East Berkshire Golf Club in England, which completed a major renovation a few years ago, is reaping the benefit of hiring a specialist firm to provide an aerial image of the course.
After researching providers, course manager Matthew Nutter went to local firm PinPoint Golf, which specialises in using drones to fly over golf courses and produce detailed aerial maps. PinPoint also supplies training on course management software that allows users to draw on the map, print off sections and measure areas and straight lines on the ground.
The drone flight produced a geo-referenced ortho image, essentially a full GPS map of the golf course and estate. The detailed image creates a living course policy document and a record of the golf course on the day it was flown.
“The first thing that impresses you is the clarity of what you are dealing with,” said Nutter. “Most of us have used existing online maps when we’ve had to but we know that when you scroll in close you lose detail.”
Nutter's goal was to be able to review cutting lines and shapes from the air and to to measure areas that had been raising questions from the membership: areas of long fescue rough, distances of carries from tee to fairway, heather plantations and areas earmarked for further heather establishment. The software enables measurements around tees, fairways, greens and bunkers and creates a spreadsheet of the surface areas of all of the course's features. Nutter said he hoped to make savings from these measurements in terms of future orders of sand, fertiliser and the like. He also intends to map course items such as irrigation heads and drainage lines to aid continuity in the event of personnel changes.
“We finally have a tool that as a course manager I can put to a practical use,” said Nutter. “If it was just a pretty picture it would be little use to me at all but thanks to the accuracy of the image combined with the ease of use of the software, I’m using it all the time. And the more I use it the more useful it becomes for others as a living, breathing record of my golf course”
Meanwhile, East Berkshire, along with its consulting architects Swan Golf Design, is embarking on a heather restoration programme. Nutter and his team are working alongside Swan to reinstate lost swathes of heather either from dormant seed on the golf course or from harvesting plants from the nearby National Trust-managed Simons Wood.