Spectrum Blog

Site-Specific Management: What is it? How can it save costs and improve playability? And, why is it important?


When golf course superintendents develop a management plan to take care of their course, they understand that each part — the tee, fairway, green, rough and native areas — are all cared for in different ways. Site-specific management, which is sometimes also referred to as precision turf management, refers to the use of tools that collect data to provide information about specific areas of the golf course, based on GPS inputs, to help superintendents better plan for the care of turfgrass and know when, where, how much and how often they need to apply product or irrigate.

Farmers have been practicing site specific management for years. In a large farm field, the soil conditions vary greatly and farmers learned that the differences are great enough to require different treatments in different parts of the acreage. They have employed site-specific management to collect and measure these differences and then treat those specific areas based on their need rather than treating 1,000 to 2,500 acres all the same way.

Likewise, site-specific management can be used on a golf course, and with much more powerful outcomes, since a golf course’s size — 120 to 200 acres — makes micromanaging areas much more manageable. Golf course superintendents can use site-specific management of turfgrass to determine precise amounts of product or irrigation to apply to individual areas of turfgrass based on the data they have collected and the knowledge they have of the conditions of the various areas of their course.

Why Implementing Site-Specific Management is Important
Superintendents know that in order to achieve consistent playing conditions on their course, it takes irrigation and application of pesticides and fertilizer. In fact, “in recent years, however, as the public has become increasingly concerned with chemical use and groundwater quality, the idea of a golf course being a chemically pristine expanse has been challenged,” according to Nutrient Management for Golf Courses, a report published by the Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Tech University.

A few factors are driving the acceptance of site-specific management:

  • Economic Factors
    The technology exists — and continues to improve — that enables superintendents to gather the information they need to reduce the amount of product they are applying to their turf and to irrigate in a responsible way that doesn’t waste that resource. In addition, it can all be done without compromising the quality or playability of the course while at the same time reducing turf management costs.
  • Environmental/Social Pressures
    With a growing awareness of climate change, there will continue to be a growing pressure to be seen as good environmental stewards. While some areas of the country or world are more contentious than others, what is true is that people — and government — are OK with the product input if a golf course superintendent can show they are doing something to minimize the use. In that light, the mere idea of implementing site-specific management shows responsibility.
  • Increasing Government Regulations
    Little doubt exists that over time, we could face increasing government policies that regulate the use of pesticides and fertilizer on golf courses. In that light, it makes sense to be one step ahead of the regulations. Site-specific management doesn’t mean eliminating the use of these products, but a proper management program can help a superintendent make better informed decisions about when, where and how much to apply.

While cost may not be as much of a factor for superintendents managing elite golf courses who prioritize playability over economic factors, the economics are a factor for others. Some superintendents fear that site-specific management will increase labor costs. While it is true that there are upfront costs in equipment and the labor that it does involve, the savings in not having to apply as much product or use as much water can more than make up the difference.


How Do I Begin Site-Specific Management?
Site-specific management starts by using four technologies — soil-sensor technology combined with mobile mapping, global position systems (GPS), and geographical information systems (GIS) — to map and analyze data. From there, GIS software is used to sort the data points and organize them into different site-specific management units. A typical course may have four to five such units that show areas of need in soil moisture, salinity, soil compaction, and turf health, for example.

Superintendents can start by creating a map on their own using coordinates, measurements and mapping software, such as SpecConnect FieldScout® Pro from Spectrum® Technologies. After collecting soil measurements, they can enter the data on a map using mapping software and then use that information to manage the irrigation, aeration, salinity and product application on their course. For some golf course superintendents, it might be palatable to chip away at site-specific management, starting small — with one area, one fairway, one challenge (i.e., irrigation or product application) — and then continue to grow from there.

What Are the Benefits to Site-Specific Management?
The big question on golf course superintendents’ minds will be what their return on investment will be once they commit to precision management of turf. According to researchers at University of Minnesota, “using objective data to create soil moisture maps of a golf course’s fairways, as well as taking advantage of valve-in-head control (if applicable), could significantly reduce water consumption by programming an irrigation system to match soil moisture variability.” As a result of site-specific information, superintendents are able to irrigate dry areas more often, wet areas less often and the entire fairway, rarely.

With respect to superintendent’s concerns about increasing costs, site-specific management, will actually reduce labor and product cost because superintendents will find that they aren’t spending money on product or labor to have someone apply fertilizer, for example, to the entire golf course. In fact, once the economic savings, playability improvements (which can drive increased revenue), and environmental benefits are taken into consideration, the benefits of site-specific management far outweigh the costs.

Charting a Course to Site-Specific Management
Golf course superintendents already have enough work on their plates. From before sunrise to long after sunset, their time is precious and fleeting. Technology, such as the measurement tools developed by Spectrum® Technologies can help superintendents integrate site-specific management into their routine of caring for their turf. These tools, when used with GIS, GPS and mapping, can enable superintendents to collect the data they need to precisely treat areas of the golf course.

  • Soil Moisture Meters — Improve irrigation timing and placement, and save money by using less water where it’s not needed
  • Turf Firmness Meter — Maintain consistent playing conditions across the course, improving its overall playability
  • Turf Health — Properly time fertilizer applications and monitor pH and EC levels for better turf quality
  • Weather Data — Stay on top of your course’s weather conditions by monitoring the course’s weather data, through the use of Spectrum® Technologies WatchDog® line of weather stations.


As water conservation and environmental regulations become more stringent, the use of this technology and the implementation of site-specific management will allow for less waste of expensive irrigation and fertilization resources. In addition, monitoring turf inputs on a regular basis will result in greater turf quality and consistency — improving the overall condition of the golf course.

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




© Spectrum Technologies, Inc. All Rights Reserved. www.specmeters.com

Spectrum Technologies, 3600 Thayer Court, Aurora, IL 60504, Phone - 800-248-8873