Golf is a sport of precision; every stroke counts. Because of this, a healthy, uniform green isn’t just a matter of good aesthetics—it is an integral part of the game.
Drone technology helps golf course superintendents spot problems on the green before they become visible and address them proactively without players ever noticing.
In Florida, drones have been able to identify green maintenance issues early and reduce treatment times by up to 96 percent.
We caught up with him to talk about this, and to hear about a recent situation in which drone technology helped a private golf club in Florida identify and treat leaf spot and a sprinkler leak before either problem affected the green
Players count on golf course superintendents to keep greens healthy and consistent so that they can enjoy the best green speeds and performance. But keeping greens healthy is no small feat. If maintenance staff can spot damage from an irrigation problem or a fungus with the naked eye, that usually means the problem has already become significant and may take weeks to fully correct.
“By the time you see it, it’s often too late,” says Stephen Myers, founder of Naples, Florida-based Angel Eyes UAV. This leaves members with a less-than-optimal course and can spell trouble for a club’s reputation.
Like SkeyeKing in Canada, Angel Eyes UAV uses a drone-mounted multispectral sensor to collect images golf courses processed through Turf Solutions, leading-edge golf-course analytical software that puts action-focused tools in the hands of golf course superintendents.
“What I like about Turf.Solutions is the ability to not only get our modified NDVI (Non Differentiated Vegetation Index, a tool commonly used in agriculture to identify plant stress) with the pre-defined algorithm, but also the ability to use the custom ‘slider’ to become more granular and look at specific wavelengths of reflectance. This is the only platform I know of that offers that combination of flexibility.”
The information Angel Eyes UAV gathered showed several areas of possible concern. The first, seen in the picture above, was a large section of turf next to a cart path. In near-infrared imagery the section appeared orange, indicating stressed vegetation. When golf course staff visited the area on foot, it looked healthy, but additional tests revealed the presence of leaf spot, a fungus that lives in the soil and eventually spreads to grass leaves, causing brown spots and ultimately thinning the turf.
Without the use of drone technology, maintenance staff most likely wouldn’t have discovered the fungus until they saw brown spots on the green. At that stage, it takes up to eight weeks of consistent fungicide applications to eradicate it, all the while leaving a compromised green for players. But thanks to the information gathered using Turf.Solutions, the staff was able to detect the leaf spot at a very early stage and get rid of it with a less intensive treatment. They fully resolved the issue in just two days — 96 percent faster than if they hadn’t used drones.