Pin Placement on the Course

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Let’s be honest: Does anyone out there think there aren’t enough numbers available to them for properly managing their greens?

We live in a day and age in which root-zone moisture, salinity and temperature are available at the push of a button; in which firmness of putting surfaces and the amount of sunlight reaching them can both be quantified; in which miniature helicopters outfitted with infrared cameras can be flown over the entire course to collect a multitude of data points. These days, a superintendent’s toolbox looks more like it was borrowed from James Bond than Old Tom Morris. Yet at some point, even 007 might have to ask, “What do we do with all of these measurements? How do we translate all of these numbers into actions?”

The reality of greenkeeping today is, there’s no shortage of numbers out there. Yes, all of these sophisticated measurement devices come with a price tag, but they are available. With golf course technology, the current limitations aren’t so much about what we can measure, but rather how we can best use all the measurements.

One of the greatest and perhaps most often overlooked aspects to these conversations about technology is that we don’t necessarily need more devices producing more measurements — we need better systems for navigating the vast sea of data we already have. We need technology that builds a bridge from the numbers we have to the actions we need to take. This installment of “What the Tech?” explores how we can bring different types of information together so that the numbers can “talk to each other” when important decisions have to be made.

Pin placement: Playability meets plant health

Superintendents operate at the crossroads of (some might say, “in the crosshairs of”) plant health and playability. Striking a proper balance between these dual — and at times competing — interests requires not only information that speaks to both, but the ability to consider and address both at the same time. Maximizing playability today without compromising the long-term health of the greens in the future is a challenge that exists every day a course is open for play.

One intriguing option for addressing this ever-present challenge is pin placement software. Different products are available, but one we’ve talked about for the past few years in our “Gadgets & Gizmos” seminar at the Golf Industry Show is ezLocator.

While it may seem a bit out of place to include something as mundane as pin placement in a column dedicated to cutting-edge technology, ezLocator has infused this routine task with some powerful, automated capabilities that very much speak to the demands of both plant health and playability. What this software and other systems like it ultimately give superintendents isn’t just more numbers to sift through, but rather options for how they want to set up their course. Playability can be dialed-in with increased precision, and, at the same time, putting green health can be preserved and protected.

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