Like many golf courses, most labor hours at The Santaluz Club are spent maintaining the putting greens and bunkers. The putting greens are mowed throughout the year and the severe slopes in the bunkers require frequent hand raking. Daily course setup took four hours with eleven employees – four employees to hand rake bunkers, four to walk mow putting greens, two to roll putting greens and one to change hole locations. Superintendent Jeff Miller wanted to find a way to enhance productivity and have more time for his team to improve other areas of the golf course.
To reduce the time and labor required for daily course setup, The Santaluz Club purchased five robotic greens mowers. Although robot technology has been used for years in many industries to improve productivity, it is relatively new to golf. Using robots to mow or roll the putting greens creates time for the employees to perform other important tasks including ball mark repairs, hand raking greenside bunkers, changing hole locations, and blowing off any clippings and leaf debris.
The robotic green mowers have successfully increased productivity and reduced the labor required to maintain the putting greens. The robots combine mowing and rolling into a single operation, allowing them to deliver the green speeds and putting quality desired by the golfers with improved efficiency. Morning setup used to require 11 employees, now it takes only seven. The other four employees can now perform extra tasks ahead of play, maximizing efficiency. There is more time for details such as hand picking Poa annua on the putting greens and edging turf around sprinklers. Using the robots also means there is less traffic around the putting greens, which improves playing conditions. Another benefit is that robot greens mowers maintain a consistent perimeter on each putting green – a difficult task without the precision of local positioning technology and an in-ground wire sensor. Despite a considerable initial investment, a positive return is expected within three years due to the 36-percent savings in labor. There is also the important benefit of increased golfer satisfaction that comes with the extra attention to detail that is now possible around the putting green complexes.