Erin Hills – Hartford, WI

Erin Hills, host of the 2008 US Women’s Public Links, 2011 US Amateur and 2017 US Open. I’ve been lucky enough to get out and play this one and I can assure you that it is quite the walk. You wouldn’t think much of the elevation on this chunk of land would be natural in the middle of Wisconsin. I got lucky to get this data since much of Wisconsin can be spotty when it comes to Lidar data.

Erin Hills Aerial

Much of the golfing population has probably seen photos of this course hundreds of times. If you haven’t, be prepared to see them over the next six weeks.  Basic aerial photography of the course makes the course look long, but doesn’t bring into full effect the shape and elevation of the course.

Every time I have set foot on the course, it always felt like the land had to have been carved out. Fill brought in to create mounds that seemed to good to have been naturally created. Natural ground being shaved away  to create a pathway for the fairways.  It was a perfect equilibrium of cutting existing ground and building future ground.

I started with the 1970s era United States Geological Survey (USGS) quadrangle map for the area.  For those that aren’t familiar, these were large scale topography maps done by had prior to the use of Lidar, GPS data and other more commonly used technology. The USGS has a great database available online to view old topographic maps for most of the United States.

USGS Quadrangle – 1970s

I had looked at this source for topography once before for this course since I didn’t think that much of the land had existed the way it does now prior to the construction of the golf course.  I was wrong. Wrong  and confused, actually.

I couldn’t tell if the data I had was pre or post construction.  The data was acquired in 2006 which was the approximate time of the course opening to the public. When i started looking at the Lidar generated topography, I wanted to take a look at the larger contour interval (10-foot) before starting to look at the fine grading of the fairways and green complexes. I figured this would give me a chance to determine if the data was any good.

Take a look at the Lidar generated topography laid on top of the USGS quadrangle map.

USGS Quadrangle with 10-Foot Contours

What really caught my eye was two items. First, this data couldn’t be correct, the mounds and ridges line up exactly with the Lidar generated data. Second was the elevations generated are the same now as it was in the 1970s. Maybe the guys who made these maps did know what they were doing.

Enlarge the third image I posted and you’ll get a better understanding of what I am trying to explain.

Let me know your thoughts before I get too far into this. Do you think this data is bad or is the golf course routed  and designed keeping as much of the existing land intact?





One Reply to “Erin Hills – Hartford, WI”

  1. Scott,

    The architects of Erin Hills (Hurdzan, Fry & Whitten) tried to find the golf course within the existing topography and move as little earth as possible. There have been some revisions to the golf course since, as the minimalist approach led to some pretty severe contours.


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