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Turf technology today

May 31, 2023

The golf course maintenance industry has neither shunned nor fully embraced technology. In our travels, we notice soil moisture inside utility vehicles, offices and maintenance facilities. Computers offering real-time irrigation data are common sights, especially in the arid West and unpredictable Southeast. We encounter digital job boards in breakrooms. Industry companies are identifying early adopters for battery-powered handheld equipment and mowers. Some of you have convinced your bosses to purchase a GPS-guided sprayer. Nearly every one of you uses multiple apps to track the weather.

Turf technology is elevating the experience for millions of golfers and creating maintenance efficiencies in the heavy-play, tight-labor era. But lukewarm attitudes toward technology continue to permeate segments of the industry.

Thousands of successful turf pros use solely their senses to determine moisture levels and disease pressure. A superintendent recently told us he can "smell what the turf needs." The grounds smelled as pleasant as smoked brisket on the day of that visit.

Messages still simmer in many inboxes, because a large portion of the industry meets or exceeds expectations without regularly using electronic communication. Thankfully, news and product information is still distributed via monthly printed magazines and annual catalogues. Email and social media, even in 2023, aren't for everyone.

We haven't spotted any chalkboards in recent travels, although dry erase boards and handwritten instructions still get crews to the right places each morning. Manual punch time clocks are still near office and shop doors. Labor hours and budgets are still tracked via pen and paper.

Earlier this year, we profiled courses that don't need irrigation computers to monitor water usage on fairways — because they don't have fairway irrigation systems. Operating without a fairway irrigation system makes it tricky to water in emerging plant protectant technology.

Compared to the lawn care industry, golf maintenance is in the primitive stages of adopting electric mowers and handheld equipment despite the threat of looming regulation and on-the-books noise ordinances. The hurdle? Many superintendents remain skeptical that electric equipment can perform at the same levels as gas-powered equipment. Similar skepticism surrounds robotic mowers. A few high-profile flubs involving electric and robotic mowers have curtailed superintendent trust.

Reasons why segments of the industry remain tech-resistant include:

To help our readers, followers and listeners become better acquainted with emerging golf maintenance technology, we’re launching the "2023 Golf Course Industry Turf Technology Showcase." The live online video event begins at 1 p.m. EDT Thursday, July 20. Register for FREE at Representatives from industry companies will comprise the presenter lineup.

Can't make the live broadcast? We have a tech-friendly, on-demand replay system. Sessions will be shared via the Fast & Firm newsletter and saved on the events section of our website.

We’re confident both shunners and embracers can benefit from the showcase — and we’re confident the tools discussed in the showcase will be spotted in more of our travels.

Guy Cipriano | Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]

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