Golf Course Management

OCT 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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34 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 10.17 (technology) Bob Vaughey, CGCS Twitter: @rollinghillsgcm I saw my first GPS-enabled spray rig at a trade show almost 10 years ago, and I left the event thoroughly impressed. But as excited as I was with the piece of equipment itself, I was much more impressed by the possibilities this technology would offer our profession. It was really the first time I had thought about it, but the implications were obvious. Ironically, after that experience, I spent the next decade trying to simplify the sprayers on my golf course. I wanted speed and pressure only, and I didn't want that to be comput - er-controlled. My thinking was, "Keep it sim- ple, stupid," to keep to a minimum the things that our spray technician had to worry about. Set the pressure required, keep it at speed, and be done with it. But as recent work on our new course here at Rolling Hills Country Club was ramping up, I began to rethink everything we did and how we did it. That exercise resulted in count - less changes to every aspect of our operations. This included equipment, and when it came time to replace certain pieces, we evaluated each with an eye toward new technologies that had been developed since we were last in the market for that equipment. All of that led me back to the GPS sprayers I had first encoun - tered nearly 10 years earlier. With 75 acres of bermudagrass to spray every week or two, we first purchased a mix tank to expedite the mixing process. Then, we looked at the sprayers themselves. With our old sprayers, it took a day and a half for two sprayers going 5 miles per hour to cover the course, getting about 5 acres of coverage out of one 300-gallon tank. Investigating the GPS sprayers, we realized we could substan - tially improve on that performance. Through our research, we found that a course near us — Oak Creek Golf Club in Riverside, Calif. — was using one of the units, and we went to watch it in action. Within five minutes, we were sold. We ordered two units, and a month later, we began using them. Almost from the first use, we reduced the time needed to spray the course to just a day, we eliminated two full tanks from our rotation, and we experienced much more accurate application. Our new sprayer units are making a believer out of me. My only regret is that I didn't look into this 10 years ago when I first had the chance. Three things in particular impress me about our new sprayer units. First is the fact that they have variable nozzle flow raters. From 2 to 10 mph, they can maintain the same ap - plication rate. This lets us slow down in tight areas and go full speed in open spaces while maintaining the same application rate. At our course, we've been able to average 9 mph while spraying. Second, the individual nozzle con - trol gets rid of overlap and allows the operator to avoid spraying off-target just because there may be small corners or areas to one side of the boom to accommodate. The third notable quality is simply the ease of use — it really is amazing. You set the gal - lons-per-acre number you want, select what you want to spray, and send out the rig. It only allows you to spray your target, which reduces waste and ensures accuracy. The environmental aspects of being able to spray to a set target or to alter spray pressures are additional bonuses. Taking hard data from the rigs after using them on our course revealed that our appli - cation costs had been reduced by 15 percent, and by closer to 20 percent on smaller, tighter fairways. By only spraying your target and em - ploying individual nozzle control, overspray is virtually eliminated. The unit we purchased from Smithco was about 50 percent more ex - pensive than a non-GPS spray rig, but we esti- mate it will take us only about two and a half years to recoup the extra upfront costs because of reductions in labor and the amount of fer - tilizers and chemicals used. Over the course of the lease, we think we'll save about $60,000 in expenses, in addition to the other benefits I've mentioned. It's not often that I'm this impressed by something in our business, but our new sprayer units are making a believer out of me. My only regret is that I didn't look into this 10 years ago when I first had the chance. Bob Vaughey, CGCS, is the director of agronomy at Rolling Hills Country Club in Palos Verdes, Calif., and a 14-year member of GCSAA. Next-level spraying

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