Written by Dale Housden – Course Manager, Drayton Park GC & #Sodfather

Irrigation is always a damp subject… more of a taboo. No one likes to talk about water, especially in the winter months when most are fighting to dry out their course.

Yet a fully functional automated irrigation system is crucial for your head Greenkeeper to retain your playing surfaces. After the extreme summer season of 2018 more golf clubs are finding out that their system is not fit for purpose.

In my opinion, irrigation is No.1 in the armoury list and upon investment, for most this will be the single biggest investment at a golf club.

What is so important about water? A basic rule of thumb when creating any surface – especially closely mown areas is to stick to the LAW. That being Light, Air and water. If you remove any one of those 3 factors then the surface will deteriorate. With so many golf courses in the UK on a mains feed water then the desire to use the system is weighed up between affordability and necessity.

At Drayton Park Golf Club (like most) we suffered hugely from a poor irrigation system last summer when many man hours were put repairing a system which was past its serviceable life thus forcing an incorrect amount of water at the wrong time. Upon joining the team at DPGC the decision was then made to invest in a new system. This full system will be up and running by April 2019 and will be a massive asset to the club and course. This will ensure we can remain on top of the moisture content in our greens, tees and aprons with minimal disruption to the golfer.

Yet I am sure whilst on the course, most have seen a Greenkeeper watering the green with a hose. So Why are they watering during the day when the system comes on at night? Mostly on greens, the Greenkeeper would be applying a wetting agent tablet to the water to maximise the water droplets going onto the surface in order to retain moisture on the surface for longer periods of time. With many courses having slopes in their greens, high spots and bunker perimeters which are all prone to drying out will require isolated treatment – with a hose during the day.

Even with the most efficient automated irrigation system, you will still require to hand water dry spots to achieve the optimum moisture level. “ If you are not hand watering, then likely you are over watering “

Our water supply comes from a borehole plus mains feed for back up.

During times of any drought priority will be given firstly to greens, then tees, then aprons and lastly the fairways. Any area that does not have automated water will dry out during long periods of heat.

It is important to understand that different soils types require different amounts of water. Even similar soil types can require different water amounts, due to location and drainage systems.
Your Head Greenkeeper will know the amount of water that each surface needs, this may not be the same as “ the course up the road“.

As a golfer, it is very important to understand what resources your head Greenkeeper has in his armoury. Not all areas have to be dark green to perform correctly. No surface should be watered to suit a golf shot. Water is applied to keep the plant alive.