What’s beneath the putting surface? A lot more than you think

September 3, 2019

Rolex, Patek Philippe, Omega: All beautiful timepieces to look at. What makes them special, though, is what’s unseen — the sublime mechanism beneath the face. At leading courses like Augusta National and Winged Foot, the greens are pristine — and the turf below is supremely healthy. What helps keep them that way, free from the ravages of too much or too little air, water and heat, is SubAir. This largely hidden tech package supplements standard drainage systems to manage and moderate soil aeration, moisture and temperature. The result: Putting surfaces that run like clockwork.

Here’s how it works (numbers refer to below photo).

1. INTAKE/EXHAUST PIPE

In the system’s pressure mode, air is drawn through an intake/exhaust pipe, where it’s subsequently propelled through drain pipes and into the soil, through which it travels before being expelled into the atmosphere. In vacuum mode, air is pulled from the surface through the soil and into the drain pipes, along with any non-capillary water. (This removes water 36 times faster than Mother Nature can, minimizing downtime and turf damage.) The water flows through an air/water separator to drain out through the low-end drainage system, as it normally would; the air flows out the exhaust.

2. AIR FLOW DUAL VALVE

This valve provides an air lock to keep the drain system fully sealed so it can create the needed vacuum or pressure condition.

3. CONTROL PANEL

The SubAir control panel is programmed to automatically introduce fresh air to the soil daily at set intervals (which can be overridden by the user via smartphone or computer when needed). This air can be added in two ways: a top-down vacuum mode, which pulls air from the surface down through the soil and into the drain pipes; and a bottom-up
pressure mode, which pushes air through the drainage pipes and up to the surface.

4. AMBIENT AIR TEMPERATURE SENSOR

The control panel gets data from a sensor in the vault to select which mode to use, vacuum or pressure, based on ambient air temperature, the type of grass and, if desired, soil moisture. The system’s various machinations can moderate the soil’s temperature by as much as 6-8 degrees, which can effectively extend the grass’s growing season.

5. VAULT

An above-ground or vaulted unit placed at the high end of the green contains the blower and sensor, and the unit connects the system to the green’s drainage pipes.

6. AIR/WATER SEPARATOR VALVE

At this point in vacuum mode, the air goes up the system to be expelled to the atmosphere from the exhaust pipe. The water goes in the other direction and gets released into a drainage location.

7. BLOWER 

The moisture-control and aeration modes employ a single blower and a diverter valve to direct airflow. The system is controlled manually, time-scheduled, or activated via smartphone/computer.

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