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Architect Pioneers Carth-Path Camouflage

Look closely at the image above. Can you spot the cart path here on this par-4 hole in South Florida? It’s part and parcel of the waste bunker, which is composed entirely of crushed concrete screenings, an idea originated by golf course architect Drew Rogers.

Ongoing renovations at Wyndemere and Audubon country clubs have helped pioneer the creative elimination and disguise of cart paths between tees and greens. Architect Drew Rogers has delivered to both private club clients the recontoured putting surfaces, regrassed fairways and rebuilt bunkers one would expect from meticulous renovation work.

However, in the process he has refined a method that replaces long stretches of formal cart paths with back to nature areas that feature crushed concrete byproduct (screenings) in place of poured concrete, or sand. Creative plantings effectively integrate these areas into the natural landscaping, while buttressing their screening power at fairway’s edge.

— I see this as part of a bigger movement to remove impervious material from these landscapes and better blend in a circulation pattern that looks like it’s part of a golf hole, instead of a bright white ribbon that runs tee to green that really, when you think about it, represents an obstacle, says Rogers, founder and principal of Toledo, Ohio-based JDR Design Group.

Rogers always try to make clear to clients that his method does not mean that all the cart paths are coming out. Around greens, for example, traffic must be strictly regulated and traditional cart paths serve that function.

— This application does not fit in everywhere. Let’s be perfectly clear about that. The proper setting must be identified first. But there are vast areas adjacent to many golf holes, especially here in Naples, that are already quite natural — a preserve, wetland or woodland. This cart path strategy is a great way to create far more natural transitions from highly maintained turf to upland preserve, Rogers continues.

Several clubs in Florida

Rogers has been working on this alternative cart path paradigm for a while now. It’s been deployed at several of his client clubs in Florida. Wyndemere General Manager Jimmy Lynn first noticed it while touring Royal Poinciana Golf Club, also in Naples, where Rogers is now executing the final stages of a comprehensive, four-phase, 36-hole renovation.

For golfers, the screenings offer a playing surface with enough give to play exactly like a traditional waste bunker. For superintendents, they require light maintenance on par with traditional sandy waste areas.

In Florida, traditional waste areas often accommodate informal cart paths. But sand compacts over time, and coquina surfaces have other drawbacks.

— I don’t like the fact that, with coquina, the color and particle size is so varied, whereas the crushed concrete, because it’s screened, is far more uniform, Rogers says.

Blends into the sand tones

Rogers says the coquina tends to lodge in the cart tires and get dragged around the golf course. The whiter blend of the screening materials blends better into the sand tones, which is the undersurface in soils in south Florida. When these areas are enhanced with native grasses and other vegetation specific to the area, it blends in very well.

— That’s always the architect’s goal: to hide or disguise cart paths as best we can. We want to them to disappear to the golfer’s eye, to truly blend in. Hiding them with mounding is one avenue, but I think this a real step forward for this golfing environment.

This «back to nature» path at Audubon CC serves a transitional landscaping role.

This «back to nature» path at Audubon CC serves a transitional landscaping role.

The practical maintenance aspect is something Rogers thinks superintendents will appreciate.

— Golfers appreciate the aesthetics and identity. They like to drive golf carts anywhere that doesn’t have a wall in front of them! So they find it appealing to drive through a big ‘sandy’ bunker-looking area and peel off wherever they choose. But this accessibility gives supers more options, too. Traditional paths, with their curbing, are a lot like limited-entry points on traditional bunkers. These natural areas are so broad and expansive, you can better spread entry and exit, for golfer and maintenance traffic, Rogers concludes.

See more: JDR Design Group web page