Advances in technology are happening quicker in the last five years than in the previous 40 years.
Each and every year we can expect new technology that will make our golf courses more efficient and also better managed.
It would take at least two full days to view all the latest in equipment, software, seeds, fertilizer, etc. So here are a few new items that show some great promise.
Moisture sensing: Less than a decade ago there were many superintendents who would cut a small wedge out of their greens to evaluate the moisture levels. However, now there are several companies that offer the latest technology in measuring soil moisture, temperatures, salinity and pH.
More importantly is the ability to gather this information quickly and put it in a format for the golf course superintendent to make a variety of decisions to best manage their greens.
Carmen Magro, vice president of business development for Stevens Water Monitoring Services, travels the world assisting golf course superintendents and golf facilities on methodology to monitor these factors. Carmen feels strongly about putting values to trends and variable measurements while correlating those with specific turfgrass responses.
When a superintendent sees a variety of symptoms on their greens it definitely could have been prevented by the measurement of trends with the technology available to us today. Through the use of portable measuring devices, it’s very routine to measure and track things throughout the growing season. POGO is one such system, that along with Spectrum TDR 300, that is commonly used on most golf courses.
Drones: For those that think drones are pre- dominantly used for military purposes…here’s another thought.
They’re now being used, at a reasonable cost, for golf courses. In recent months I have watched drones being used at a variety of golf courses where the superintendents have purchased their own units. It may take a few flights to get the hang of it but several friends have mastered it without having to have a pilot’s license.
So what do these drones do? If you have ever considered a flyover of your golf course it can be done with a drone costing about $1,000 and an iPad for steering. Add a Go Pro camera and you have all you need to get started. Perhaps the more difficult part is learning the editing to add script and music. Highly likely that younger interns and assistants will know how to do this!
Bob Vaughey, CGCS, the director of agronomy at Rolling Hills Country Club in Southern California, is well versed in all the latest technology and happily shares his knowledge in this area with his fellow superintendents.
Bob’s latest evaluation is looking at thermal mapping. This can be used for monitoring irrigation efficiency to better manage irrigation applications. Also, as golf course construction is underway, Bob is able to capture all of the work done on the property and memorialize it. Knowing communication is key it allows Bob to keep his membership fully informed of the progress being made.
Golf course management platform: OnLink, a cloud-based golf course management platform, monitors and reports essential operational and agronomic inputs that lead to economic efficiencies while improving playing conditions’ consistency.
This platform brings all the course data into one place for golf course superintendents to manage it. This system incorporates a variety of data collection mechanisms including all the capabilities of moisture sensing from companies like Spectrum Technologies and POGO.
Walt Norley, founder and CEO of OnLink says, “one of our missions at OnLink is to make golf course management less expensive and more efficient at every level while improving playing conditions.”
A system like this not only bene- fits the golf course superintendents but it also allows for data tracking for management and multiple course operators. Walt indicated that technology in its many forms is finally arriving in the integration of smart phones, iPads and digital transmission from pumping stations and such.
Several users of OnLink have told me that the return on investment is short and that within a year they have seen up to six figure savings. The integration of all course software and hardware into one place provides actionable analytics that lead to performance improvements and cost reductions.
Some think that technology is moving at such a fast pace that waiting until next year is the best decision. To the contrary, the technology will only get better with time. Utilize systems and technology that make the job easier and have the potential to make your operations more economical.
As the cost of operations continue to rise along with the costs of labor it will be crucial for golf course operators to create and maximize efficiencies. It’s up to those in management and governance to encourage the people in operations to seek out such technology. The future is now!