Measurement and Manipulation of Golf Course Terrain in Global Mapper Pro

After collecting and processing data, as demonstrated with Golf Course Maintenance and Field Data Collection, Global Mapper Pro can be used to extract meaningful measurements from the terrain. Existing conditions can be mapped using contour lines, breaklines, terrain surfaces, and water movement can be mapped with the watershed tool. Users can create and compare site plans using virtual terrain manipulation tools; find the optimal place for a flat site; measure affected soil volume; model how water will flow across the new terrain or plan drainage; and more in Global Mapper Pro. 

Contour Creation

When analyzing greens, a manager will want to understand the structure of the green’s surface, including elevation changes. In Global Mapper, contours are easily created from a surface model or lidar with a few clicks of your mouse. Contours are lines that delineate elevation changes. Each line is drawn at a different elevation and can be read by gauging the gaps between them. Areas with closely spaced lines are going to be steeper than sparse areas. These lines are often used in GIS for construction planning or to add elevation information to maps unobtrusively. As with other vector data, contours can be exported to a CAD file, a shapefile, and more while maintaining elevation as an attribute.

contour lines across a golf course in Global Mapper
Contours can be created at any interval, depending on the resolution of your data and how closely you would like to assess the data.

Mapping Slope

Another way to assess elevation change is with a slope map or raster. Slope in the terrain is easily displayed in Global Mapper by using a shader. Slope values can be highlighted by creating a custom shader or grouped using the Raster Reclassify tool. In the image below, see how the raster is colored by slope value. Cells of similar color can be extracted into area features for use with analysis or exported to Global Mapper Mobile to reference from the field.

Slope values of a golf course in Global Mapper
Calculating slope values in Global Mapper is as simple as changing a shader.

Creating a New Tee Box

Planning ahead of a construction project, such as clearing a forest for a new tee box, can be easily done with Global Mapper’s terrain manipulation tools. To create a new tee box, an ideal area must be chosen, someplace that won’t require additional fill or soil to flatten it out, and sight lines must be considered.

Displaying potential terrain edits for a gold course in Global Mapper.

Mapping Sight Lines 

The Path Profile tool, aside from providing a perpendicular perspective on 3D data, includes a line-of-sight tool to locate objects or terrain that may hinder the view. Line of sight analysis views a path across the loaded terrain layers, just as a person would form the earth’s surface. 

A perpendicular perspective of golf course GIS data in Global Mapper

Manipulating Terrain and Optimal Site Selection

The optimal cut and fill location can be modeled using the Site Flatten tool. Simply draw an area feature that’s the size of the tee you’d like to create, then ask the tool to locate the best area. Optionally, use another area feature to limit the search area. The tool places and rotates the feature across a variety of locations in your designated area to create a site plan that optimizes cut and fill volumes to limit construction costs.

Potential placement modeled by GIS Global Mapper
This Tee box could be moved into the vegetated area. The existing tee box is being used as a model, while the area that could be used is also highlighted behind it. The Sit Flatten tool will place the new Tee box in a way that mitigates cut and fill costs.
A 3D perspective for potential terrain modeling in Global Mapper
Looking at the finished data in the 3D viewer from a North East perspective, the new optimized flat plan can be seen modeled into the existing terrain.
Volume Calculation measurements
The Site Flattening tool also reports the estimated Cut and Fill volumes for implementing the new terrain.

Terrain Painting to Manually Shape the Modeled Ground Surface

Once the optimal place has been chosen, the surrounding terrain can be adjusted to fit. The Terrain Paint tool allows you to edit elevation values in a raster layer with the swipe of a mouse. In the image below, the rough terrain leftover from removing the vegetation has been smoothed down to better match the new site plan. These volumetric changes in soil can be measured by comparing the new layer to an original using the Compare Terrain tool. This workflow is just one example of how the Global Mapper suite of terrain editing tools is used in many industries for accurate terrain modeling and measurement.

Smoothed surface in Global Mapper
Smooth and adjust the surrounding terrain values to fit against the new surface.

Mapping the Flow of Water Across a Fairway

The Watershed tool is a terrain analysis method of estimating where water would flow across the landscape based on elevation. It works by modeling the placement of a single drop of water on each grid cell. The elevations of the surrounding grid cells are assessed to see if one is lower. If so, the “water” then flows to and accumulates in the lower cell where the calculation repeats. Water will accumulate as it flows downhill, creating streams. Stream delineation is based on your settings, and as such, it maps the movement of water across the terrain more than the likelihood of a  physical stream appearing on the land. Global Mapper can estimate where this water flow may happen and highlight areas that may be prone to local flooding. 

Watershed delineated across a golf terrain layer
The Watershed tool maps the directional movement and the resulting accumulation of water across a fairway.

To model potential flood mitigation, try the terrain paint tool to simulate changes in the landscape. This tool allows you to manipulate the terrain like putty, changing the elevation values to fit a new structure by adding or removing terrain. After modeling, you can process the layer again through the watershed tool to gauge or alter the changes. 

Displaying Local Slope with a Quiver Plot

A quiver plot displays the local slope direction as an arrow, creating a grid of arrows that can be used to show how a putt will roll and break as the ball rolls across the terrain. These are easily created from terrain data as a byproduct of the Watershed tool. Directional plots can be created at any scale, again depending on the resolution of your data.

a quiver plot displaying movement of water across a golf green.
The arrows in a quiver plot point downhill in each area measured, mapping possible movement across the terrain.

Terrain Volume

The Pile volume tool in Global Mapper is frequently used by engineers and land managers to measure the volume of soil in a pile or to estimate how much soil is required to fill a depression. The example below measures the cubic volume of a sand trap, reporting how much fill would be necessary to smooth out the trap if desired. This tool also works on data that has been edited with the Terrain Paint tool. A new trap can be painted into the landscape and measured for an estimate of the amount of soil that would need to be removed. 

image of sand traps, delineated. Elevation data of delineated sand traps.
The volume of terrain in both pile and fill can be measured as easily as drawing an area feature around the place to be measured.
The pile volume tool shows that filling these sand traps would require 8 – 13 cubic meters of soil per trap.

Volume measurements can be exported to an Excel file, or stored as attributes for each feature. These measurements as attributes can be sent to ground maintenance crews using Global Mapper Mobile for positioning and reference. 

There are myriad uses for Global Mapper when managing a golf green. Need to close a green for construction? Use Global Mapper to easily create a map to display changes to users based on your existing data. Global Mapper’s terrain editing and analysis tools can also be used to plan and visualize changes in the landscape by manipulating elevation data and measuring the volumetric change in the soil. Want to know how much soil needs to be purchased to increase elevation in an area to a specific height? Global Mapper can do that, too.


Global Mapper provides an innovative way for professionals involved in agriculture and other industries to perform a terrain suitability analysis for a variety of use cases. A few freely available data layers were used to identify areas suitable for vineyard development. Of course, not all site selection criteria can be analyzed in a GIS program. Site visits, advanced soil sampling, planning, and infrastructure implementation are all needed before beginning grape cultivation. The areas identified by this suitability analysis are now vector features with attributes describing slope, aspect, area, and soil type that can be further edited, exported, or taken into the field for further site exploration.

Want to try Global Mapper? Sign up for a 14-day free trial. You can also request a demo from one of our experts to see this workflow or other Global Mapper processing abilities.

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