Abstract: Loam and topsoil discussions enliven many golf course construction meetings.
Golf course topsoil discussions can get complex. I often see boilerplate specification packages that include foolish topsoil specifications. (Note: Boilerplates are format specifications, digitally stored and modified for each project). They save on word processing costs but they often lack imagination and common sense. I’ve seen commercial landscape specifications modified for golf course work.
The worst topsoil clauses include content like this: “If the existing topsoil doesn’t satisfy the requirements of the Engineer, then the Contractor will supply new topsoil at suitable specification and quantity.”
How do you bid a sentence like this, especially when the volume of topsoil can be tens of thousands of yards? With topsoil costs approaching $25.00 per yard in Massachusetts, this gets very expensive. A golf course contractor must gamble on the suitability of the existing topsoil. Testing may be difficult because the topsoil is under an existing golf course surface.
Topsoil types can vary over large areas. Many contractors hope that they can talk the Engineer into acceptance of existing topsoil. Some assume the worse case; that all topsoil will need replacement. Huge bid numbers cause owner trauma. Topsoil ambiguity causes problems in golf course construction pricing.
I assume the following when specifying a project:
1.) If the existing topsoil grows good golf course turf, then reuse the topsoil in construction. Add sand in screening operation to improve topsoil.
2.) If a new course includes existing topsoil, have it tested before construction. Then all contractors will bid equal specifications. If you want topsoil replacement, tell them in the bid stage.
3.) If new topsoil is required, add an alternate cost per yard to furnish, transport to work zone, and install. Golf course owners must accept the costs for additional topsoil.
4.) Limit excessive screening specifications. Topsoil with golf ball sized stones and under is acceptable for any golf course. If you’re obsessed with surface stones, use a rock-picker or Harley rake. A larger stone, a few inches below the surface, won’t impact play.
5.)If you require screening, specify existing sod removal in a separate operation. Loading sod and topsoil in one operation creates a sod-laden mixture that will clog the screener.
Save money by reusing existing topsoil in golf course renovation. Include topsoil screening only when needed. Modify topsoil with sand to improve structure. Clarify loam requirements to generate accurate bids. Purchasing topsoil from off-site source is an expensive alternative to on-site soil modification.