Masters: How SubAir system at Augusta National removes water from the course

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Augusta National Golf Club opened in December of 1932, and it may look like everything has been there for decades, but in every regard, it is a state-of-the-art facility.

When rain falls in Georgia and threatens to make conditions too soft, the club can fight back by turning on a SubAir system to remove the water and keep the course playable.

SubAir Systems, LLC, is based just north of Augusta, Georgia, in Graniteville, South Carolina. Its main product is comprised of a series of pumps and blowers that connect to the drainage system below greens.

To work properly, the underground drainage system needs to be constructed as a “USGA spec green,” with a main pipe running along the fall line of the green with a series of lateral tributary pipes feeding into it. The perforated pipes allow water to enter and flow downhill to an exit area or drain.

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When it is activated, the SubAir system acts like a vacuum and pulls air and water down, into those pipes, much more quickly. This video, created by SubAir in 2010, shows how quickly puddles can disappear.

When the SubAir system is used to pull a lot of water off greens, supplemental pumps and drainage mechanisms can be added to pull the water farther away from the green and release it in areas away from play.

A SubAir system working at Augusta National Golf Club. (Photo: Golfweek)

When a SubAir system is switched to pressure mode, it forces air into the pipes and up, into the soil and root systems of the grass. This can help to control the temperature of the greens without interrupting play.

When the pumps are running, they create a dull, humming sound that is reminiscent of what you hear inside a plane when the engines are running.

The first green to have a SubAir system installed under it at Augusta National was the 13th green in 2001, but all 18 greens now have it. There are even SubAir systems in many crosswalks to keep them from getting too slippery for the patrons as they walk around the course.

Several other golf courses also have a SubAir system now, including Pebble Beach Golf Links, the site of the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open.

The Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets recently had SubAir systems installed on their baseball fields, and several professional and college football teams have SubAir systems on their practice and game fields.

Bernhard Langer is the last to win a major with a persimmon driver, doing so at the 1993 Masters