Merion aims for firm Walker Cup


Sean Dudley

With preparation for next month’s Walker Cup in full flow, the historic Merion club in Philadelphia is making use of UgMO sensor technology to help create the best conditions for the matches.

For the Walker Cup, which takes place on 12-13 September, Merion superintendent Matt Shaffer is aiming for firm and fast conditions, and is using the UgMO system, developed by US firm Advanced Sensor Technology, to help him achieve this. Conditions in Philadelphia at the moment, leading up to the Walker Cup, are similar to those experienced in August 2005 when Merion hosted the US Amateur. “Wet, hot and humid,” says Shaffer. The 90 UgMO sensors in the soil on Merion's East Course, give the superintendent real-time data on subsurface temperature and moisture, along with recommended actions to keep the turf cool.

“What we've seen with UgMO's technology – that we would not have known otherwise – is that not all turf is created equal, even on the same course,” Shaffer said. “Our back nine is healthy at a 74F (23C), but the front nine is climbing up to a dangerous 91F (33C) during the day.”

Hence Shaffer is paying extra attention to the weaker nine, aerifying the greens to let them cool at night, running fans on them during the day, and scaling back on watering. In the past few weeks, the UgMO technology has helped him bring subsurface moisture levels down from 30 per cent or more to less than 20 per cent.

By the start of play on 12 September, Shaffer expects this to be as low as 10 per cent. “We're on track to achieve perfect championship playing conditions for the Walker Cup without stressing the greens, and UgMO technology is what's getting us there,” he said.