Custom Erin Hills Blend Wax Polymer Pathway - Erin Hills Golf Course - Hartford, WI - Photo courtesy of Paul Hundley

Erin Hills Golf Course: A Kafka Case Study

Just over two hours away from Kafka headquarters in nearby Hartford, Wisconsin, sits a beautiful picturesque golf course. Carved from glacier movement thousands of years ago, Erin Hills is a golf venue that cannot be rivaled by many. The 652-acre course still maintains some of the streams that were carved by the last glacier to cover Wisconsin, and it offers visitors exquisite vistas composed of rolling hills and swaying grasses.

Erin Hills is so breathtaking that it has been chosen to play host to the 2017 U.S. Open. The 2017 U.S. Open will host 156 players from all over the world. With so many players coming to the course to play along it’s stunning route, Erin Hills decided to replace their existing walk paths with new highly durable paths that could withstand the harsh Wisconsin winters and the course’s hilly terrain.

Kafka Granite was called in to replace Erin Hills’s highly erosive existing pathway system and replace it with a custom blended aggregate color of both stabilized and wax polymers pathways. With a long history of working with various aggregate binders for these purposes, we at Kafka Granite felt confident that we could deliver a pathway system that would complement the natural beauty of Erin Hills and reduce the maintenance for their grounds crew.

Custom Erin Hills Blend Wax Polymer Pathway - Erin Hills Golf Course - Hartford, WI - Photo courtesy of Paul Hundley

Photo courtesy of Paul Hundley

WHEN: Fall of 2012 to Spring of 2017

WHERE: Erin Hills Golf Course, 652 acres of property in Hartford, Wisconsin.

WHY: Erin Hills desired natural looking cart and walking paths that blended in with the course, but there were issues with erosion due to the hilly terrain. Their grounds crew was spending far too much time maintaining their walking paths when their valuable time could have been spent maintaining the course. Refusing to settle for obtrusive hardscapes such as asphalt or concrete, they opted for a natural aggregate path blended with wax polymer thanks to Kafka Granite. On flatter terrain, they chose to combine their aggregate with a stabilizing binder. With the first ever U.S. Open to come to Wisconsin to be hosted at their course in 2017, pressure was on to update all of the walking paths with Kafka Granite materials before the June 2017 event.

Custom Erin Hills Blend Wax Polymer Pathway - Erin Hills Golf Course - Hartford, WI - Photo courtesy of Paul Hundley

Photo courtesy of Paul Hundley

WHO: Our product is designed to be simple to install and maintain, so for this project the Erin Hills ground crew was able to install their new pathway system themselves.

WHAT: Erin Hills decided to use both stabilized and wax polymers pathways. Our stabilized pathway mix consists of decomposed granite or crushed stone screenings blended with a stabilizing binder. This mixture binds and locks the pathway mix to create a durable, permeable natural aggregate surface. Our stabilized decomposed granite surfaces are crafted to better withstand forces that would otherwise lead to erosion, which was the issue with the previous pathway mix that Erin Hills had been using.

Our wax polymer pathway mix combines natural crushed stone screenings or decomposed granite carefully pre-blended with an engineered polymeric wax in an entirely waterless process to create a unique paving alternative. This wax coated aggregate mix creates a dustless, sealed, non-permeable, but yet natural-looking surface that is perfect for use on a golf course as it can stand up to extensive wear and tear and the hilliest of terrain.

Erin Hills was looking for a natural solution that would blend in perfectly with their gorgeous scenery. At Kafka Granite, we offer over 50 different colors of pathway solutions. It was no problem to create a specialized blend for the Erin Hills golf course walking paths that was a perfect color match for what they had envisioned. 

Custom Erin Hills Blend Wax Polymer Pathway - Erin Hills Golf Course - Hartford, WI - Photo courtesy of Paul Hundley

Photo courtesy of Paul Hundley

HOW: One hurdle that we had to overcome while working on the Erin Hills project was finding the correct binder for the pathway mixes. We choose our binders based on local climate, pathway slope and individual aggregate type. With a property as large as Erin Hills, our dedicated team members worked hard to derive the proper binders needed. During this process our team was able to devise and implement a brand new wax polymer binder that was cleaner and performed better than the planned original binder.

Custom Blend Wax Polymer Pathway - Erin Hills Golf Course - Hartford, WI

Joe Sell (North Shore Superintendent), Chris Zugel (Whistling Straits Superintendent), Glenn Kafka (Kafka Granite Owner), and Zach Reineking (Erin Hills Superintendent) during installation at Erin Hills

The wax polymer pathway mixes present much less of a challenge as our wax polymer pathway is pre-blended for easy installation and maintenance. No water is needed for the installation of this product. Crews chose not to compact the new pathways with a one to two ton roller. Since Erin Hills desired a more natural looking pathway system, it was decided to let foot traffic compact the new pathways naturally. Wax polymer pathways were a great alternative for the Erin Hills project because these pathways do not get muddy or dusty like more traditional walkway options. This will help keep all golfers and observers dry and clean during the U.S. Open and will make the pathways ideal for local golfers all season long. Additionally, the Erin Hills grounds crew will no longer be spending large amounts of time maintaining the pathways and will now be able to focus on the course itself. Our wax polymer pathways are easy to maintain and can be easily manipulated if subtle changes are needed. These new pathways won’t have a problem standing up to the harsh freeze/thaw cycles that the course is subjected to in Wisconsin due to their nonpermable composition.

The stabilized pathways used at Erin Hills were chosen for their affordability, permeability, and design. With 50 different color variations, Kafka Granite was able to duplicate the custom aggregate blend already used for the wax polymer pathways that allowed for a seamless transition into the stabilized pathways. The stabilized pathways were used in flatter areas of the course, as the use of Stabilized Pathway Mix is not recommended on slopes over 10%. Kafka Granite stabilized pathways are made to withstand heavy foot traffic, reduce mud, dust, and erosion, while still remaining permeable. Following installation recommendations, Erin Hills installed 3 inches of prehydrated stabilized pathway mixture over a DOT approved base course for proper stability and drainage.

Kafka Granite’s stabilized pathways are a more affordable option than Wax Polymer Pathways, which helped Erin Hills to conserve costs. Because of its affordability and versatility, Erin Hills utilized our unique stabilized pathway mix whenever the more durable wax polymer mix was unneeded. Through a combination of both wax polymer and stabilized pathways a truly remarkable pathway system was created.

Custom Erin Hills Blend Wax Polymer Pathway - Erin Hills Golf Course - Hartford, WI - Photo courtesy of Paul Hundley

Photo courtesy of Paul Hundley

Instead of going with a high-maintenance, easily eroded option, Kafka Granite helped Erin Hills find the perfect pathway mixture for their one-of-a-kind golf course. Thanks to the hard work performed by our team in conjunction with the groundskeepers from the Erin Hills golf course, these new walkways can be enjoyed by all for years to come. Zachary Reineking, Director of Course Maintenance for Erin Hills had this to say about their new pathways at the end of this project,  “Over the years Erin Hills has tried an array of products for our undulating walk paths. The wax polymer and stabilized crushed granite from Kafka Granite provides a superior combination of ease of installation, durability, limited maintenance, and great aesthetics.”

With over 60 colors of specialty crushed aggregates for manufacturing, architecture and landscaping available, we are able to create customs products that will perfectly reflect your design vision. Our knowledgeable sales representatives are eager to help you find the ideal Kafka Granite solution for your next project.