The Pebble Beach Pro-Am kicks off tomorrow, February 6th, and while you might see aerial drone footage on your T.V., drones are actually used on golf courses for more than just marketing purposes. Many courses have golf agronomists: individuals who grow and maintain the course to create an ideal environment for playing golf. There are multiple facets of golf agronomy - maintenance plans, soil sampling and tests, irrigation, fertilizer applications, and topography assessments, to name a few, but drone technology can aid in each to significantly improve efficiencies, no matter the course.
Golf Agronomy 101
A golf agronomist’s main job is to create and execute a maintenance plan for the course that is healthy, within regulations, and sustainable. Golf agronomists will frequently perform various landscaping processes to ensure best horticulture practices and proper equipment management. This includes pest control, soil and turf analysis, and topography assessments. Golf courses in varying climates or elevations pose an additional challenge, as more attention needs to be directed towards the landscape to make the turf consistent. Matching the correct turf to the environmental conditions is another obstacle, as is the proper soil and nitrogen prescription.
With such a heavy daily workload, drones are instrumental in reducing the time needed to spend on each activity and put the focus on preventative care and future planning.
Golf Agronomy in Action
To better understand how golf agronomy works on a daily basis, we took a look at how Victoria Golf Club, the oldest golf course in Canada, used drones to improve their operations. By flying their drones every morning before the club opened, workers were able to troubleshoot issues before guests arrived and adjust their maintenance plan accordingly. Over time, this data was used to find patterns throughout the course environment and anticipate future problems. During the first year of their drone program, Victoria Golf Club saw a 20% savings in water reduction and anticipates a $10,000 - $20,000 reduction in pest-control costs per year.
DroneDeploy Features for Golf Agronomists
Golf agronomy is a large-scale operation, involving multiple teams spread out over a course. With Live Map, golf agronomists can receive a complete map of their course in real-time and deploy the appropriate team to fix the issue. DroneDeploy’s Annotations feature aids in this process by letting the user tag specific locations with notes that immediately refresh on a worker’s comment stream ground side. This makes instructions clearer and easier to share with cross-functional teams.
Drone technology can identify problems unseen by the naked eye. Using Multispectral Imagery, agronomists can monitor plant health, stress, compaction, and growth by the chlorophyll level of each plant. This feature is also useful for damage assessment after weather events - whether it be checking for brown spots during a drought or determining if a course is still playable due to pooling water. Even without enabling this feature, drone technology makes it easy to quickly check for damaged trees, fences, or buildings. Photogrammetry further benefits golf agronomists by providing a tool to plan expansion projects or renovations.
Quickly identifying and removing potential threats is imperative for golf course success and sustainability. Sky Source Aerial estimates that 25 - 35% of total golf club revenue goes to maintenance costs. Employing drone technology can not only reduce these expenses, but save time and resources on fixes.