Underground: Treasure Troves & Unsightly Things - Part 11

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer

Editor's Note: In this 11th installment of golf course architect Jeffrey D. Brauer's ongoing journal about construction of the second course at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, Minn., called The Quarry at Giants Ridge. Here, he discusses how to turn unexpected discoveries underneath the surface into money-saving encounters . . . and how to secure locker-room privileges at a professional hockey game.

I returned recently from my last trip to Minnesota for the year. The trip was instructive in a few different ways - technical aspects of construction, architecture and human nature.

I was glad to visit when the Iron Range was unseasonably warm, at 35-40 degrees during the day at a time when they were hauling topsoil to the fairways and roughs. From a technical standpoint, the contractor is hoping for colder weather. They can haul topsoil if the ground is frozen; recent warm, rainy weather has stopped work almost completely. So, everyone is praying for bitter cold so work can continue. That's fine by me, as long as I am in Texas!

The course design uses so much of the natural material on site, but it must be hauled from where it is to where we want it, either in trucks or scrapers. For example, we have used the site's leftover sand deposits as is for subsoil cut-and-fills, sifting and grinding it into sandy topsoil and waste bunker sand. And we screened gravel for reuse as cart-path base, pipe backfill, and cobble embankments to prevent erosion.

Sometimes a golf course architect must react to unforeseen situations "in the field." We did not anticipate widely varying sand deposits on the site, but we soon discovered they were there. This is probably the result of the site's location at the end of a drumlin field, which is where a glacier stopped eons ago, and started melting and depositing a wide variety of material.

We had planned to screen the native material - a mixture of sand, clay, and gravel - on site. Having specified that large gravel be screened, we were unhappy with the amount of small stones left in the resulting sand. The clay content did help it retain some moisture, and was especially helpful to the waste bunker sand, as it is firm enough to keep the ball from burying - a problem at other courses in the state with waste bunkers.

At the same time, we found some deposits of nearly stone-free natural sand. After some rough calculations of quantity, we determined that we had enough natural, rock-free sand to cover our 40-plus acres of fairways. We screened less sand and they are placing it in the rough, where the small stones will be well hidden under the sod we will put in, and by the eventual cutting height. We felt the bentgrass fairways would need the best sand available.

We had to redesign the 2nd and 7th holes to mine this material. Both will require a more dramatic sand carry from the tee than we planned! Most golfers, when contemplating their fate on these holes, would probably not suspect that such a mundane issue - topsoil - would affect the design of the course, but it does.

We also found a large, unexpected (well, it should have been, actually, since I fell in a "peat hole" when walking the property the summer before while contemplating routing! - however, in the deep woods, I wasn't sure of its extent) peat deposit in the 5th and 12th fairways, and we needed to excavate it, as it will become unstable, leading to low, poorly drained areas and broken irrigation mains. However, we moved it over to the steep bank we are stabilizing below the 18th fairway, and are using it as topsoil for the native vegetation we plan to plant there. While we use topsoil in the fairway and rough areas, we felt the steeper bank would have considerably quicker run-off, and it would require something that stays moist to foster germination.

Architecturally, we have made most of the decisions at The Quarry. I did review some of the shaping they accomplished from my previous trip. However, we continue to show it to many people, like newspaper reporters, and like to see their reaction. Most are amazed at how different two courses by the same architect can be, when just two miles apart. Part of this is using the site's natural - or, in the case of the quarry - unnatural features. Also, we are trying to vary our style, with sharper slopes, square tees, bigger greens, and some Scottish-inspired features. We'll see how the public reacts.

I also learned about human nature. By chance, I happened to sit next to a fellow on the plane home who may be even more despised than the golf course architect: The Hockey Referee! As a Dallas Stars season ticket holder, I had selected my flight schedule for the same reason he did: to get to the game that night. We talked hockey for two hours, and he commented that, with three days in Dallas, he was always looking to play golf. He sat next to the right guy for that, as I have sympathy for his travel schedule (and need to endure critical comments). I arranged a game at Cowboys Golf Club for the refereeing crew, and they invited me down to their locker room to give them the details.

When I entered, they gave me the game-winning puck as a souvenir. The next morning, I read in the newspaper that the puck was the 100th goal for Jere Lehtinen, and he wanted the puck back. So, I went to the next game as guest of the Stars, met the players and got some autographs.

Just a great example of how golf can get you some great things, and make you new friends. Next month, with no construction work going on, we will get into more detail about the design philosophy that shaped The Quarry.

Jeffrey D. Brauer and his firm, GolfScapes, have designed 40 golf courses and remodeled 80. Canterberry Golf Course in Parker, Colo., and Giants Ridge are rated among the best affordable public courses in the United States, while his Avocet Course at Wild Wing Plantation in Myrtle Beach, S.C., was a Golf Digest best new course winner, Champions Country Club is rated 5th in Nebraska and TangleRidge Golf Club is 12th in Texas. President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects during its 50th anniversary year in 1995-96, Brauer also designed Colbert Hills Golf Club at Kansas State, which opened in June 2000 as the cornerstone golf course for The First Tee program as well as the first collaboration between the PGA of America and Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.