Golf course superintendents’ knowledge of variability within fairways: a tool for precision turfgrass management


Golf course superintendent’s knowledge of variability may be an overlooked and underutilized tool for precision turfgrass management (PTM). This case study used a qualitative GIS approach to explore 12 Minnesota golf course superintendent’s knowledge of soil moisture (percent volumetric water content) and turfgrass quality (normalized difference vegetation index) variability within fairways. Verbal responses and sketch maps from on-site initial interviews were used to gain understanding of participants’ spatial knowledge of both properties. Soil moisture and turfgrass quality were objectively measured from all fairways after initial interviews to generate interpolated maps via ordinary kriging, which were used later in follow-up interviews for each participant to verbally compare to their sketch maps. Questions about interpolated map value and barriers to adopting mapping technologies were also asked at that time. Follow-up interview transcripts underwent thematic analysis to identify reoccurring themes, and sketch maps were digitized into GIS for statistical comparison to interpolated maps. Golf course superintendents did have general knowledge of variability within their fairways that could be used for simplified PTM practices. Interpolated maps were valuable for identifying and quantifying small-scale variability for more exact PTM practices, confirming spatial knowledge, and providing detailed spatial information to new golf course superintendents or staff. Areas displaying variability in interpolated maps were not always important to golf course superintendents, so their spatial knowledge should be used with interpolated maps for further refinement of PTM practices. Barriers to adopting mapping technologies for PTM were mentioned, and several suggestions to increase adoption are provided.

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We extend our thanks to the Minnesota Golf Course Superintendents Association and all golf course superintendents who participated in this study.

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Correspondence to Chase M. Straw.

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Straw, C.M., Wardrop, W.S. & Horgan, B.P. Golf course superintendents’ knowledge of variability within fairways: a tool for precision turfgrass management. Precision Agric 21, 637–654 (2020).

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  • Barriers to adoption
  • Percent volumetric water content
  • Precision turfgrass management
  • Normalized difference vegetation index
  • Qualitative GIS
  • Spatial knowledge