Golf course signs

Ancient stones were transformed into golf course signs near St Andrews.

Golf course tee signs
Painted stone signs were planted all over the course

Natural sign materials

In early April 2021, Stuart Gillett contacted me.

Stuart is a founder member of Legacy Golf Advisors based in Hampshire. He advises the golf industry globally, by helping the management and sustainability of golf courses.

Stuart explained there were over thirty large stones which had been selected for planting all over Charleton Golf Course, near St Andrews. He asked how to transform the reclaimed stones into natural exterior signs.

The stones’ natural beauty would complement the surrounding estate, as well as standing up to constant bashing from lawnmowers.

Painted signs on stone
Each stone was hand lettered with signwriting enamel

Wayfinding signs

Each stone is placed as a tee marker, with numerals informing golfers of their score for match play. Several stones are also used for wayfinding signs at pathways. These signs would direct golfers to the next tees.

Directional signs for golf courses
Wayfinding signs were planted near pathways

Researching materials

With an understanding of the project and budget, I began to design and research materials for lettering the stone surfaces.

The typeface used would be vital for readability, especially at distance. I selected a style which would still remain readable on the uneven surface of each golf course sign.

I thought about how to produce a sharp edge for the numerals and letters on the stones’ rough and porous surfaces. My initial proposal was to use high tack vinyl and heat mould the vinyl into the stones’ nooks and crannies. The high tack vinyl had been used on similar surfaces with excellent results.

Golf course signs
The font was chosen for its legibility on uneven surfaces

Choosing methods

Another option I proposed was to use high tack vinyl stencils. The stencil would be an efficient method to layer paint on rough surfaces. Quickly enabling a base coat of masonry primer before a top coat.

The vinyl options didn’t match Stuart’s vision for the signs.

‘We are really after a very rough and ready look, although we don’t want it to look too amateurish’, said Stuart.

Painted signs in St Andrews
Most of the tee marker signs had two stones

Sourcing the paint

We agreed that hand lettering would be the preferred look. However, I was still concerned about the stones’ surface.

I searched for a suitable signwriting enamel which would withstand the elements. In addition, the paint had to flow easily and cover solid – preferably in one coat.

Equally, the golf course signs had to be legible. The porous surfaces would affect the sharpness of the painted edges. If the paint was too thin, it would risk seeping into the pores.

I sourced a signwriting paint from Ronan, an American paint manufacturer. Keen to try the paint on the surfaces, I arranged to visit the golf course to paint a sample of the signs.

Painted signs in St Andrews golf course
The enamel was carefully painted until the white was solid

Sign painting samples

To demonstrate how the numerals would appear, I painted a large red sandstone. The paint rapidly sucked into the surface.

Both Stuart and Brian, the head greenkeeper were satisfied with the appearance. Brian planned to arrange the stones over the forthcoming weeks. I scheduled to return as soon as the weather became drier and warmer.

Golf course signs in St Andrews
The rough surface posed a challenge for the brushes

Hand lettering the stones

In early May 2021, I began to paint the stones.

With the aid of a buggy, I traversed around the golf course, painting each sign. The numerals were carefully chalked onto each surface, avoiding any large cracks where possible.

Day one was slow. The paint absorbed into the stones almost immediately. Lying at ground level was also difficult for manoeuvring the brush.

And then it began to rain…

Signs for golf courses
The signs look at home on the golf course

Completing the golf course signs

With the help of my dad, Brian, we visited ten days later.

The weather had been inconsistent with rain and partial sunshine. Painting onto the wet surface was out of the question. We had to be assured of dry weather on the golf course, before scheduling our return.

Over two days, we made faster progress. We used different brushes too, which held more paint in the bristles. The new brushes were a game changer.

Eventually, the stones were transformed into unique signs across the golf course. Simultaneously durable, natural and legible.

Golfers, Stuart and the team at Charleton Golf Course were delighted with the result.

Contact me to discuss more natural materials for your signs.