Last week we talked about where the water comes from before it enters our irrigation system. This week, let’s talk about where it goes, how it gets there and how it’s controlled. Read More>>
Just to recap last week’s blog entry – water gets pumped out of the Seine (or from the well) up the 16th fairway and over to the pond between the 4th and 6th holes. Then it flows by gravity to the pond between the 16th and 11th. Water then gets pumped out of the 16th pond and into the irrigation pipes.
As the water moves away from the 16th pond, pipes branch off and the pipe diameter decreases as the distance from the pond increases. It all looks like a rough version of the human vascular system. Eventually the water ends up getting branched off and enters a sprinkler head where it gets sprayed on the course.
The irrigation system is positively charged. That means the entire network stays pressurized at 105 psi. (Your car tires are usually inflated to around 30 psi). This also means leaks must be addressed in a timely manner. The only time the pressure is turned off is when the lines are blown out in the fall.
Craig Campbell with a New Sprinkler Head
The Club is adopting new sprinkler head technology as heads are replaced for new greens or because of maintenance issues. Notice the wiring and various doodads hanging off the sprinkler head that Craig is holding. The new Rain Bird heads have a little computer attached which can be controlled by the new, super sophisticated Rain Bird controller in the maintenance shop. The system is so smart that the grounds crew can remotely control each individual head and the arc of the spray.
Irrigation Layout 16th green
You may have noticed a blue wire being run to each of our new greens recently. This is the communications link that enables the whole high level control system.
So far, only the new areas of the course have been equipped with the new, smart sprinkler heads. Over time, all the older sprinkler heads will end up being replaced.
In the meantime, irrigation on fairways is mainly done by zone. You may have noticed in the past, on a hole like 13, there may be a dry area requiring water. In order to apply the water that the dry area requires, sometimes part of the same zone may get a little more moisture than it needs, leaving a wet patch for part of a day. As more sprinkler heads get replaced this problem goes away.
What kind of shape are the irrigation pipes in? Craig tells me the main lines are pretty good and have lots of life left in them. But …every year the course requires more water, as lines are added, coverage is expanded and more sprinkler heads are used. As a result the main lines may be slightly undersized and will eventually have to be upgraded. The pumps were replaced a few years back and they have plenty of extra capacity.
The weakness in the system is in the joints where the lines branch off to the sprinkler heads. With the amount of movement in our Manitoba gumbo, and with the constant up and down pressure when the system is turned on and off, this is where leaks occur. Maintenance staff is often pulled off other jobs to dig up and repair a leaking joint.
How does our slit drainage system fit in? Well, one of the keys to good grass is good drainage. Drainage allows moisture to get down to the roots, where it is needed most. Older members will recall water puddling up on the surface of many fairways. Now that water is getting down to the part of the plant where it is needed most. One downside to the slit drainage system is that wiring for the sprinkler heads has to be installed around the drainage tiling. Things start looking like a bowl of spaghetti after a while.
Before leaving the topic of irrigation and draining, a comment about our soil type is in order. Grass likes acidic soil. Our soil is alkaline. Our grounds crew compensates for this with custom cocktails of fertilizer. Grass also likes good drainage. We’re on Manitoba clay gumbo, and without the slit drainage our fairways would be a mess. A few courses around the province are lucky enough to be built on sandy, acidic soil. They also have more snow cover in most years.
Where we occasionally run into trouble is on our older greens where the soil is clay once you get below the sand that has built up from weekly top dressing. The drainage on these old pushup greens is essentially non existent. When these factors are combined with a species of grass (poa annua), which can only tolerate 90 days of ice cover, in those years when Mother Nature chooses to not cooperate, the odd green failure – like 13 this year – is inevitable. That is, until the old greens are rebuilt.
But we’ve got a great track and it’s only get better year over year. It doesn’t happen without hard work, good planning, a lot of science and a little art.