Golf Agronomist Welcomes GPS Technology

Chris Gray, Head of Sustainability and Agronomy for Asia at The R&A.

Singapore: Autonomous mowing, spray units, individual sprinkler control and soil moisture meters are among a host of new technological advancements that are being embraced by golf clubs around the globe.

Not only will adoption of these GPS-driven measures reduce costs for golf clubs, but they’ll also improve efficiency, according to Chris Gray, Head of Sustainability and Agronomy for Asia at The R&A.

During a webinar addressing Why New Technology is Now Essential in Golf Course Management, Gray focused on a handful of new developments that are changing the way in which golf courses are being maintained, and will increasingly be so in the foreseeable future.

“All these efforts really help a golf course to be more sustainable, healthier … and profitable golf course,” said Gray, a Board Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation (AGIF), whose presentation specifically highlighted Technological Advancements in Golf Course Maintenance.

Hosted by Brain Pool Tech and presented by the AGIF, the webinar participants also included Owen Hester, Founder and President at Green Dynasty, Bobby Carrington, a Tech Portfolio Advisor for a private equity company in New York City and Head of Customer Success at Brain Pool Tech, and Kai Voges, Co-Founder and CEO of Brain Pool Tech, an Associate Business Member of the AGIF.

Gray said there are already some autonomous mowers in the market place. “A lot are in development and showing what can be done. We’ll see a lot more of this sort of thing as GPS technology improves.

“It’s very exciting, especially when it comes to manpower, reduction in costs and also the precision mowing with the GPS technologies. We’re going to see a lot more advancements in autonomous mowing in the next couple of years,” he predicted.

New technology is also being used with spray tanks, with GPS being enhanced with RTK, a Real Time Kinetic technology connection configuration which delivers precision spraying.

“This can be within a couple of centimetres type accuracy. For spraying, this is extremely important when you want to avoid over-lapping. Using spray technology, an operator can see on a screen where he’s sprayed and where he hasn’t. So, if you happen to be over-lapping too much, there’s individual nozzle control so they’ll automatically switch off certain nozzles if you begin to over-apply in an area that’s been sprayed already.

“You may have certain technicians who are extremely experienced and can manually apply quite accurately. But one of the benefits with the new technology comes when you have variability with staff who are carrying out the spraying on the golf course – when you have challenges of staff turnover or you need to have staff multi-tasking to carry out these applications.

“Because of the precision, you can avoid over application of pesticides and chemicals, especially when you’re spraying close to habitat areas and spraying in no-go zones, for example. This technology is already here and is being utilised by a lot of clubs in the region. We’re going to see this technology integrate with drone technology.”

Although individual sprinkler control is not new, advancement in technologies around the way irrigation is controlled is moving ahead in leaps and bounds, said Gray.

“GPS technology is helping that. We’ve got hand-held devices that you can operate from the field. You can also operate them from home and check on the system. Now you can stand at a sprinkler and with GEO location you can locate a particular sprinkler you’re looking at.

“Most major companies have this technology available. It’s very helpful in the field where you have to make adjustments to individual sprinklers. This is where some of the efficiencies come in, especially on the sustainability side where you water budget up, or water budget down in certain areas, avoiding over applications or under applications. This technology is moving ahead very quickly.”

So, too, Soil Moisture Meters, which an increasing number of clubs are now using.

Gray said: “These have come a long way with GPS Technology and this ties in with the mapping. One of the challenges I’ve noticed over the years is over watering on golf course. Typically, it’s inexperienced operators who are sent out to do manual watering. They tend to put on more water than less.

“What we’ve found with the moisture meters is that in areas that have been over watered you have lots of issues with fungus and pest-related diseases from over-watering and organic matter build-up, particularly on greens.

“Now you can actually put a number on something, you can work with the staff and show them a visual map of where they need to go and top-up, or where they’re over-watering. The integration with drone technology is going to come on a wider scale.”

*To view this webinar on You Tube, please click the link: https://youtu.be/JkXiAj7R9_s

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