When thinking of golf courses, what comes to mind?
For many, the lush rolling grass that’s associated with the fairways across 18 holes may be the first thing that comes to mind. After all, it’s the most recognizable aspect of a golf course – and it is where many courses spend a great deal of money and resources to effectively manage and cultivate turf grasses and other plants to drive business.
Believe it or not, this means that golf courses are commonly considered an agricultural enterprise. Like other agricultural enterprises, they are focused on maximizing land and resource use to drive their business ahead – in this case, making sure they are providing an outdoor venue for sport.
For John Legge, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Australian Turf Analysis, this isn’t a surprise. He’s been working with golf courses to apply many of the principles that are used for maximizing crop health and performance for traditional agricultural enterprises.
“From golf courses to sports fields, turf serves as one of their biggest assets – and often what generates the most revenue for the facility,” said Legge. “Visual assessments, like walking around and looking at how green it looks, can only get you so far.”
Because of this, Legge has turned to aerial drones and sensors to capture multispectral indices to get a good indication of how turf is performing.
He’s current using a DJI quadcopter drone paired with Sentera’s Double 4K sensor to get detailed data and imagery to understand where there may be problem areas across the golf course.
The sensor connects to the drone and captures a series of imagery while flying over turf. The images capture how light is reflecting off the plants, which gives a key indication of how they are performing. With some post-processing effort, produces an orthomosaic of the images, or a compilation with a clear view of what’s happening to hone in on problem areas and come up with mitigation strategies.
“Being able to understand turf health at a deeper level gives my clients a competitive advantage,” said Legge. “They can get a more detailed view of wear and tear, or uncover key problem areas – meaning they can create faster action plans and solve these issues before they become visible to customers on the course.”
The orthomosaic of the images will provide a clear visualization of what’s happening in the course; highlighting problematic areas as red while those that are in better condition are in green. With this data, it makes it easier to scout on the course to see what’s happening.
“Golf courses encapsulate a huge area of ground, so it’s challenging to walk every corner of it on a regular basis,” said Legge. “With drone technology, we can give them a clear report of what’s happening so they know where to focus their time and efforts first.”
“It has also been helpful to build a plan for predictive maintenance,” continued Legge. “The imagery creates a history, meaning that we can start to look at year-over-year trends to understand when certain areas face challenges so we can look at key inputs or treatments well in advance of seeing the turf health suffer.”
Sentera’s Double 4K produces multispectral indices that can be viewed and analyzed in FieldAgent, a software platform designed to power critical agronomic decisions. Beyond imagery captured by sensors in the sky, customers can use the platform to see other essential data points, like satellite data, soil information, and weather data, which can help to further power business decisions.
And, it’s a proof point that helps customers understand the value that Legge is able to deliver through his innovative business, which also serves thoroughbred horse racing courses, which face the same turf health issues as golf courses.
“As with any new technology, it takes some time to get your head around it – but once you do, and you see the value it’s able to provide, it’s really cool,” said Legge. “It’s been great partnering with Sentera to deliver this offering to our customers to maximize the health of their biggest assets – turf and plants.”