Golf course pond dredging projects can add volume to irrigation ponds and also fill unacceptable fairway grades. In the Northeast, fairways cut into slopes often result in uneven landing areas and frayed golfer nerves. Older courses suffer depressions caused by decaying stumps used for fill. Others want to install fill to hide rock outcroppings. Continue reading article
When you build a golf construction project, engineers, green chairman and countless other amateur and professional commentators contribute to the process.
It’s good practice to keep communicating with project principals after depositing your final payment in the bank. Problems often arise after construction and you must help owners work them out.
Over the last year I’ve had several golf projects evolve into uncomfortable territory. Continue reading article →
Abstract: Every golf course superintendent or golf construction manager should learn how to use a slope laser. This survey tool provides important engineering information during drainage and other construction projects.
Laser survey devices shoot a high-powered beam of light across a few hundred feet. The best lasers have an automatic leveling function, cheaper versions require manual leveling. A laser survey set-up includes a tripod, receiver, rod, and laser.
- A tripod is a three-legged aluminum stand used to hold the laser during survey work.
- A receiver attaches to the survey rod. It receives the laser beam.
- A plastic or metal rod is marked in tenths or inches.
- The laser attaches to the top of the tripod.
Use lasers to perform the following work.
- Establish a slope for digging drainage trenches.
- Establish pitch for tee and fairway construction.
- Measure elevations.
My favorite lasers combine self-leveling with a durable exterior able to take an occasional bumpy truck ride. Watch out for fancy but wimpy models that don’t like moisture. I always have an old golf umbrella and a separate pipe with a kick plate available to protect the laser from a mild shower. If heavy rain and wind arrive, get the laser under cover.
Carry a field book and tough pencil with you when working with a laser. Spend a few dollars more; purchase a field book with tough paper. I like Rite-in-the-Rain. I recall a muddy field engineer preaching about his love for this product during my tunnel digging days.
Abstract: Many know how to start a golf construction project, but few know how to complete it. Avoid project completion arguments by communicating with the contractor during construction.
Many golf construction projects start smoothly and finish poorly. On many occasions, I’ve seen the first work day smile evolve into unpleasant project completions.
Successful project completion begins during the first production minute. Project managers should immediately identify deficiencies and improper execution. If it doesn’t look right-speak up!
Contractors want to hear client issues before they escalate to full-blown conflicts.
First identify responsible project communicators and direct any communications to them. The field staffer may know how to run an excavator but he may not know every page in the specification documents. Don’t wait to tell them about a rude employee or a missing thrust block.
Emails help transfer and organize data. Email the contractor with any complaints. Print out all your emails before you attend a project meeting. They provide timelines and responses in writing.
If you communicate during the construction process, the final project closeout should include a punch list containing only incomplete items. Work with the contractor to limit the punch list to disputed items needing negotiation. Only submit one punch list. Pay the contractor when he completes or negotiates remaining punch list items. Don’t submit multiple punch lists!
Abstract: Skilled golf course construction managers know what is in each contract. Use this information to mange construction scope and contractor payments.
Contract management is an important part of efficient golf construction. Construction managers should take an active role in preconstruction contract language. When the owner and contractor sign the contract, the construction manager will live by the contract documents.
Golf course contracts come in many formats. I’ve used the following:
- Handshake Agreements: Watch out for these. I have colleagues who won’t talk to me over simple misunderstandings caused by assumed construction roles.
- Proposal Memos: These work if the proposal includes detailed descriptions of processes and roles used in the construction process. Contractors rarely have the time and capability to develop detailed construction proposals. Be careful of open-ended proposals that encourage approval signatures below the contract total.
- Memo of Understanding: These memorandum formats allow the contractor and owner to identify construction methodology. I’ve sent many out in open format so the owner can modify the document and send it back to me for revisions.
- Form Contracts: You can buy these at any stationary store. Construction industry specific versions often contain irrelevant wording, so if you like this style buy an online, editable version so you can edit as needed. Be careful when changing words, you may corrupt the legal integrity of the document after you change it. You may want to have an attorney approve any revisions. Once you have the content right, save the updated form as a template.
- AIA Contracts: Battle-hardened contract documents written and revised by lawyers. Iron-clad language specifies who does what and if you stray from the rules your in trouble. Often required by corporations and municipalities, they provide no-nonsense project role and procedure identification.
With any contract, read the fine print before signing. Don’t try to sneak in language that you will use to chisel from the contractor. Contractors often respond to these efforts with change orders.
Abstract: When in doubt, always test golf course construction materials before purchase. When not in doubt, test anyway to confirm salesman’s rhetoric.
Soil testing provides cheap insurance. I remember a big bunker renovation at a private club. The project involved rebuilding 40 bunkers. The owner decided to purchase (and assume the responsibility for quality control) all bunker sand. We installed many feet of bunker drainage on the bunker floor, and we made sure our slope laser worked. The bunker forms looked great and we installed the sand at a uniform six-inch depth. A few months later, seven bunkers had poor drainage and it wasn’t our fault. Continue reading article →
Abstract: Tired, poorly defined golf bunkers provide unsatisfactory golf course visuals. Poor bunker location infuriates golfers penalized for good shots, and outdated shapes distract from golf course aesthetics. When a rebuild won’t work, it’s time to remove the bunker.
Bunker removal begins with a site assessment. You will replace the bunker with a flat surface that looks natural. The filled-in area should blend in with surrounding fairway and rough grades.
The project scenario:
- View the bunker from all sides. Visualize what a flattening will do with surrounding grades. Expand work limit so you remove all existing bunker forms. I know, this will increase the work limits and increase cost, but if you keep a remnant of a former bunker grade you will regret it. It’s common to remove 3 or 4 times the bunker floor area in total work area.
- Look for surface drainage flow patterns and irrigation impacts. Don’t create a water pocket or divert water from properly functioning surface flow. Stub existing bunker irrigation and watch out for valve boxes and sprinklers; raise or move as needed.
- Install wooden stakes on proposed work limits, and adjust as needed. If you can’t determine the surface water flow by eye, use a laser. If you are filling in a bunker that has strong mounding, you may want to incorporate some of the fill into a subtle mound.
- Paint out final work limits, and remove sod. You may want to save existing fairway sod. Using an excavator, or backhoe, scrape all the bunker topsoil and stockpile nearby. Leave the bunker sand in place, it’s not worth the trouble moving it out. To prevent settling, install solid fill in 8″ lifts (layers) and compact with excavator tracks. I usually build these fill areas strong by adding a six inch crown to allow for some settling. Surface the final 6 inches with topsoil.
The removed bunker should provide joy to golfers, while reducing your golf course worry list.
Abstract: Successful permitting will result in efficient pond project planning and execution. Sensible work processes will result in clean edges, increased volume and contented environmental compliance officials.
The permit process will define pond project construction processes. It’s important to include commonsense work procedures into the permit so work will be done in an efficient manner.
Pond projects include the following procedures:
- Silt fence and hay bale installation. Do it exactly by the plan. Don’t argue with anybody about this detail. I’ve seen huge projects delayed by a few misplaced hay bales. Some engineers take it personally when you don’t install silt fence properly. Install the bottom of the silt fence in a few inch slit to permit sediment retention.
- If you will do a wet excavation, or dredging, be sure to accommodate any wildlife issues. This may involve fish relocation.
- Use tight equipment without leaky hydraulics. An oil sheen will quickly stop work.
- Consider using a flexible float system for on-water excavation. These floats, readily available for rental, are metal boxes with latching capability that allow an excavator to sit, dig, and freely move through the work site.
- Plan dewatering pump size and discharge schemes. If the pond will be drained, be sure discharge clean water downstream by using a sedimentation bag or filtration basins. Sedimentation bags built of permeable geofabric fasten to the discharge pipe end. Filtration basins filter water with several rows of haybales.
- Be sure to dig to design grades. Marine engineers have procedures to identify digging depth. They can measure the length of the excavator arm and establish elevations off this mark.
- Pond dredging efficiency includes moisture management. If the excavator loads a bucket of water laden spoils into a truck or trailer you will quickly have an unmanageable mess. A sensible scheme allows for spoil dewatering on a pond bank permits the material to drain before stockpiling. After a few days, transport to final dump location.
- Spending time creating a neat pond bank, or exposed edge, will finish the pond project and allow a smooth pond edge. For safety reasons, be sure to construct a safe slope, not a sharp drop-off into the pond.
- Consider using pond spoils for topsoil. It may be full of organic elements that produce nice loam when mixed with drainage sand.
Abstract: Golf Course ponds require periodic dredging to maintain a clean appearance while providing appropriate water storage for irrigation and wildlife.
Sedimentation and invasive plants adversely impact pond storage. The first step in a comprehensive pond renovation is to find a competent wetland engineer who will identify the following:
- Current pond topography and volume.
- Pond structure. Does it have a clay or synthetic liner?
- Pond water sources. Is it spring fed? Or fed by streams, or wells?
- Overflow structures. Determine design efficiency and condition
- Pond bank conditions.
- Applicable wetland laws, permitting processes and construction scenarios.
If the pond supplies irrigation water, then golf course managers will provide daily irrigation needs based on typical watering cycles. This information will help the engineer calculate pond volume and renovation criteria.
The engineer will develop a plan showing current topography. Next, they will create a new construction drawing based on the previously discussed criteria. This plan will show new design grades along with erosion control and pond mechanicals like sluiceways or discharge pipes. Also, they will develop a written construction sequence and cost analysis for your review.
Permitting can take over six months or longer. A capable contractor can help in the process by adding construction methodology to the discussion.
Abstract: You can tell if your golf course builder is serious when you look at his construction trailers. I’m not talking about the ones that people hide in during bad weather, I’m talking about the ones with the bouncy tires used to convey dirt.
I had to fill in for a crew member last week and I spent the whole day driving a John Deere tractor and dump cart. After a few weeks straight looking at a computer screen it was nice to see green grass and birds.
The tee expansion project involved the conveyance of 375 cubic yards of fill a distance of one mile. I did about 12 cubic yards per hour; or three round trips. Moving fill on an existing golf course is quite expensive; most people don’t understand the expense.
The Pronovost trailer P-516 holds 4 cubic yards. I’ve bought a few of them and I love talking to the Canadian manufacturers. As soon as you say the word golf, they mention this model. This sturdy cart has a nice hydraulic dump and heavy tailgate. An optional tailgate with a chute is handy when backfilling drainage ditches with sand. It’s big enough to move along golf cart paths without causing damage.
Big, bouncy turf tires insure that no turf damage will occur. The only problem is wet turf. I had a wild-and-wolly ride a few years back when I lost traction on a wet golf course.