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Rain Stations Provide Crucial Microclimate Rainfall Measurements for Golf Course Management


Rain events can have a significant impact on irrigation scheduling and turf management. It rained last night. Where and how much did it rain? How will this alter the irrigation schedules on your golf course? Site-specific rainfall and temperature data is useful for tracking turf disease and insect pressure. Placing a WatchDog® Wireless Rain+Temp Station or a WatchDog® Rain Station in multiple microclimates can result in more effective decisions.

watchdog3000When it comes to golf courses, any golfer knows that no two golf courses are the same. But what those golfers might not know is that the condition and playability of a course depends on so many factors.

As golf course superintendents know, even two golf courses situated right next to each other can display very different conditions. Some of that is due to golf course cultural practices and how much one course invests in maintenance over the other. But a lot can also depend directly on site characteristics — the topography of the land, soil types, turf grass type, traffic on the course. The climate where a course is located also can affect golf course management decisions. Elevation, mountains, oceans, rivers, lakes all play a role in the amount of rain, snow, wind and sun that hits a course, as well as its growing season. Within a specific region — a microclimate exists. While one golf course might get a soaking rain one morning, the storm might totally miss a nearby course.

In addition, each course has several microclimates, and the weather does not always impact the entire course identically. Have you ever seen rain falling on one side of the street while none is falling on the other side? Likewise, while the 6th hole might get rain one afternoon, the 17th hole might remain dry. The amount of rainfall a course gets has a great impact on all types of golf turf management decisions regarding irrigation and product applications.

“Things can look good at 5 p.m., but one bad rainstorm followed by high humidity ... you come in the next day, and you just have to adjust,” said Kevin Banks, superintendent of Vineyard Golf Course in Edgartown, Mass., in the 19th Hole column of the August 2020 issue of Golfdom magazine.

The key is for golf course superintendents to know how the rain is falling differently across their courses and to collect rainfall measurements, preferably from different parts of their courses to make site-specific decisions about turf care.

When golf course superintendents are planning their budgets for golf course equipment, they should consider investing in rain stations in order to better manage site-specific turf activities in real-time. There are affordable options:

WatchDog® Wireless Rain+Temp Station Provides Site-Specific Data

Using wireless sensor technology, the WatchDog® Wireless Rain+Temp Station provides real-time, site-specific information about rainfall and temperature on the course so that golf course superintendents can make better management decisions to create consistent playing conditions.


This rain station uses a SigFox Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) network to send information about current weather conditions on the course to the cloud or a Smartphone. With this device — or multiple devices throughout the golf course property — a golf course superintendent can collect real-time, site-specific rainfall and temperature data in order to make more effective decisions about maintaining the turf and optimizing playing conditions.

At a cost of $545 and $4 per month subscription, the WatchDog® Wireless Rain+Temp Station is an affordable tool for golf course superintendents. Placing multiple stations in the various microclimates on a course can provide highly accurate information about rain events, and they prove to be much more specific than the local meteorologist’s data or the rainfall data provided by weather services. The Wireless Rain+Temp Station shows exactly where the rainfall occurred, how much rain fell and how long it rained. The station uploads weather data to the cloud at 10-minute intervals during rain events.

This device is used in many suburban area, and golf course superintendents can check to see if SigFox coverage is available in their area.

Watchdog® 3000 Rain Station Combines Latest Cellular Technology With Data Logger

The WatchDog® 3000 Rain Station is the latest technology in Spectrum Technologies’ WatchDog® line of products. The 3000 series Rain Station incorporates the latest cellular technology while it also measures temperature and relative humidity. Users also have the option of adding a soil moisture sensor, a leaf wetness sensor or a PAR light sensor to collect complete, remote weather data to guide decision making regarding course integrated pest management (IPM) and irrigation.  


The 3000 series sends weather data to the SpecConnect™ cloud at upload intervals selected by the user, and a SpecConnect™ annual subscription is required for each station. Like the Wireless Rain+Temp Station, the WatchDog® 3000 allows golf course superintendents to view current conditions on the WatchDog® app, and it’s an ideal tool to manage activities on a golf course where weather conditions can be vastly different on one side of the course over another.

SpecConnect™ collects the on-course data from the WatchDog® stations via wireless telemetry for remote monitoring. The cloud-based data analysis tool provides a central point for viewing and evaluating real-time data instantaneously on the internet or a smartphone, allowing users to view current conditions and monitor weather factors.

Rainfall and Moisture Can Have Major Impact on Health of Golf Course

Moisture — whether through rainfall or irrigation — is what provides life to golf course turf and making sure that golf courses receive just the right amount of moisture is a large part of a golf course maintenance budget. If a course receives too much rainfall and moisture, that can cause increased soil compaction. When the soil is compacted, the roots do not have enough air to grow, and the turf starts to turn brown and die off.


Striking the right balance represents an investment. According to the USGA, an average 18-hole golf course in the Southwest uses an average of 4-acre-feet of water per irrigated acre per year. In the Northeast, courses use an average of 0.8 acre-feet of water per irrigated acre per year. The financial investment in irrigation, likewise, ranges from $107,800 a year in the Southwest to $6,300 a year in the Northeast.

Golf course superintendents know that irrigation is a necessity: The “supplemental use of water for golf course irrigation ... supports the beauty, playability and satisfaction of the course, which — of course — helps drive golf course revenue,” according to the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. However, without an accurate picture of how much rain is falling on a course, a superintendent could literally throw money down a drain in irrigating an area that recently received rainfall. So, while purchasing rain stations represents an investment, the return on that investment can be realized in savings in the irrigation budget and, perhaps, increased revenue at a course that has improved playability and beauty.

The USGA said it best in its Green Section Record: “Local weather recordings can be helpful, but rainfall is so regional that there is no substitute for having one rain gauge or weather station (or more) on-site.”

To learn more about how Spectrum® Technologies measurement tools can assist with the implementation of a site-specific management plan, contact the experts at Spectrum® Technologies.