Gordon Moir, is Director of Greenkeeping at arguably the most famous golfing complex in the world. For anyone needing an introduction, the prestigious St Andrews Links in Fife, Scotland, includes not only The Old Course, which is the oldest golf course in the world, it is also regarded as the ‘home of golf’.
Today there are seven public golf courses in the Town, all managed by the St Andrews Links Trust and which are maintained between four course managers and their individual teams. Gordon, who’s been with the Trust for 24 years, works closely with everyone, overseeing the smooth day-to-day running of these iconic golf courses.
High Traffic Challenges
Gordon says: “We’re the largest public golf facility in Europe, with 230,000 rounds a year—so you can imagine the challenges of such heavy traffic. Maintaining the courses is incredibly labour intensive, but we have to keep our turf in optimum condition, not only to provide our season ticket holders with the best playing surfaces possible, but also the 100,000 visitors we get annually from all around the world. And of course there are the world-class televised tournaments held here: such as The Open.”
So, when Gordon had the opportunity to try POGO, a new turf insight tool that promised to help his staff make better, faster decisions—he jumped at the chance.
He comments: “We’d been using another brand of probe for our moisture management, which we were happy with. But using it could be back-breaking work, because you’re bending down over a hundred times a day to test the soil.”
Testing Time Cut by 50%
“POGO is easier to use. It has probes at the end of a solid body which houses all the electrical components. Uniquely, it also includes GPS, which adds another level of precision and insight to our work. POGO automatically sends the data directly to a phone or PC, so we no longer have to go to the effort of manually recording it. I’d say it’s cut our testing time down by 50%, dramatically reducing demands on resource. This means we can test areas of concern more often, to really keep on top of them.”
Although POGO is an all-in-one system allowing turf professionals to monitor many aspect of turf health, including canopy temperature and salinity—where it really comes into its own at St Andrews is moisture management.
Gordon says, “Whoever is using the system can instantly see on their device, which areas are dry and need irrigation in a very precise manner: which makes for well-informed, long-term maintenance.”
Keeping track with minimal effort
When asked about the GPS, Gordon adds: “The easy-to-use GPS function allows us to map an area. Over the course of a year we sometimes see decreases in our greens perimeters of up to a foot. Likewise areas of gorse or heather can expand or shrink. Now we can effortlessly keep track of them. The only way we could have done this before is with aerial photography or hiring special GPS systems.”
A brief training period ensured Gordon and his staff were up and running with the POGO system in a day. The straightforward control panel allows greenkeepers to quickly access and analyse data, record notes and capture photos; replacing multiple pieces of equipment and long-winded manual processes.
Do More in Less Time
On the overall benefits POGO has delivered, Gordon summarises: “On a day-to-day basis, the ability to monitor more often and with greater accuracy has made a marked improvement to our work. We can do more, in less time. The results are evident across the quality of the courses too. It fits with our monitoring for the STRI programme as well, who I believe are also using the system. I would highly recommend POGO to other greenkeepers looking for better turfgrass management, plant health and playing conditions.”