Golf Course Management

MAR 2017

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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58 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 03.17 Remote control A Canadian superintendent takes disease and water management to new heights with an agronomic-focused drone program. Paul Robertson, superintendent of links at Victoria Golf Club in the Canadian province of British Columbia, is a practical man. A few years back, he chose to pursue a master's degree, and instead of deeply exploring some - thing specifically agronomic, he went the project management route. "Because the club was pay- ing for it, I thought this subject matter would mean good value for the club," he says. Equipped with this new degree, Robertson set about managing projects: a $1 million sea wall reconstruction, a $4.5 million irrigation and drainage installation, a new $2.5 million main - tenance building and turfgrass center, and a $3 million course renovation with architect Jeff Mingay. (Clubs typically spend from 5 percent to 10 percent of a project's total cost on hiring outside project management services. For his graduate education, Robertson has paid the club back many times over.) Fast-forward to winter 2015. Robertson, a 21-year member of GCSAA, and his assistant superintendent, T-Jay Creamer, were planning and budgeting for the upcoming season and dis - cussing how to improve cultural programs, specifically disease and water management. "To more accurately schedule irrigation, we have been using Spectrum Technology's TDR (time-domain reflectometry) units equipped with GPS, which record soil moisture tagged with the GPS coordinates of each spot sampled," Robertson says. "We typically hire two student techs who do nothing but map the course, providing a representative idea of soil moisture. It's very labor-intensive, gathering all that data by hand and converting it back into information you can use, just to adjust the irrigation system. Typically, we've been spending $10,000 a year on soil Hal Phillips AT THE TURN (technology) Victoria Golf Club and superintendent Paul Robertson are one of a handful of sites participating in a pilot program that's testing the agronomic applications of drone technology. Photos courtesy of Paul Robertson "I can see a potential 20 percent savings in water. Reductions in pesticides, fertilizer and labor are secondary benefits." — Paul Robertson

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