Irrigation: After a prolonged wet, mild weather at the start of the year it’s great to see the course looking like a true links golf now that we have had some dryer conditions. With harder greens, they now encourage the golfer to play the “running game” which is the design of the true Links course. Having no fronting hazards the greens allow golfers to bounce the ball into them rather than hitting high approach shots with strong back spin. The rough which had become very penal due to the years early wetter weather allowing the coarse grasses to flourish has also now died back with the hotter, dryer weather leaving a more playable, acceptable rough.
This prolonged dry weather has in turn also dried out the course and irrigation is now paramount in order to keep the grass plant alive. We also use this dry weather as a tool to burn out thicker bladed grasses on the playing surfaces which are normally reliant on high moisture levels.
As you are all aware we have now got a fully functional new irrigation system so I thought I would tackle some of the questions I am frequently getting asked about it and how the irrigation on the course works as a whole.
Why is the course looking brown?
The broad leaved coarser grasses not naturally found on a Links course thrive in moist conditions, therefore we allow the course to ‘dry out’ to a safe moisture level to try to discourage these coarser grasses whilst allowing the finer, more desireable grasses such as Fescue to flourish.
The new irrigation system allows us to apply nightly the same amount of water that we have lost through evaporation during the day which allows us to keep the course in the same dry state to ensure that only the finer fescue grasses are given enough water to flourish but that we do not end up over watering therefore allowing the broad leaved varieties to take hold again.
So how do we know how much water to apply?
The irrigation system is computerised and works off the data collected from our own weather station. Data is down loaded hourly and when analised tells us how much water has fallen per hour, wind speeds, solar radiation, temperatures and evaporation rates to mention a few. We also have data from sensors positioned under the 18th green which tells us the moisture content of the root zone, soil temperature and also a salinity reading which tells us if our bore holes start to pull in salt water. All this data allows us to calculate the amount of water which needs to be replaced on the course each night.
How do we know when to water?
As well as our experience and a visual check for dry areas, we use a moisture probe that is inserted into the ground and displays the percentage of moisture in the soil. Anything below 16% moisture level in the rootzone is detrimental to the root and anything above 20% is also detrimental to the growth of the plant.
As an example, in the middle of summer we could put down 500 cubic meters per night which equates to 500,000 litres.
Do all areas of the course get the same volume of water?
No, the programming of the irrigation system is divided into Greens, Greens surrounds, Approaches, Fairways, Carries and Tees. We prioritise greens and tees and factors such as the height of cut, amount of traffic the area receives and location ( ie exposed position) all affect the volume of water calculated for each individual area. The system allows us to now isolate dry pockets and apply extra irrigation in these areas, something we could not have done with the old system. In total we have around 400 irrigation heads which allows us to really fine tune the watering. We are able to build programs for loads of different weather conditions but this takes time and we have only just started.
How efficient is the system?
The system is designed to apply the minimum amount of water required and as already mentioned this can be fine tuned down to each individual nozzle. We also occasionally apply a wetting agent which is a biodegradable product applied in conjunction with irrigating designed to reduce the surface tension of the water molecule allowing it to ‘flatten out’ and be able to penetrate a larger surface area.
Where does the water come from?
We have four bore holes on site, each one is from 50 to 70 meters deep and produces approximately 24 cubic meters an hour. These bore holes top up a storage tank which holds 180 cubic meters. Over an average watering program this allows us a maximum of about 580 cubic meters of water.
Can we use the irrigation system to soften the greens?
Links golf is about the running game therefore we apply only enough water to sustain and encourage the finer Fescue grass. This is a sustainable management plan encouraged by governing bodies such as SRTI, R & A and USGA. .