Old Elm Club Moves into Golfweek Top 100 Classic Courses

Many have probably seen that Old Elm Club in Highland Park has moved into the Golfweek Top 100 Classic Golf Courses. This course was already on my short list of courses to look at, but I think I am going to get to it sooner than I had thought.

Being from the area, Old Elm has always been a course that I would have risk being attacked by the superintendent’s dog to play. Stay tuned over the next few weeks for detailed topography and color ramp of Old Elm Club. Unfortunately, the data is going to be prior to the restoration that J. Drew Rodgers has been undertaking.

From a quick look of the existing grades, the course has 40 – 50 ft. of elevation change from the northeast portion of the site south and west towards the Skokie River.

Old Elm Club, Highland Park, IL (Photo from Google Maps)

If you are really wanting to look at some other Top 100 courses, take a look at Oakmont Country Club , National Golf Links of America or a small piece of Augusta National Golf Club.


National Golf Links of America – Southampton, NY

What led me to take a look at this was looking at some photos that Jon Cavalier posted on Twitter(@LinksGems).

I had a little fun with this one since its hard to see a lot of the little intricacies of the grading in the fairways and around the greens.  I did a few images in an attempt to make the grading stand out.

For those unfamiliar with the course location, it is located on Long Island and neighbors Shinnecock Hills and Peconic Bay.

Aerial Image of the National Links of America

Continue reading “National Golf Links of America – Southampton, NY”

Oakmont Country Club – Oakmont, Pennsylvania

I’ll be honest here:  I loved watching the US Opens out there over the last few appearances, but until recently, I didn’t really get the history and layout of the country club. Now I can’t stop looking at it. It has its share of elevation changes from tee to green and also within the green complex itself.

Below is an aerial photo showing Oakmont Country Club. It also allows you to familiarize your self with different monuments on the course. Pew bunkers, Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Club House.

Aerial Image of Oakmont Country Club


What really caught my eye looking at the topography is how much the course plays away from you on certain holes. Hole 1 and 10 play downhill approximately 60 feet from the back tees to the front of the green before falling another 4 feet – 6 feet from the front of the green to the back. Holes 9 and 11 play both uphill.  While the 8th hole is a lengthy par 3, the hole only 8 feet – 12 feet downhill, which provides no elevation assistance to the player.

In addition to having to play with and into the grade, some of these fairways have a 8 feet – 12 feet elevation change from the left side of the fairway to the right side. Making the player face shots placing the ball above and below his or her feet.

Below is a contour map of Oakmont Country Club in 2-foot intervals. The map was generated using USGS Lidar data. You can tell on this image where the trees are.  Filtering those points was a little more time consuming then I thought it was going to take so I left them visible.  I believe this data was acquired between 2006 and 2008 so any changes after that time period will not be reflected.

2-foot contouring of Oakmont Country Club

Color Scale

The next few images show a color scale of Oakmont Country Club, also generated using USGS LIdar data.

For this I did an overlay of the 5-foot contouring to reduce the intensity a bit. The colors vary in elevations changes with some being a 10-foot change in elevation and others being a 2 foot – 3 foot change in elevation.  The red colors are the higher elevations with the blue being the lower elevations.

Color scale of Oakmont Country Club Elevation

For this last image, I turned up the transparency for the image above to give you a better chance at seeing the holes below the topography and color scale.

Half Tone Color Scale – Oakmont Country Club

I don’t know much about the architecture or design of this course, but there is a great mix of using low and high spots of the course to work in both some tee boxes and green complexes. A course that is near the top of my list of ones to play if the opportunity ever came up.

Feel free to contact me with any questions.


Whistling Straits Let Down, Oakmont Make Up?

I really thought that I had a handle on some decent data for the Pete Dye designed Whistling Straits in northern Wisconsin.  Turns out I didn’t. My goal for that was to put a number to how much dirt was brought in to build the golf course. I’ve heard a few crazy estimates, but didn’t know the real number.

I’m going to keep a look out for that data but hope I can make it up to the visitors of the site.  By the end of the week I am hoping to have a 3D rendering of Oakmont Country Club.

Until then, I hope this photo of the iconic church pew bunker can hold you over.


the bottom groove just joined twitter. Find me for a follow and updates. 


Augusta 17 and 18 Greens

Quick look at what the greens look like at 17 and 18.

Decent break in both of these greens. I left the spot elevations since the 0.5 foot contour elevation didn’t pick up enough of the grade.

17th Hole:

18th Hole:

Augusta Elevation

“You don’t understand how much elevation Augusta has until you walk it!” It’s a quote I hear often from people who have been on the grounds. I haven’t been fortunate enough to get out to Augusta National Golf Club.  In an effort to see really how much elevation change occurs on the golf course, I did the next best thing I could think of, created a 3D image of the playing surface using any available data I could get my hands on.

The United States Geological Survey has a pretty extensive database of Lidar for the United States.  For those unfamiliar with Lidar, it’s a method in which ground elevation is determined by flying overhead, shooting light at the surface and measuring the time it takes to reach the sensor on the aircraft.  From this information, an elevation can be calculated and assigned to that point.

Lidar isn’t flawless, you can tell from the raw data points that trees often cause a confusion to the method and can cause some points to be filtered out.

What’s so nice about these points? They are helpful for planners and engineers when determining existing drainage patterns or low-lying areas. What’s nice about it for me is that it’s possible to get a visual of what is going on a golf course.

The points can be turned into contour lines shown below or even a color ramp to gain a better visualization.

The contours shown are in 5-foot intervals, which means each line is a change in elevation of 5-feet.  I had originally tried 1-foot contours, but the exhibit was a little cluttered.  Quick view of the 10th hole and the 18th hole show this:

Hole 10 has an approximately 100-foot elevation drop from what appears to be the pro tees, down to the green. The elevations of the hole actually drops  approximately 105-feet, which is at the low area in front of the green.

Hole 18, aside from having one of the tightest driving shoots to hit, plays uphill 60 – 65 ft.

The color ramp is a different way of visualizing the course. Red on the above image are the higher ground elevations and blue are the lower.  This color ramp uses a 20-foot interval for each color.

When I started this little exercise, I was hoping to find a complete map of the course.  Unfortunately I was only able to a small portion of the course shown on the images above. Both of these images show additional holes on the back side, so take a look for yourself and get a do your best to visualize how these holes are contoured.