Golf Course Maintenance and Field Data Collection

The beloved sport of golf is best played on a well-manicured course. Maintaining these courses requires extensive planning, agriculture, and attention to detail. From a given hole to the entire course, managers must consider varying terrain and landscape features at all levels. Global Mapper Pro and its mobile application can provide a detailed insight into the land under management. Surveys and inspections in the field can be managed in a spatial database to measure usage and wear over time. Additionally, elevation data can be used to assess current course topography, watershed analysis, measure the volume of hazards, assess fairway distances, tree height and placement, or plan a future layout. Through data collection and processing, geospatial data can help with the management, maintenance, and planning of the infrastructure and landscape on a golf course, from the landscape architect to the pro shop or the entire maintenance crew.

Line of sight across a green
Current and potential models of courses can be assessed with Global Mapper’s line of sight tool, as shown here using lidar data.

Assets Surveys 

Global Mapper can process any existing spatial data you may have as well as analyze and process new data surveyed from the field. With Global Mapper’s extensive file format support, you can easily import any existing Tiff, CAD, or other data type for map creation and analysis. Do you have course maps, images, or other data that predates digital mapping? Not a problem! Global Mapper’s georectification tool allows PDFs and other 2D or paper maps to be turned into spatial data.  Built infrastructure can also be mapped in the field using our mobile application, Global Mapper Mobile. Additionally, the Online data tool can also be imported to take advantage of free data such as local parcel boundary maps, satellite imagery, and terrain.

Generated orthoimage overlaid a DEM
High-resolution imagery processed in Global Mapper, loaded alongside free elevation data and imported parcel boundaries. Global Mapper can handle it all.

Collecting Data and Sharing Maps using Global Mapper Mobile

Digital maps are useful to maintenance staff by providing the ability to see how their current location relates to changes on the course, underground structures, boots-in-the-field inspections, or measure yardage and areas of features in real-time. Global Mapper Mobile, an iOS and Android application, is the perfect tool for field data reference and collection or communication of requested changes to pin location or tee boxes. Connect the mobile device to an external GPS unit for increased accuracy. The ability to take existing datasets into the field allows for the validation of data and an opportunity to measure usage and wear, or even overlay streamed datasets like Open Street Maps or Google Imagery. Global Mapper Mobile’s feature templates allow managers to specify what type of information should be collected for each structure type. For example, daily changes in pin placement can be stored in the desktop version and communicated daily to maintenance crews through the sharing of data in the mobile app. For more information on using Global Mapper Mobile, check out this blog on Taking GIS Data into the Field with Global Mapper Mobile

Global Mapper Mobile is an easy way to collect GIS data in the field or communicate changes to landscape crews.

Survey via drone 

Elevation data can often be found online (see our blog of free elevation data sources), but these are not guaranteed to be recent or high quality. To create high-resolution data on demand, you can collect images via drone and process them in Global Mapper. The Pixels to Points tool has the ability to analyze these images to create 2D and 3D outputs. One of these outputs is a 2D orthometric aerial image to give a birds-eye view of the golf course. These make great base maps to display under data or as a basis to digitize sidewalks, sandtraps, and other visible features into vector data for use in analysis. 

Two additional 3D outputs are also created, including a point cloud, and a 3D model, as shown in the image below. These high-resolution datasets give managers the power to quantitatively explore the land to measure slope, map soils, and more.

3D perspective down the green of mesh data
The 3D viewer in Global Mapper can be used to explore data. Here is a perspective from above the tee, looking down the green in a 3D Model created with Pixels to Points.

Point Cloud Processing

Global Mapper’s extensive lidar processing toolset can extract meaningful data from point clouds. All tools work with clouds created from pixels to points or with lidar. There are also many free lidar data sources online. There are merits to both types; check out this blog to see the comparison. 

Lidar data of golf course as intensity values
In this sample lidar point cloud downloaded from USGS, the intensity values are so clear that even the greens and cart paths are visible and can be quickly identified.

Point cloud classification is the first step in processing a point cloud. Global Mapper has tools for automatically identifying and assigning a classification to many different objects represented in point clouds, including vegetation and buildings. However, classifying ground features is always a good first step. Identifying ground points is useful for generating terrain data to exclude buildings and trees from contours.

golf course lidar segmented
Segmentation is a custom classification method for isolating structures in a point cloud, such as the fairway and greens seen here.

To identify features unique to your dataset, such as fairways and cart paths, use lidar segmentation. This custom classification tool has the unique ability to focus on specific objects based on their attributes. For example, in the image above, intensity and curvature values were used to separate points representing a hole from the surrounding trees and paths. Each segment is assigned a random color for visual distinction. Once classified, segments turn point clouds into customized, useable, and measurable data.

Contours lines with classified lidar data
Features in a point cloud can be classified through Global Mapper’s classification and segmentation tools.

Generating terrain data

Slope, terrain volume, and other measurements require a solid surface model instead of a cloud of points. These rasters are created by interpolating the points together. Easier done than said, the Create Elevation Grid tool creates Digital Elevation Models from classified ground points with a few simple clicks, as shown below. Rasters are useful for visually assessing the landscape. Focus on different features by changing the colors with a shader or altering shadows with the hillshade tool.

DEM of a golf course near a high way
Terrain visualization methods, such as hillshade shown here can be applied to an existing layer to help emphasize details in the ground.


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


Mapping Golf: A Contextual Study

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