Putting Green Drainage Assessment, USGA Central Region Update

Posted on October 5th, 2020
October 02, 2020

John Daniels, agronomist, Central Region

A drain camera is a great tool to assess where problems are occurring beneath your putting greens.

A key component of a USGA putting green is a network of subsurface drainage pipes that move excess water from the green. The system is able to provide a healthy growing environment for turfgrass and good playing conditions for golfers.

It is not uncommon for a USGA putting green to last 30 years or more if properly maintained. However, in certain instances, the subsurface drainage can become clogged and hinder water movement from a putting green. Whether it is a bundle of roots from nearby trees or overgrown turf covering the drain exit point, blockage can cause serious issues. Assessing your putting green drainage system periodically is a good practice to prevent turf loss.

The first step is to locate all the putting green drain outfalls – i.e. the terminal exit point of the green subsurface drainage. Depending on the size and design of the green, there might be multiple exit points so make sure to identify each one of them. Refer to your as-built plans. For newer greens, there could be a metal locator wire buried along each drainpipe that can be traced. Once the subsurface drainage is located, check that the end of the drainpipe is free of debris and water can flow freely from it. A drain camera can be used to inspect the pipe length to confirm it is free of impediments. In the event you find an issue, you will be able to measure the length from the exit point so that you can know exactly where to dig.

There are companies that specialize in locating, assessing and unclogging putting green drainpipes should you be experiencing problems. You can also rent drain cameras from many hardware stores or equipment rental businesses should you prefer to complete the inspection in-house. Either way, make sure those pipes can flow freely.

Central Region Agronomists:

John Daniels, agronomist –

Zach Nicoludis, agronomist –

Information on the USGA’s Course Consulting Service 

Contact the Green Section Staff   

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