Mike Kenna, Ph.D., shares the true value of USGA research

By |  December 14, 2023 0 Comments

The primary reason for establishing the USGA Green Section in 1921 was to support turfgrass and environmental research. That remains a crucial focus area today.

Photo courtesy of the USGA

According to a recent survey, USGA-funded research has led to improved golfer satisfaction. (Photo courtesy of the USGA)

Since 1983, the Mike Davis Program for Advancing Golf Course Management has invested around $50 million in approximately 800 university-led projects. The current annual research investment is $2 million — primarily driven by solicited proposals from university scientists.

However, a question commonly asked is, how has the research impacted golf course maintenance? The results may surprise you!

To address this question, the USGA surveyed more than 600 golf course superintendents from various golf courses to gain insight into the utilization and advantages of six research-based management strategies. It’s important to note that these strategies have directly benefited from funding the USGA provides to university research efforts.

Analysis of the collected data reveals that golf courses widely embraced research-based management practices, resulting in an estimated annual savings of $1.9 billion for the U.S. golf industry. Notably, the primary component of these savings is attributed to labor costs, demonstrating that even highly technical agronomic research eventually leads to increased efficiency in the day-to-day operations of golf courses.

Golf course superintendents also noticed changes in golfer satisfaction following adoption. There is room for more adoption and impact, as the most commonly used strategy was USGA putting green construction techniques at 55 percent of facilities.

The most important takeaway from this study is that turfgrass and environmental research do significantly impact maintenance efficiency, sustainability and overall golfer satisfaction.

While investing in this research may not produce frequent and dramatic breakthroughs, the cumulative effect of the knowledge gained has changed golf for the better. It will continue to do so as long as the USGA funds and supports this vital work.

For more information, please see Thompson, Cole, Don Kridel, and Mike Kenna. 2023. The Value of Turfgrass Research. USGA Green Section Record. October 20, 2023.

This article is tagged with , , and posted in From the Magazine, Research

About the Author: Mike Kenna, Ph.D.

Mike Kenna, Ph.D., is the retired director of research, USGA Green Section. Contact him at mpkenna@gmail.com.

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