Summary: Resolve golf fairway visibility problems with engineering and grade modification.
Many golf courses have sight line problems caused by strong fairway mounds or depressions. Others have grade problems caused by bad design or cost-cutting during construction.
Grade modifications will improve playability and calm nervous insurance underwriters. This post will describe how to determine safe golf course sightlines and begin the specification process.
Use the following to convert survey data to graph paper:
- Graph paper
- Engineer’s scale (in decimals, not fractions)
- Survey rod (in tenths, not inches)
- Marking paint
- String line
- Survey stakes
- Helper who doesn’t mind waiting
I’ll use a fictitious golf hole. The fourth hole at John Doe Country Club is a par 4, 410 yards long. A fairway mound begins 140 yards off the tee. The mound rises about 10 feet in the center, and it tapers off at 240 yards off the tee.
The hole is unsafe. Golfers on the tee can’t see other golfers past the 240-yard mark. Golfers who don’t reach the 110-yard point cannot see their second shot landing. The slopes on the side of the mound direct golf shots away from the fairway.
Grade modification specifications require new design grades. These grades indicate the shape and height of the modified fairway. Use this information to calculate cut quantities (the amount of fill removed) and finish work area.
A survey profile is a side view. Visualize a golf fairway viewed from the side. Your view includes a horizontal line that shows all the bumps and hollows of the surface from a side view. The highest points form the horizon.
Imagine cutting the side view of the fairway in two sections, along the centerline. The centerline is an imaginary line that begins in the middle of a tee and continues to the center of the target green. Slice the fairway along the centerline, and prop it up showing the side view, or profile. Don’t be concerned with dogleg bends in this example.
The graph paper should be engineering grade with ¼ inch squares. If needed tape two pieces together along the short side; you’ll have graph paper approximately 23” by 16”.
Determine the approximate work limits in the field. Walk the bottom of the mound slope. Visualize the area that will be modified to resolve the grade problem. Make an educated guess; the actual work limits will be established later in the process.
Install a stake at the beginning of the work limits. Place another stake at the high point of the mound. Install a third stake at the far point of the grade problem, the point closest to the green. The three stakes must be in a straight line; align the first and second stake, then install the third stake. Measure the distance from the first stake to the last stake. Let’s assume that the work limit is 100 yards long.
Assign a scale for the graph paper. The work limits are 100 yards long and you have around 120 grids on the horizontal plane. Let’s use 1-yard increments. Each ¼” box on the horizontal plane will indicate 1 yard in the field. Start on the left side and write 1,2,3….yards on the bottom of the page.
The vertical grids should be in feet. The grade problem is probably 10-20 feet high, not 10-20 yards high, so I’ll use 1 foot increments. Write 1,2, 3… feet in the vertical margin of the graph paper.
Connect the first, middle, and last stake with a string. Adjust to insure that the three stakes are in a straight line.
Starting at the stake closest to the tee, install a paint mark along the centerline string every 5 yards. Continue to the last stake closest to the green.
Use the laser to take an elevation shot at the first stake. This will be the base elevation; the reference point for all other elevations within the work limit. The bottom of the first stake is the height and location of the proposed fairway grade. Pencil a point in the lower left corner of the graph paper, up a few blocks from the edge of the paper.
Determine elevations along the centerline at 5-yard increments. At each centerline paint mark, calculate the elevation and distance from the baseline stake, and add this information to the graph paper. For example, assume that the second mark shows an elevation 1.5 feet higher than the base elevation. On the graph paper, count over five grids to signify 15 yards, than go up one and a half feet on the vertical scale to delineate the elevation. Be careful when writing elevations on the graph paper. Don’t confuse feet with yards.
Continue adding elevation and distance data to the graph paper. Connect the dots to form a side view of the fairway elevations. Draw a straight line from the point of the first stake to the last stake. This line will show the new fairway grade needed to resolve the visibility problem. Determine preliminary cut or fill quantities by measuring up from the connecting line.
Obtain more precise fill calculations by repeating the staking process. Measure over 15 perpendicular feet from the original baseline stake. Establish additional centerlines parallel to the first string. Repeat the survey and graph paper processes using different pencil colors.
After completing the survey, add data about earthworks volume, irrigation impacts, fine grading, and sod quantities into a golf course construction narrative.