with an approved budget, it’s time to move some dirt.
Start the construction process by painting and/or staking out the work limits. The tee rebuild begins with the stubbing of irrigation. Find the closest valve outside the work limit and gate off live laterals and mains. Cut pipe and wire after the valve. Leave enough wire to form a splice. Expose enough pipe to allow the installation of a glued or repair coupler when you connect the new pipe. Remove existing swing joints, sprinklers, and other components. Stake valve boxes, quick couplers, and other irrigation components that will remain. Paint the stake orange or install flagging to discourage damage to the irrigation components.
Remove the sod within the work limits. Use a sod cutter first, then an excavator or other machine. Make sod removal a separate operation. Sod mixed with topsoil or fill is difficult to work. Screening the topsoil to remove the sod is expensive. Transport the sod to a dump.
I use an excavator for most tee work. A bulldozer works well for large tee construction. Be sure that the layout stakes described in a previous post are installed in the proposed tee platform. Strip the topsoil and stockpile it within the work limits but outside the active tee construction.
Using a black, permanent marker, mark a fill subgrade six inches below the finish grade. The subgrade elevation is the height of the tee minus 6 inches of tee mix.
The tee subgrade is built in a shallow V shape, with two down slopes meeting at a mid point. Use a 5% pitch from the right and left tee border to the center line of the tee. This detail, with two slopes converging in the middle, will permit the subsurface water to converge at the drain pipe.
Install subsurface drainage consisting of perforated HDPE pipe and a stone or sand back fill. Place the pipe in the convergence point of the two subgrade slopes. Install drainage back fill to the subgrade elevation. Use cross-strings connected to the grade marks to establish fill elevations. The completed drainage layer backfill will be level with the subgrade elevations.
It’s time to install irrigation components. Trench in laterals and connect to mains. Install sprinklers and swing joints. Establish final sprinkler elevations before fine grading.
The tee subgrade is now 6 inches below finish grade. Using topsoil, construct a berm 12″ wide and 6″ tall on the subgrade; this “basin” will contain the tee mixture.
Install the tee mix in the basin. Compact the sides of the topsoil berm after you install the mix. Install stockpiled topsoil on the side slopes and where needed on the work limits.
Rough grade the tee top with an excavator or bulldozer. Use a string to establish a rough version of the finish grade. Laser-grade the tee top with a tractor mounted box-blade with a laser attachment. Fine grade the tee slopes and work limits. Install sprinklers to grade. Sod or seed as required.
Congratulations. You’ve built a modern golf tee.
This concludes a 4 part series on tee construction. Check out the other posts in this series: