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Innovative Technologies Help Golf Courses Save Water

12.18pm 27th May 2015 - Management Topics

Amid Record California Drought Toro Irrigation helps California golf courses meet Governor Brown’s water reduction mandate

Lynx Central Control Software
Lynx Central Control Software

With Governor Jerry Brown’s recent announcement mandating a 25 percent state-wide reduction in water use, California golf courses received a lot of attention as key targets for water-savings efforts. What many people may not know is that many California courses are already great examples of water use efficiency and savings. Using the latest irrigation technology and innovation many courses have been able to significantly cut their water use and maintain optimal playing conditions.

Responsible water management has long been a focus among golf courses throughout the state, due in part to the cost of water but even more significantly due to its scarcity. “Golf course superintendents around the world know that it makes good sense to reduce water usage to be good environmental stewards and to help improve business profitability,” said Rhett Evans, CEO for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. “They are continually using improved irrigation technologies and turf grasses that are more drought resistant. Water management and drought management programs continue to be priorities for our industry.”

The Toro Company, with its Irrigation Business based in California, has a long history of helping golf courses and superintendents manage their water use. Key product innovations from Toro have put water management center stage at hundreds of courses in California. Most use state-of-the-art computerized irrigation control systems that include weather stations, ET (Evapotranspiration) information and a growing number are using soil moisture sensors.

Products like Toro’s Lynx®Central Control Software help superintendents apply water to their course with precision. Some Toro systems even allow courses to control irrigation watering times down to the second, so that not a drop is permitted to run unnecessarily. By leveraging a Toro golf irrigation system with an integrated weather station, pump station and wireless soil sensors, superintendents can deliver the highly desirable firm and fast conditions players expect, with as little water as possible.

While, many courses already make watering decisions based on how weather and sun exposure affects turf and plant health (referred to as Evapotranspiration or ‘ET’). Toro’s Turf Guard® wireless soil sensing technology measures soil moisture, salinity and temperature to help superintendents monitor what is going on beneath the surface of their course. Turf Guard helps courses account for how much moisture is in the soil to determine specific areas that need watering, and can even alert them when defined thresholds are exceeded to shut down the system. “Our Turf Guard system is a powerful addition to ET” says Tom Hogan, Landscape Operations Director at Ocean Hills Country Club in Oceanside, California. “The sensor data provides feedback from multiple locations on the golf course, allowing me to adjust watering to match the specific requirements of every green, tee and fairway.”

Sprinklers are also key contributors to water use reduction. As golf course irrigation control systems have advanced over the years, so have the sprinklers they control. Toro golf sprinklers deliver industry-leading flexibility with superior nozzle options and adjustment capabilities to apply water precisely where it is needed. In fact, Toro was the first company to offer a golf sprinkler that could be switched from watering a full-circle pattern to watering a part-circle pattern, with just a quick adjustment. This allows courses to stop watering their roughs when necessary, but keep watering the fairways. By simply upgrading older sprinklers to today’s models, courses can significantly reduce water use, without sacrificing playing conditions.

Looking toward the future, Toro’s Center for Advanced Turf Technology (CATT) has developed cutting-edge site assessment technology used by golf courses and sports fields known as PrecisionSense™. This innovative technology helps to identify areas for improvement through the measurement of key soil and turf health attributes and by showing course managers what happens to irrigation water after it’s applied to the soil. This technology has also been used to verify water and resource efficiency once improvements and upgrades have been implemented. PrecisionSense helps superintendents make precise decisions about irrigation scheduling and water application, and due to real-time soil conditions, manage water resources with superior accuracy.

In Monterey, California, Poppy Hills Golf Course, owned and operated by the Northern California Golf Association, has been a prime example of how Toro’s technological expertise and innovative products can achieve optimal results without the excessive use of water. Poppy Hills completely renovated and upgraded their irrigation system last year to include Toro’s Lynx software, Turf Guard sensors and state-of-the-industry sprinklers.

“Water savings was one of the key factors in why we chose to renovate,” says Matt Muhlenbruch, Poppy Hills superintendent. “Using Toro products helped us quickly achieve our water savings goals and improve course conditions overall. We are well positioned to help the state achieve 25 percent water savings going forward.” Poppy Hills hired Robert Trent Jones II Golf Course Architects to lead the course renovation and utilized Toro’s PrecisionSense service to help them justify the investment in their new irrigation system, and optimize the use of Turf Guard sensors and the overall system once installed and operational.

Similar to the improvements in indoor water use brought by high efficiency shower heads and low-flush toilets, the technology and innovation has been developed to significantly save on outdoor water use as well. Highly knowledgeable course superintendents and irrigation consultants, along with proper maintenance (i.e. scheduling, monitoring and sensing technology) have made it possible to achieve successful results without excess water use. For more information on immediate water-saving solutions for golf course management, visit

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