Golf Course Irrigation Systems and Course Update

From Mach Dunes Golf Club’s Head Greenskeeper, Simon Freeman:

MDGC_Membership_forEmailI`ll freely admit that I spent most of 2014 telling people who complimented us on the condition of the golf course that “we had been lucky with the weather.”  I think it`s safe to say our luck ran out this past January –  strong winds and heavy rain combined with some very high tides and huge fluctuations in temperature have given our links turf a proper hammering.
At critical times like these, it is imperative that we keep nutrients at an optimum level to ensure that the plants don’t uptake too much sodium and the grass leaves remain structurally strong enough to withstand the battering from the windblown sand. I`ve described before in these reports how we use analysis reports to research where our rootzones’ weaknesses lie, as well as help gauge which nutrients we should consider adding to maintain optimum health.  Sometimes, though,  it can be just as useful to take a considered look at what we can see with the naked eye before making any decisions that may ultimately turn out to be counter-productive. It`s thought provoking, this greenkeeping lark!

Thankfully the recent poor weather hasn`t hampered our efforts in working towards the completion of our winter program. We will be turfing several newly constructed tees over the next couple of weeks, and also covering the new pathways we have shaped at the 1st and 17th holes. We have re-shaped the bunker short of the ridge at the 8th, and this has already been turfed. The bunker steps at the 15th have been replaced – we did this to make the bunkers safer to access, but we have also made them more aesthetically pleasing. We will be replacing all the bunker steps before the start of the golf season.

New 4th Tee at Mach Dunes 
A newly constructed Medal Tee at the 4th, awaiting turf.

With the new season approaching rapidly, we have a checklist of things that we need to complete in order to ensure we are properly prepared. One of the things which must receive a thorough overhaul at this time is our irrigation system. It is easy to forget about the need for watering turf when we are going through a period where flooding, rather than drought, is the real concern.  But experience has taught us that weather conditions can go from one extreme to the other very quickly should we get a prolonged spell of easterly winds at the end of March.  
At Machrihanish Dunes, we have a very modern system which starts with a line of bore holes near the Golf House. Water is pumped from there to a pair of large tanks (total capacity is 250,000 litres) at our maintenance facility, which feeds a pump that holds water in a closed circuit at just under 10 bar of pressure. Each green and tee complex has a central control box with a hand hose connector and decoders that receive signals from a computer in our office that gives us the ability to program individual sprinklers to undertake specific programs at a pre-determined time. While it is brilliant to have such a modern system at our disposal, we are always aware that it is relatively complicated and we need to keep it in optimum condition in order to be able to rely on it.  This is why we contract the experts to come in and give our whole system a thorough check over before we need to use it each spring.  This annual service gives the contractors an opportunity to apply any available updates to improve our system still further, and also gives us the opportunity to have them set up specific programs for us that we can use to save ourselves water and electricity wherever possible.

Pumping water from here... 
A large pump draws water from a row of these well points…

...filling this massive tank at our maintenance facility, which supplies water via gravity feed for....
…filling this massive tank at our maintenance facility, which supplies water via gravity feed for….

 the pump  sends water around the golf course to these boxes
...this pump to send water around the golf course to these boxes…

Inside the Golf Course Sprinklers
…which are situated close to every green and tee complex. In the box you can see the coupling point where we can attach a hose, and wires running to electrical decoders, which operate as on/off switches for the sprinklers under command from…


 This computer runs the golf course irrigation system
 ….this computer in our office. Although there is a lot that can go wrong with a system like this, you can`t help but marvel at the ingenuity of it all!



Simon Freeman
Head Greenkeeper