What do aerial photography, mapping, modern Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies and golf course superintendents have in common? To answer that question fully, it's necessary to look at one of golf course management's most vital tools: the map. The dusty, faded course map attached to the office wall, vaguely reminiscent of a yellowing museum display, has faithfully provided a wealth of information to golf course planners. Such essential information, however, now is being combined with technologies from the aforementioned disciplines, propelling course and community management capabilities into the 21st century.
The printed course map is used constantly for a variety of functions such as irrigation and landscape planning as well as maintenance of greens, tees, and fairways, etc. Although invaluable, modern technology is making the printed map an outdated tool. For example, IntraSearch Inc., an aerial photography and digital mapping company, through a partnering affiliation with GroundLinkx LLC, a golf course maintenance solutions company, is helping to provide accurate data to golf courses and communities via integration of digital mapping and GPS technologies.
How It Works
IntraSearch acquires up-to-date high-resolution aerial photography of a golf course and collects six to nine ground survey points with precision-grade GPS receivers. The company then uses the points to remove inherent distortions from the aerial photographs.
"With less than a dozen GPS points collected within an hour, we create a photographic map of the course with accuracy equal to or better than a golf course 'walk-around' survey made, from 200,000 GPS points," says Mike Platt, IntraSearch president.
A popular component of the system is the tournament management module, which was selected for use at Pebble Beach for the 2000 U.S. Open as well as five other upcoming U.S. Golf Association tournaments. IntraSearch completed updated aerial photography of Pebble Beach earlier this year.
By combining the accuracy of georeferenced aerial photography and digitized mapping with GPS-linked database technology, an accurate and essential tool can be created for golf course and industry professionals. What the computer was to the manual typewriter is a good equivalent to what georeferenced mapping is to the traditional course map.
Georeferenced aerial photography helps create an accurate, robust and updatable digital mapping system. A correctly georeferenced base map allows for accurate representation and surpasses walking around with GPS equipment for days and providing unreliable results at best.
On the Carts
Another application of georeferenced aerial photography and digitized mapping is showing up in GPS-enabled golf carts. A golf-cart-mounted display allows for a wealth of added value for players, pro shops, and superintendents. Players can enjoy the faster play by eliminating time looking for and stepping off distances from stakes and sprinkler heads. Safety and important information are provided via a constant communication link between the clubhouse and players. Tracking each player along with digital scorecards, tournament management, and leaderboard systems--allows for easier management and improved profits for the club.
A move from traditional, manually intensive tools to automated, georeferenced solutions that combine technology and ease-of-use for players and clubhouses is more than the wave of the future - it's happening now. Golf will never be the same.