Geo Week News

June 22, 2012

That sounds like a job for a laser scanner...

Great press release put out by Topcon this week: “Webb Simposon wins the 2012 U.S. Open on putting surfaces built with Topcon precision measurement technology.” Brilliant – topical, interesting, and fun. Plus, judging by my experiences with putting surfaces and laser scanners and the U.S. Open, it seemed like it was right in my ballpark. But no. 

Here’s the basic set-up: The Olympic Club knew they were getting the U.S. Open and they wanted their greens to be top-drawer (obviously). They weren’t. So they decided to rip them all out and put in new ones. Except the membership wanted 14 of them to be exactly the same when put back together.

Sounds like a job for a laser scanner, right? Scan those greens, get the exact topography, then rebuild and check against the model you’ve got in the computer. 

Instead Topcon’s Dave Krautz recommended high-precision GPS/GNSS technology plus millimeter GPS laser leveling technology. And, hey, everyone was happy. Apparently, they saved up to two-thirds of their expectations in manpower on the gig. 

But if you’re using GPS/GNSS to model the greens, you’re taking a massive amount of measurements, no? Well, yeah. According to a cutline provided with the press release, they took 2,500 measurements in the modeling process. 

Even if you figure only five minutes per measurement, you’re talking about 208 hours of measuring. Seems like you could scan 14 greens a heck of a lot faster than that. Maybe the data processing on the back end would be more time consuming, though. Hard to say. 

And the spec was for 6 mm accuracy. Could there have been concern that a scanner wouldn’t have been able to deliver on that? Obviously, you’d need some GPS/GNSS to set control, but after that it doesn’t seem like 6 mm should be a problem at relatively short range (although then the scan stations add up).

Regardless, as someone following laser scanning, and who has spoken with people like Scott Pool at Greenscan 3D, and seen projects by the likes of TerraVea, I guess I was just disappointed to find out laser scanning wasn’t used. How long until laser scanning is the de facto best practice in a case like this? Will it ever be?

We’ll see. Anyway, it’s a Friday afternoon, so some eye candy’s probably in order here, too. For reference, here are a few companies doing work with laser scanners on golf courses:

Darling Environmental:


Allen & Company:


iTen Associates:


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