In the not-so-distant-past, a golf course layout was designed entirely by the architect walking the ground. Advances in golf technology mean the design process can now be quicker and cheaper with the high-quality raw data gathered allowing the architect to complete a lot of the design work from the office, reducing the number of hours needed on site.
Caspar Grauballe, a golf course architect from Denmark, and EIGCA Council member, discusses how golf technology is changing the world of golf course architecture … for the better.
Until a few years ago, a topographical survey was very expensive. Recent developments with drones have led to cheaper ways of gathering topographical data which can then be used in multiple ways.
Drones can fly low and gather extremely detailed data for an entire golf course in a matter of hours. Not only does this dramatically reduce the golf course architect’s legwork and time, but the images gathered can be overlapped to create a digital terrain model from which classical contour maps can be generated.
These digital images can be used to produce realistic ‘before’ and ‘after’ views which help the architect determine the optimal solution for the golf course design and are a useful tool to demonstrate to the client how the finished course will look. Clubs find these views useful to show members what a new or redesigned course will be like to play.
Detailed topographical data allows construction drawings to be directly transferred to machines working on the site. GPS is then used to recreate the drawings directly on the site with incredible accuracy, eliminating costly mistakes when setting out the project and saving valuable time.
GPS tracking devices are widely used by players for the interesting data they generate. Golf course architects find the data valuable … but for different reasons. For example, identifying traffic patterns on a course shows where there are potential issues in terms of wear and tear. Bunkers are evaluated to calculate how many players visit a specific bunker and when correlated with the category of player lets the architect know if the bunker is influencing play in the way they intended.
Range finders use GPS and lasers to assess distances on the golf course. Many in the sport think they ruin an important part of the game by letting players know the exact distances and thereby eliminating the skill element of judging distance.
Experienced and accomplished golf course architects use this information to their advantage as they skillfully create optical illusions to make players mentally second-guess their range finders. It takes a very skilled player to outwit a golf course architect as these illusions only register in the sub-conscience of a player.
Photo supplied by Trackman
The ability to track a golf ball in flight reveals the full characteristics of a shot. For players, golf ball trackers have been a revolution, for example, providing the information enabling an individual to have their clubs tailor made to their swing to ensure they have the most effective equipment possible.
For golf course architects, ball tracking devices provide valuable insight into the actual properties of a golf shot – the effect of elevation, how much spin is generated or the amount of roll, the heights a golf ball reaches and, of course, the actual distances players hit the ball (versus the distances told in the bar after the round!). This data is invaluable in designing a golf course that is challenging, yet possible to play and enjoy.
Improved graphics, better surveys of the courses, and ball tracking have improved golf simulators tremendously. The best provide viable alternatives to playing in cold climates during winter and as useful tools to practice swing details as one otherwise would on a driving range.
Current simulators focus on mapping existing courses, but the technology exists to play imaginary courses as well. It won’t be long before golf course architects are hired to create new virtual golf courses to thrill players.
Golf course architects strive to design courses that are fun and entertaining yet pose a challenge to players. Golf technology has not only influenced the way architects work, but has also enabled them to ensure that all possible options are explored and the best solutions are found.
Technology, in all its environments, is advancing rapidly and golf course architects are poised to grasp the many opportunities lying ahead to deliver the best of the best in golf design.
Click here to read more about Caspar.