Author: John Aherne is founder and MD, Golfgraffix Ltd In times gone by, pencil and paper sketches – or even finger drawings in sand – were often the genesis for golf-course architects. From a young age, I was fascinated by golf course design and fell in love with the drawings of the great designers like Dr Alastair Mackenzie and Harry Colt. I am sure that there is still old school copy books of mine filled with scribbled imaginary golf courses gathering dust in my parents’ house. In the contemporary world, golf is no different to any other industry in that it has moved with the rapid pace of technological change. Most golf architecture firms are now using either AutoCAD or MicroStation to produce detailed plans with precise cut-and-fill calculations and detailed bill of materials – almost everything that is needed to get a project planned, approved and started. In the pursuit of better efficiency, however, I wondered if some of the artistic qualities that were often seen in the plans from the ‘golden age of course design’ were being lost? Twenty years later, that love of golf design was still there with me, but it is now coupled with a fascination with computer graphics. After a chance meeting with a very forward-thinking course designer, Jeff Howes, the founder of Jeff Howes Golf Design, Golfgraffix was born. I started the company with the aim of bridging the gap between detailed computer-aided design (CAD) plans and what the average golfer needed to properly understand them. In our initial market research, we found that when it came to new builds and renovations, decision makers could not match the two-dimensional CAD plans with what would be built in the real world. Although golf course architects understood this problem, they could not find a cost-effective solution that tied in with their CAD plans. ARCHITECTURAL RENDERING In the very early days, we tested a number of the standard packages, like Maya and 3ds Max, but found them more suited to architectural rendering and not the expansive, free-flowing forms of a golf course. The other issue was the massively long rendering times. Our plan was to have real-time rendering on the fly, something we could use in an architect’s office, where we could shape, mould and render a course all at once. The only place I had seen this type of real time rendering was in the gaming industry. This led us to two gaming engines: Ogre and Unity, both of which now form the backbone of everything we do. From our first forays into these gaming engines in 2010, it took us two full years of trial and error.  It was time well spent, as our custom engine is now capable of producing three-dimensional (3D) graphics for golf courses that are visually stunning, cost effective and flexible enough to meet the demands of the course architects. [caption id="attachment_10396" align="alignright" width="1024"] In 2012, Golfgraffix worked on a proposed build at a vineyard in Tuscany[/caption] The great thing about having our own bespoke software is that it affords us a flexibility to develop tools as needed on a project by project basis. In 2012, we worked on a proposed build at a stunning vineyard in Tuscany, Italy. The proposed routing was winding its way through what would still be a working vineyard, where the new tree planting was a concern and the client needed to better understand the effect of tree shading on the vines. As most gaming engines are designed to reflect the passing of a day, we could write a small bit of code that ran time-lapsed imagery showing the passage of the sun and the resulting shadows. We have now worked on over 100 golf courses on five continents and have completed projects for most of the all top designers. This year has seen the company move from just pure visualisation into true immersive interaction. What better way to understand a new build or renovation than to actually play it? Through a plugin with San Diego-based Foresight Sports, the leader in golf simulation, all of our 3D models are now fully playable with real golf clubs before a sod of earth is ever turned. On the recent renovation of Tralee Golf Club, we worked very closely with the club and the lead designer with Arnold Palmer Design, Brandon Johnson. Working from his plans, we built a very accurate model of the proposed changes, which we converted into a fully playable simulation. Using our portable simulator, we were able to have the members play the proposed new holes in the club house, so that when it came to a vote, each and every member fully understood the changes. ADVANCES IN MOBILE TECHNOLOGY [caption id="attachment_10398" align="alignright" width="2048"] On the renovation of Tralee Golf Club, Golfgraffix worked closely with the lead designer with Arnold Palmer Design, Brandon Johnson[/caption] So, where to next for Golfgraffix? Our next goal is to get the software – or at least a version of it –into the hands of green keepers, the people who are the coal face of real design and who make daily small tweaks to their courses. The past year has seen great advances in mobile technology, especially in the area of tablets and this is where we are now focusing our development. Our vision is to supply our 3D models in a mobile format for greenkeepers. As with our initial product, we have looked for where there is a problem with which we can help. Considering that greenkeepers do 90 per cent of their work in the field, planning and monitoring projects with staff can be very difficult. What we have created – and are now testing with some courses in the UK and Ireland – is an iPad app that has what we are calling a ‘dynamic course map’. The map is includes separate layers for tees, fairways, greens, bunkers and more. Greenkeepers can use the simple touch tools to view, measure or add more data on course conditions. As the map is fully enabled for global positioning systems (GPS), the dynamic course map allows users to keep courses up to date, also allowing users to save data, GPS-tagged photos and inventory information and to share project data with staff. John Aherne is founder and MD of Golfgraffix Ltd, an award-winning, interactive digital golf design company based in the Guinness Enterprise Centre, Taylors Lane, Dublin 8. See