Summary: Rough-cut granite stairs provide durable and aesthetically pleasing access to tee boxes. Your members will love them. This post discusses how to install stone stairs on your golf course.
Steep tee slopes require steps. I’ve seen many types. Slippery granite steps are unsafe because golfers slip and fall easily on smooth stone, especially when wet. I don’t like pressure-treated timber steps because they look worn after a few years.
My favorite are rough-cut granite steps. Note: Rough cut stone is not polished after cutting, so the surface has a irregular surface.
The steps are purchased from a local stone cutter (I’m in Massachusetts, the home of many granite vendors). They are sized 48″ x 18″ x 8″. The steps are installed as follows:
1.Determine the center-line of the proposed stairway. Assuming that the completed stairway will be 4 feet wide, install a short stake at the mid-point (2 feet over from the proposed edge), on the top and bottom of the stair run.
2. Determine the forward edge of the bottom step and install a 3′ to 4′ stake (1″ x 1″ hardwood works fine).Then locate the far point of the top step (the top of the top step, and the far corner-using the same side of the stairway as the previous stake).
3. Now it’s time to calculate your stair height. Using a laser, take an elevation at the low point of the stair, and an elevation at the top of the proposed stairway. Determine how many inches in the rise (or height). For example, a ten foot rise has 120 inches. Divide the 120 inch height by 8 inch stone thickness and the total is 15 stairs.
4. The stair width is important. A tee slope is typically 3:1 (this means for every one foot in height, the grade will slope out 3 feet). Using the survey rod, extend the length out to a height equal to the elevation of the tee box. Attach the end of the measuring tape to the rod, and pull the tape over to the proposed location of the top stair. This measurement is called the run. Let’s assume that this stairway will have a run of 480 inches. Divide 480 inches by the amount of stairs (15) and your total is 20 inches. This measurement is the amount of reveal or width, in the stairway. Each stair will be twenty inches wide. The stones are 18″ wide. This two-inch gap can be filled with stone dust or loam and sod. I’ve built a stone stair installation with 12″ sod filled gaps and they look good.
5. Excavate the width of the stairway plus 1 foot on both sides. This allows you to make up the difference for any irregular tee grades. Leave the stakes in place. Install the first stone at an elevation equal to the proposed top of stair noted on the bottom stake. Choose a stone surface with the color and character you want. Adjust as needed to maintain the 8″ rise. If you must go higher then 8″, deduct it from the next stone. Use stone dust or fine aggregate as a workable and compaction ready base. Shim each stair to insure that the 8″ rise is maintained. Check the top of each stair with a level. Slope the stone 1% outward for surface drainage.
6. Repeat for the next stone, using the 20″ run overlap to insure that the stairway will land where desired. It may help to set up a string on the work limit stakes to insure that the outside edge of each stone stays in line with other stones. Install stones along the stair run, and shim with dense grade if they seem wobbly. Fill in the edges with topsoil and sod.
Your new stone stairway will be usable for thousands of years. If frost heaves move stairs, restore it with compacted stone dust.