“The design process remains unchanged by technology. It is the rest of the process that has gained speed and efficiency through the use of computers.”
That was my quote used in an article by fellow golf architect Mike Nuzzo about using technology in Golf Course Design. It came from a discussion about Autocadd and technology in the golf profession.
Not every firm uses Autocadd, in fact a few still hand draw plans, but they should be. Working on Microstation or Autocadd offers no aid to the design of holes, but the side benefits easily make the conversion worth the while. When I was working for the former employer we changed from hand drawn plans to Computer Aided Design. The choice was Microstation since the platform was clearly in front of Autocadd at that time - but Autocadd would likely be the choice now. I spent a difficult 6 months putting together two sets of working drawings -which forced me to be proficient using the software. I spent the next five years exploring the limits of the software and benefiting from the faster and faster production of working drawings. The process of getting grading from trace to grading plans was originally about the same as drawing by hand, but it was 10 times faster making changes, creating the secondary working drawings and adding outside information since it was drawn on the same file.
It would be fair to say within a year I was 50% more productive and we avoided hiring another employer for a few three years just through this new efficiency. The big gain was the ability to share information with other consultants – and once we did the first golf course community we knew that it was making co-ordination far easier. There are those who say all design should be done in the field – that’s fine until you have sanitary and storm water pipes running through golf holes - that’s something you can’t do on the fly.
Once you become comfortable with CAD you begin to find the secondary benefits from software including quick and easy cut and fills, the ability to generate earthmoving profiles, the use of models to explain ideas, the ability to section out information so that nothing is drawn twice, the ability to make changes to every drawing simultaneously through reference files, etc etc.
I have so much time with computers that I can route a course and design holes right on the computer because I don’t find the medium restrictive. I prefer to route and design on sketch because there is something far more pleasing about doing this by hand.
The more you have time to explore the possibilities in technology – the more you see the possibilities for efficiency. For example I used to hand draw before and after images often taking a week to produce a full set – then I was introduced to Corel Photoshop and in one day I knew I would not draw by hand again. I can do better images in far less time by altering photos. But not every experiment works out – I bought a digital voice data recorder with the idea of recording my thoughts instead of writing them as I go. The software I bought was supposed to convert this into text, but the number of mistakes made it too time consuming to fix and instead I listen to the recording and type out the report – although that still saves me time.
“What has not changed in the past decade or two is designers make lousy computer operators and computer operators make lousy designers” Mike Hurdzan – from his book Golf Course Architecture
I’ll never understand people’s need to criticize the use of technology, when in the end the quality of the golf course is what matters and has nothing to do with the tools you use. If technology can bring more efficiency and leave you more time for design and site supervision – why wouldn’t this be a huge benefit to an architect. But the technophobes will always disagree and say that any use of technology in design is wrong. I wonder if they also are against the use of a laser level on tees and greens too.
For a second article to read on this subject try Mike Nuzzo’s Golf Design Tools essay: http://www.mnuzzo.com/pdf/Design_Tools.pdf