You need to routinely monitor playing surfaces to ensure optimum performance.
Investment in course management has to show a return. This may be ﬁnancial but it should also include progress towards objectives for playing performance set out in the Course Policy Document.
Few golf clubs appreciate the potential of their course; both in terms of potential improvements in performance or the possibility of deterioration from mismanagement or an underestimation of the impact of environmental regulation or the extremes of climate change. To get a better grasp of the opportunities and threats facing the course, it is vital that you assess performance and progress and how maintenance impacts on it. In order to make objective assessments of playing quality, collating data on how surfaces have been performing is necessary to review past trends, monitor current performance and also predict future changes. Keeping records and using the analysis of collected data effectively will allow you to demonstrate to your customers and employers that they are receiving a quality golﬁng experience and good value for money.
Record keeping will help you to:
- demonstrate your commitment to economic, social and environmental sustainability, which can be achieved through registration to the OnCourse® programme
- show that the frequency of main green closure is reducing each year, so you are offering customers more golf for their money
- demonstrate the effectiveness of your management approach. Examples might include being able to open the course faster after heavy rain due to upgraded drainage or limiting disruption to play from frost by reducing shade problems
- demonstrate turf ﬁrmness using the Clegg Impact Soil Tester or the USGA TruFirm™
- greens and fairway landing areas can, of course, be either too soft or too hard. Establishing optimum ﬁrmness provides quality surfaces for the golfer, healthier turf, increased revenue and reduced management costs
- monitor organic matter content. Excessive levels of organic matter produce soft and water retentive surfaces, which are costly to manage
- monitor soil moisture content. This has a direct bearing on ﬁrmness; soft surfaces are often too wet, hard ones too dry. Soil moisture content is a useful indicator of the effectiveness of your irrigation programme
- demonstrate smoothness and trueness with the STRI Trueness Meter®. The level of vertical and lateral deviation of a golf ball is an indicator of the consistency of putting surfaces
- demonstrate the reliability of putting surfaces using the 'Holing Out' Test.
To demonstrate trends, regular assessment of these parameters should be made (The R&A Evidence Fields provide additional guidance on this). Interpretation of these results should be related to weather, season and maintenance practices. Establishing optimum ranges for each measurement is an essential component of a strategic management plan. Review all targets and objectives to ensure you are getting the most out of the golf course and realise its potential.
Put it into practice!
Devices to measure putting surface firmness, reliability, speed and soil moisture content are readily available and reasonably affordable. Set your own target ranges by measuring your better greens and building up a database that shows trends throughout the year, and from year to year. Implement maintenance programmes to raise the standard of the other greens towards these target ranges and monitor their progress with the objective measurement tools.