Basildon Paths

New paths are being created in a cost-effective manner at Basildon Golf Course. 

Over the last twenty plus years, we have frequently used our own facilities as a laboratory to try out new ways of doing things. From customer care, technology, management styles and even the mix of leisure facilities to sit alongside traditional golf courses, we are happy to try out these new ideas, particularly if they make sense to us. If others follow our lead, then it is our pleasure to help. 

At Basildon Golf Course we have just commissioned a new buggy path to connect up all existing paths to create a network that allows buggies to be used 365 days of the year. This will also make it much easier for those using trolleys as well as our green-keeping team to get around the course in the winter months. Societies, green fee players and regular season ticket holders and members will all be delighted to have a new form of access to the course in the wetter months. 

A three tonne mini digger using a tilting bucket cuts an angled slot on either side of the path. This hugely increases the speed of construction and saves an enormous amount of aggregate.

What could be so new about a path you may indeed ask? Well the problem is that paths are very expensive and time-consuming to build. For the paths at Basildon, we decided to use outside contractors so that our green-keeping team could continue to work on the maintenance of the course, unfettered by civil engineering projects.

I think most people would agree that a path that is in a poor state of repair is of very little benefit to a golf facility. The ground shifts over time and those paths that are created with a fixed, comparatively brittle surface such as concrete, tarmac, resin or wet poor rubber, will need substantial and expert repairs to make them look presentable if tree roots break the smooth surface of the path, or if the ground moves for any other reason.

So however elegant a path is when it is first installed, care must be taken to select the correct surface type for the ground on which you wish to produce your path. 

When it comes to a more basic form of path, the most cost-effective option is where a membrane such as Terram is laid into a slot of some sort that has been excavated by a digger. This slot is then filled with road planings, crushed concrete, type one, or any other suitable aggregate. At a later date it can be topped with a finer material that will produce a smoother surface.

What is different about the way we build these paths is that we only excavate the edges of the path, removing a small amount of soil, rather than many tonnes for only a few metres of path.  There are several advantages to this system. Firstly, it is much faster.  Secondly, it saves an enormous amount of aggregate and construction time. Thirdly, the path sits out of the ground and has naturally better drainage properties, yet all of the aggregate is neatly contained within the slots on either side of the path. Finally, the path has a natural camber because of the excavation style. The secret ingredient of this process is a tilting digger bucket, as it is only by using this specialised piece of equipment that a skilled operator can create the required shape.  

It is essential to use a membrane beneath any path. Some materials will slightly leach into the ground and this is minimised by the membrane. Most importantly mud, weeds and other growth will not penetrate the path from beneath if a good quality membrane such as Terram is used.

There is another very good way of building paths if you are going to do the work in the autumn and winter. The essence of the work is similar to the cross section of the path cut using the tilting bucket, but is achieved by removing turf from the intended path on either side with a turf cutter. Terram is then laid across the path, in a 2m width and the excavated turf is used to trap the Terram and provide a significant, but stable edge to the path, which retains the path material within the line of the path. This system will not work well in the summer months, as the turf will dry out and die leaving an inelegant finish that will be expensive to deal with. 

If you are planning a network of paths around your course, then where the paths start and finish on each hole is important. Also on many occasions, you want to start on one side of the hole and finish on the other, as that is the natural direction towards the next tee. Whilst there are no rules, it would seem prudent to hide the path’s route from golfer’s view of the hole from the tee. The path should lead unobtrusively away from the tee and cross the fairway away from the natural landing area for the tee shot and preferably out of sight from the golfers first view of the hole. These aesthetics may not matter hugely to some, but a well thought through path will leave the course prettier in the long run. If a hole has any obscured portion of fairway, then this is an ideal opportunity to switch the path from one side of the fairway to the other. 

Obviously, it is important that the path takes a useful route for golfers and isn’t placed in a position that would make it very frustrating for people forced to keep their golf buggy on the path and a long way from the natural flow of the hole.

As with most things on a golf course, gentle curves are much easier on the eye than straight lines. It is infinitely preferable to give the new paths a gentle and sympathetic curve that follows the contours of the golf course as much as possible. This is not a waste of money, as the paths will be with you forever and it is important to make them as beautiful as possible so that they are there when needed, in the winter especially, but to not attract attention unnecessarily at other times. 

As with any excavation work, you have to be very careful to ensure that you are not cutting through any cables, irrigation pipes, drainage equipment or other important parts of existing or past infrastructure. Tree roots are also a hazard, with a tree being damaged if its roots are too badly affected by any excavation activity. Often holes are tree-lined and skirting the trees is probably a better practice than running a path through the trees. Bear in mind that fairly tall green-keeping equipment may well need to use the path in the winter months, so it is important to ensure that you have a clearance of at least 3m above all of the paths that you build.

More material may be needed for certain parts if the construction is going through a very wet area, but the nature of this raised style of path, complete with camber, will alleviate most of these problems. Some people will be tempted to take their new path and compress it with a whacker plate, roller or similar mechanical device. We are not doing this at Basildon, as the path will naturally compact over time and by running backwards and forwards across the path with wheeled vehicles, we think we can achieve the same amount of compaction to keep the path smooth and stable rather than adding to the construction costs with another process. 

When considering a fine topping for your path, it is worth bearing in mind the effects of wind. The finest and most attractive forms of crushed limestone dust will produce a beautiful finish and topping for a path. Unfortunately much of this topping can be blown away during periods of higher winds. A slightly heavier grade of topping will produce a similarly elegant finish, but being much more durable for the long-term. 

I would be very happy to show fellow course operators around our site at Basildon so you can see the paths being made and the sort of issues that need to be overcome in order to complete the project. At a rough estimate we hope to complete the paths around the entire course for under £50,000. Building paths in the traditional manner would cost approximately three times as much. The long-term benefit to the business of being able to hire buggies and keep players golfing through the winter months will make this an excellent investment. 

For those interested in visiting Basildon, please contact me directly on: 0776 8887033 or by e-mail: