Technology systems are going to change the way superintendents view everything on their golf course.

Golf course management is going through a new wave of technification aimed at efficiency. From labor management and tracking software to smart irrigation systems and unmanned mowers, seemingly every new product and service is aimed at saving time and being more productive.

The real obstacle is identifying return on investment. Can a GPS-guided spraying system save enough money on chemical consumption to justify the initial outlay? Are the benefits to precise applications – thereby optimizing efficacy, conservation practices and labor – enough to make a purchasing decision? Does the combination of all the benefits make it the right thing to do and enough fodder to articulate to the board?

This is just one example of layers of technology that superintendents are considering. Mowers with password-protected mowing-speed controls, irrigation systems that beam sensor information back to central controls and burgeoning options for software that sets tasks for the crew, tracks labor, monitors equipment, logs chemical use, archives fertility programs and more are all available with varying levels of sophistication.

Superintendents have some hard decisions on which technologies to adopt and how early to buy into the technology. This is different than just evaluating new product introductions. This is selecting a platform on which to control every aspect of your maintenance department, and it’s not easily changed.

Superintendents are a bit behind the adoption curve of farmers, for whom these technologies were developed. If we learn from the challenges of the early adopters in that industry, the connectivity of disparate systems is critically important, and the analysis support behind the data is crucial to translate information into decision-making.

Vendors and superintendents alike have just begun to understand how software creates new operational practices, which then develop into a platform that touches every aspect on your golf course. Will the disparate components talk to each other? Will the data help me manage the enterprise, or just one function? How will it save me time, labor and money? Many questions will still need to be answered, but these technologies are extremely exciting for the industry and ultimately will allow superintendents to accomplish more with the same labor.

The timing couldn’t be better for technology companies. Following 10 years of tightening belts, there is notable pent-up demand at all levels of golf courses. Irrigation systems from the building boom of the 1990s are at the end of their life, pump houses are running on prayers, and maintenance equipment is in various stages of replacement cycles. This dynamic bodes well for suppliers in the marketplace, and superintendents have an opportunity to evaluate all the technification that will influence their golf courses for years to come.

What Do You Think?

In our Twitter poll, we asked golf course superintendents: What effect does the Masters have on your golf course?

  • 53% – None
  • 25% – Small bump in play
  • 22% – Significant bump in play

Based on 150 votes

We’ve detailed some of these products and we’ll continue to highlight them in subsequent issues as technology continues to play a bigger role in the everyday lives of golf course managers and maintenance staff.

Also in this issue is our Masters coverage, which discusses how the golf courses around Augusta, Georgia, benefit from the first major tournament of the year. We all benefit, at least a little, from celebrating the most iconic golf course in the world. Acknowledging this takes nothing away from the other great venues in golf. Golf needs its superstars, and Augusta National is one of them. Golf’s greatest growing the game initiatives weren’t organized by committees. They rode on the shoulders of Bobby Jones, Arnie, Jack and Tiger, and many of them cemented their fame at that old tree nursery. Much more comes from Augusta than unrealistic golfer expectations, and it’s a great story for golf.