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John Reitman

By John Reitman

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USGA, Spectrum release firmness meter


TruFirm in use at the 2008 U.S. Open.Spectrum Technologies and the USGA recently launched the TruFirm turf firmness meter. Based on technology developed by the USGA, TruFirm measure the firmness of turf and bunker sands, allowing golf course superintendents and sports turf managers to take appropriate actions to reach the desired firmness of golf course greens, fairways, bunkers, and other playing surfaces.
The USGA's primary objective for the development of the TruFirm is to provide championship-caliber playability by managing greens that are consistently firm and fast. By measuring the relationship between the compaction of the soil and the moisture level, greenkeepers are able to ensure healthy, aesthetically pleasing greens that offer exceptional playability.
The patented TruFirm system utilizes a hemisphere-shaped impact hammer that mimics the shape of a golf ball to better simulate golf ball impacts. The mass is dropped from a consistent height and the maximum turf penetration value is recorded and correlated to the surface firmness the lower the penetration value, the firmer the turf.
Matt Pringle, technical director for the USGA, has been working with firmness and compaction devices for more than nine years.  
"The USGA is dedicated to advancing technology to improve playability by making better course decisions," Pringle said. "We decided to bring our technological innovations to Spectrum because of their turf industry knowledge, technology focus, and experience in developing affordable measuring devices."
Measurements taken by the TruFirm are instantaneous, saving time, and readouts are displayed on a highly visible screen.  In addition, logged data can be sent via Bluetooth to a mobile/handheld device for plotting specific greens or other surfaces using an associated smartphone app.
In other news, Spectrum Technologies recently launched a new version of the FieldScout GreenIndex+ app for turfgrass applications that allow users to measure the "relative greenness" of turf using a smartphone camera.
The GreenIndex+ Turf app quickly captures images of turfgrass from a smartphone, calculates the Dark Green Color Index and displays a visual rating.  Users can customize the visual rating calculation for different species of grass and specific plots of land.  Measurements can be compared to identify variability or trends in turf health across golf course greens and fairways, as well as other sports fields, providing valuable data for decisions regarding fertilization and irrigation.  Additional applications include lawn care and commercial turf for better nutrient management.  All data is logged and geo-referenced, and can be emailed to a personal computer for further analysis.
Earlier this year, the GreenIndex+ app received the coveted AE50 Gold Award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), an award that recognizes leadership in technological innovation throughout the world for the agricultural, food, and biological systems industries.

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