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There is no shortage of gadgets available for today’s turfgrass manager. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to see them in-person in all their usual splendor at the Golf Industry Show next February. In lieu of this pending missed opportunity, I’ll share what tools I’ve seen work the best based on my travels during 2020.

Moisture Meter 

While the old “putter thump” method of checking how dry the greens are may work for some folks, there is no replacing a well-calibrated moisture meter. No matter what brand you choose, the objective results provide valuable feedback on how much moisture is in the soil. As other performance characteristics are measured and observed in relation to the moisture meter readings, irrigation fine-tuning becomes much easier. 

Handheld EC Probe

Salt accumulation in soils can be detrimental to turfgrass health. Irrigation water and/or a high water table can deposit unwanted salts into the rootzone. Having the ability to measure electrical conductivity (EC) quickly and easily will help you determine threshold values and management strategies before turf loss occurs. Keep in mind that handheld EC probe readings need to be adjusted to match a lab-conducted saturated paste extract sample result that one normally sees on a soil test. The article “Monitoring Soil Salinity” from PACE Turf is a great reference on measuring EC. 

Bucket for Clipping Volume

Consistently measuring and recording the amount of clippings removed during a mowing event can provide more insight and improve decision-making for the turf manager. When other inputs – e.g., fertilizer and PGRs – and performance characteristics – e.g., green speed, firmness and moisture – are also measured and recorded, future surface management decisions can be made based on factual information rather than on feel alone.

Soil Probe

Soil samplers are a great way to see what is going on under the surface. Thatch levels, stolon and rhizome health, aeration and topdressing impact, and drainage characteristics are easily seen when a core is pulled from the soil. These samples also provide excellent visual aids for educating golfers or other course staff about the nuances of high-quality turfgrass management. 

Computer Mouse

While this tool is a bit undistinguished, it has been critical in 2020. Countless meetings, educational events and field days have been cancelled this year. Virtual participation in these activities has become commonplace. For me personally, I have found the quantity and quality of online turfgrass education astonishing. You would be hard-pressed to find another sport that has more research around preparing its playing surface than golf. Since its inception, the USGA Turfgrass and Environmental Research Program (TERP) has contributed more than $43 million to these efforts. Use your mouse and check out the wealth of information that is available. 

West Region Agronomists:

Brian  Whitlark, senior consulting agronomist –

Cory Isom, agronomist –

Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service 

Contact the Green Section Staff