Tips and techniques in golf course construction that will make sure your project will work

Whether you have decided to build your own green or contract out your golf course construction work, you need to know the principles behind building golf course features. Using improved scientific knowledge, there have been great improvements made to how we build golf courses, particularly in the last 25 years.

Types of greens

Newly seeded golf hole

Let's start with the most important area of a golf hole, the green. There are several ways to build greens from the traditional push-up to the modern USGA specification green. A push-up green is exactly what the name implies; the native soil is scrapped, then mounded and shaped into a green. This worked when no alternative existed because there was less play and stress on turf and acceptable green speeds were much slower. You can still build your green this way, but in the end, you will likely find it difficult to keep good quality turf throughout the year.

The push for faster and faster green speeds, along with more stringent environmental pressures, has led to a great deal of research into better golf course construction methods, much of which are USGA sponsored. The USGA’s goal was to provide a blueprint that could be followed throughout the world to create a high quality putting green. The main advantages of this type of green is a very high infiltration rate, very good drainage, resistance to compaction, and better water holding ability in the rootzone where the turf needs it. You will likely find most greens are built to specifications somewhere between the push-up and USGA extremes. The major advantage the USGA specifications offers is that if all other conditions are good (mostly air movement and light) the green will be successful. This cannot be guaranteed when the green specifications are modified. Then why are all greens not built to USGA specs? Mostly cost, sometimes availability of the right type of sand.

Consider your budget

seeding and fertilizing new fairway and green

In the end it will be your budget that will determine how you will build your green, but remember the proverb “You get what you pay for!” The more corners you cut at this stage, the more time and money it will require to maintain your green and possibly to repair the problems later on.

When making those important decisions, you can prioritize the needs of the greens:

1. First is good surrounding conditions (light and air movement)
2. A good quality green type reel mower
3. Good surface drainage, which means any excess water that does not infiltrate will move off the green and not puddle
4. High quality rootzone (sand/soil mix) with good infiltration rates
5. Good subsurface drainage with an opening to flush the line
6. A good irrigation system with even distribution
7. High quality seed or sod

Bunkers

New bunker with burlap edging and sand pile ready

Now let’s have a quick look at the rest of your golf course construction. Bunkers are usually a desirable option in order to have a complete green complex. There are really two general types of bunkers, the traditional style with high sand faces, and a modern easier to maintain style with steep turf faces. Issues that arise from the traditional style are mostly related to those faces washing out and contaminating the sand. On the other hand no one can deny the aesthetic beauty and fear that wall of sand can inspire in a golfer. Again the most important part of the bunker will be subsurface drainage so we can keep that sand dry.

Tees

Next are the important concepts in tee construction. Try to keep the surface as flat as possible. In areas where standing water, or winter ice in northern climates, may be a problem, a slope of 1% should be built from front to back and 0.5% from side to side. These very shallow slopes are not noticeable to the golfer, but will help move the water off the surface. Again, subsurface drainage is a good addition, particularly if you have a sandy rootzone.

Fairways

Golf hole stripping

Finally, the fairways should be smooth for the mowing machinery, and with good surface drainage. Also, if the soils are very heavy such as clay, before or after the golf course construction phase, subsurface slit drains are an option to keep the ground firm even after heavy rains.



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