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Soil Sampling: A Turf Manager's Key Tool for Success

Maintaining the lush green fairways and impeccable greens that golf enthusiasts expect is a complex and dynamic task for turfgrass managers. A key aspect of their job is understanding and managing the soil beneath the turf. This is where soil sampling comes into play, providing essential insights into soil content and water-soluble elements.

Understanding Soil Sampling

Soil sampling is a systematic process of collecting soil samples from different areas of the golf course. These samples are then analyzed to determine their composition and properties, helping turf managers make informed decisions regarding turfgrass management.

Collecting Soil Samples

The first step in soil sampling is collecting soil samples from various locations on the golf course. The number and location of samples should be representative of the entire course to ensure accurate results. Sampling is typically done using a soil probe or auger to collect samples at different depths, depending on the information needed.

Determining Soil Content

Soil content analysis provides crucial information about the nutrient composition of the soil. Soil samples are sent to a laboratory where they undergo various tests. These tests measure nutrient levels, organic matter content, and cation exchange capacity (CEC).

Nutrient levels, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, are vital for turfgrass health. The results of these tests help turf managers develop customized fertilization plans. Organic matter content is also crucial as it affects soil structure, water retention, and microbial activity. CEC measures the soil's ability to retain and exchange essential nutrients.

Assessing Water-Soluble Elements

Water-soluble analysis focuses on elements that can be dissolved in water and potentially harm turfgrass. High levels of certain elements, such as salts, can negatively impact soil quality and turf health. This analysis is especially critical in regions with water sources that may contain elevated salt levels.

Electrical conductivity (EC) measures the concentration of water-soluble salts in the soil. High EC values indicate the presence of excess salts, which can lead to issues like soil salinity. Managing EC levels is crucial to prevent soil and turf damage. In some cases, soil amendments or changes in irrigation practices may be required.

Interpreting Results

Once the soil samples have been analyzed, the results are interpreted to create a comprehensive soil profile for the golf course. This profile guides decisions on fertilization, pH adjustments, and irrigation strategies.

For example, if the soil analysis reveals low nitrogen levels, the turf manager can apply nitrogen-rich fertilizers to address the deficiency. If elevated salt levels are detected, adjustments to irrigation scheduling or water source selection may be necessary.

Implementing Soil Management Practices

Armed with the knowledge gained from soil sampling, turf managers can implement targeted soil management practices to ensure the health and longevity of the turf. These practices include precision fertilization, pH adjustments, and salt mitigation strategies.


Soil sampling is an indispensable tool for golf course turf managers. It provides essential insights into soil content and water-soluble elements, enabling informed decisions and precise soil management practices. By maintaining healthy soil, turf managers ensure that golfers can enjoy the beautifully manicured courses they love.

For more information on the soil sample services we provide, or to book an appointment check out our website at



  1. Carrow, R. N., & Duncan, R. R. (1998). Salt-affected turfgrass sites: Assessment and management. Crop Science, 38(5), 1178-1184.

  2. Kovar, J. L., & Claassen, M. M. (2005). Soil sampling and methods of analysis. CRC Press.

  3. Soltanpour, P. N. (1985). Use of ammonium bicarbonate DTPA soil test to evaluate elemental availability and toxicity. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis, 16(3), 323-338.

  4. Rhoades, J. D. (1982). Cation exchange capacity. Methods of soil analysis, Part 2: Chemical and microbiological properties, (9), 149-157.



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