Vi Gothere asks, ‘How do you control cart-path traffic?’

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer


Paths are usually either "handy" of "hidden." It's quite a design feat to make them both. Since "form follows function," inconvenient but well-concealed paths make little sense to me — especially on busy courses, but I won't go so far as to accommodate golfers who want them down the center of the fairway! I strive for easy circulation first, and concealment second, using the following guidelines:

• Design direct routes. Paths veering more than 30 feet off the line of play invite shortcuts, unless artificially blocked. Route the path on the same side of the fairway as the next tee.

• Use gentle curves. Maximum cart speed is 16 mph, requiring a minimum radii of 120 feet to keep tires on the path at full speed. Test drive your paths with a truck. If you can negotiate curves at 15 mph, they are okay. Sharp curves encourage limited entry points at those indentations.

• For safety, limit maximum slopes to 15 percent, other than short stretches where it's impractical.

• Remove trees as necessary to maintain minimum radii, and a clear zone 5 feet either side of the pavement. (It's easier to drive and prevent tree roots from breaking up pavement.)

• Provide wide, relatively level exit routes to key areas (1.5 feet for every 1,000 rounds (i.e., 60 feet wide for 40,000 rounds) to spread out traffic.

• Limit mounds or bunkers between paths and tees, fairways or greens, since they funnel traffic.

It's okay to cross the fairway with a path — beyond the first landing area, or in front of the tee. This increases accessibility, and it can be hidden with an earth form. But use long, gentle ridges, rather than mounds, as carts funnel carts through any valleys.

Green area paths should:

• Be 40 feet (back) to 60 feet (sides) from the green edge. Any closer affects play, and further invites short-cutting inside the path.

• Provide 4-inch roll curbs to control traffic.

• Be 10-12 feet wide for the entire green entrance area. Small "pull-out areas" inevitably concentrate traffic.

• Enter near the back to move players ahead, minimizing delays.

• Enter at the widest portion of the green to spread traffic.

• Avoid entry through main drainage ways.

Tee area paths should:

• Parallel the tee edge; 25-40 feet from the tee edge, making all areas equidistant and similarly sloped, so that moving tee markers moves the natural entry point.

• Provide 4-inch roll curbs to control traffic the full length of tee (and avoiding small "pull-out areas").

• Avoid narrow access routes (including steps).

• Place carts behind right-handed golfers, minimizing distractions.

• Be behind angled tees to avoid parking in the line of play.

• Minimize vertical climb. If the tee is raised, raise the cart path.

Fairway area paths should be:

• On the slice side of the fairway, where possible.

• Located 40-60 feet from the fairway, at main entry points, and further in other areas, blending of convenience and concealment.

• Located on the fairway side with the fewest obstructions (bunkers, mound complexes, etc.).

• Located on the outside of doglegs, since inside paths frequently come into play and vision, unless the path can be well hidden.

• Near or slightly above fairway level for convenient cart access (including ADA access), and so golfers can see their shots from the cart, speeding club selection.

• Have bypass points at activity clusters, usually near greens, tees, the practice facility, etc.

• Route away from dangerous areas like high play zones of adjacent holes and hazardous slopes. For instance, we rarely share paths between holes. Often, a convenient "slice-side path" may also be in the slice-side of an adjacent hole. Without screening, it may be unsafe.

We blend and/or conceal paths to reduce their visual impact by locating them in shaded areas (at least between major access areas) and tilting them away from view lines and/or using low ridges to hide them in open areas. Surprisingly, it's often easier to conceal a path crossing the fairway than one that parallels the line of play.

Where visible, they look best with broad flowing curves following contours. Sharp vertical and horizontal alignments create a disjointed appearance, drawing unwanted attention. Where possible, the cart path's routing should highlight views of specimen trees, waterfalls, rock outcroppings, or landscaping.

Path circulation is so important on busy courses that I consider them concurrently with other design preferences, to best integrate them into the design. Occasionally, these needs conflict with each other, and on some holes and courses the cart path can even be the most important factor.

Bring on those hovercraft!

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