Abstract: Subtle grade adjustments divert water creating positive surface drainage.
Drainage swales are depressed land forms that move surface water. Properly constructed golf courses have many drainage swales. The best ones move large volumes of water without looking like a drainage swale. The worse ones are shaped like reverse flying saucers with hideous inlet covers located in the center.
You’ve seen those flying saucers on PGA television broadcasts. Perfectly round, and evenly pitched, they collect golf balls that land near them. The golf balls roll around like a roulette wheel and they end up at the bottom, on the drainage inlet.
Why do they build round swales? I’m sure they want to collect water. They don’t like to direct water off fairway areas into rough areas, so they build collection basins. Water doesn’t care about a shape. It follows a slope. Collection swales can be built wider and shallower, while containing the same volume of water.
A gray-haired golf shaper told me: “You gotta move water without anyone seeing how your moving it.” He built swales with long, irregular arcs that curved back and forth. The back and forth action slowed the water down, and the shallow, irregular land form made the swale barely visible.
This shapers favorite hobby wasn’t chasing woman, it was watching rain water run down a perfectly swaled golf course fairway.
The site engineering plan for a golf course in Plymouth, Mass. included two retainage areas. Designed by an engineer, these areas were perfect rectangles, 100 x 100 feet in size. They were placed in the middle of one par-3 and in the back of another par 3.
I met with the engineer and he became enraged that I wanted to change his design. After a twenty minute discussion on water flow and volume, he agreed to a creative alternative. We built the retainage areas with rounded edges and variable depth. The volume stayed the same, and the engineer approved the modification. That gray-haired shaper told me: “No straight lines on a golf course. Nature doesn’t think in straight lines.”
Cure golf course drainage problems with creative swale construction. If subsurface water is leaching in from an adjoining property, a swale can be cut to intercept the water, directing it away from a water pocket. Tiny swales can alleviate serious water collection issues. Check out your course during a downpour to see how your swales are working. Take many pictures because you won’t remember all the flow patterns.