Pardon my Tech: The five foundations of turf tech

By |  June 10, 2024 0 Comments

In my debut column last month, I shared my background with technology and why I have decided to focus my efforts on helping superintendents incorporate turf tech into their programs. In this column, I break down the five foundations of turf tech to begin to paint a more digestible picture of the technology ecosystem we are working towards in 2050.


Benton Hodges

1. Digital management platforms

The digital management platforms of today will be the turf tech command center of tomorrow. With the rise in data-driven decision making, superintendents are likely familiar with the many options of digital management platforms (DMPs) available.

There are companies out there that focus on a la carte offerings to allow a “buy-what-you-need” model with others in the space looking to be the one-stop shop type program, handling anything you could imagine in a single dashboard system.

As we look towards the future, DMPs emphasizing open-source collaboration with companies that make up the rest of the turf tech ecosystem will see the most success among superintendents, solving the problem of too many apps plaguing phones of supers everywhere.

2. Sensing tech

We’ve all heard the adage, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Sensors are here to improve our ability to measure what’s happening on the course through several different methods. Combining these technologies with the keen eye of a superintendent, you will be able to dial in your agronomic programs.

Hand-held moisture sensors are now commonplace, with early iterations replaced by advanced, integrated versions. In-ground soil sensors have gained in popularity recently, allowing for continuous data collection over weeks, months and years.

More recently, the emergence of equipment-mounted sensors has made passive collection of data a possibility simply by mowing your fairways.

3. Next-gen spraying

GPS spraying isn’t a new topic, but the depth of options, features and brands to choose from these days is worthy of conversation. The real time kinematics (RTK) network has improved standard GPS position data from a three-foot to a sub-inch accuracy level by using corrections from a fixed base station. Spray applications have increased in efficiency and accuracy.

Boundary control and overlap prevention are standard features on most units, but there are now options for turn compensation, autosteer and variable rate spraying.

4. Robotics in turfgrass

The hottest topic in turf tech, without a doubt, is robotic autonomous mowers. Current integration for properties has focused on areas such as clubhouse grounds, driving ranges, practice areas, par-3 courses, roughs and fairways.

Utilizing the same RTK network as sprayers, this technology has evolved from requiring boundary wires to fully wireless connectivity, which has driven the increased adaptation in the past year.

5. Aerial turf management

Golf courses use drones in a variety of ways. The most common is for photos and videos for communication or marketing material. Drones equipped with multi-spectral cameras are now conducting flights on golf courses for plant health monitoring.

Accurate surveying and mapping applications are especially useful for renovation and construction projects, along with irrigation mapping and building maps useable by GPS sprayers or autonomous mowers.

Logistical limits and heavy regulation for agriculture spray drones mean they are not currently a practical option in golf. However, native grass weed management has been identified as a use case for drone spray applications.

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About the Author: Benton Hodges

Hodges started his career in the turfgrass industry as a researcher at Mississippi State University followed by nearly a decade at high-end golf clubs as an assistant superintendent in the Mountain West. He now focuses his efforts on helping golf courses leverage technology-driven solutions while maintaining a people-first mindset. Find him on X at @BPHTurf or LinkedIn.

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