Next best thing: Unmanned mowers coming to a course near you

December 19, 2018
A mower cuts the grass of the fairway at a golf course.

Golf’s future isn’t just in the hands of Tour newbies like Joaquin Niemann, Sam Burns and Cameron ChampThis season —and for seasons to come — the sport is going to look, feel and play different. Here are our picks for the best and brightest players, personalities and technology to look forward to in 2019 and beyond.

NEXT BEST THING: Unmanned mowers coming to a course near you

A generation ago, maintaining a golf course was a little like hitting a 40-yard pitch shot — you executed mostly by feel. Then science happened.

“My father was a superintendent 50 years ago, and he practiced the art of greenkeeping. Nutrient management, brushing, top-dressing — he was intuitive. My generation, we’re science-driven,” says Bob Farren, the longtime director of maintenance at Pinehurst Resort. The proof? The next advancement in groundskeeping tech, Farren says, “will be robotic, unmanned mowers. Obviously, it’s a high expense, but it’ll be more attractive with labor shortages.”

Some of his colleagues have already taken the plunge, but unmanned mowers aren’t at Pinehurst — yet. “It’s hard for me to buy in, but it’s not a stretch for the future.” Not only is the art of groundskeeping phasing out—so are the men atop the machines.