Monday, August 27, 2018

The Irrigation System-History

You may have heard that we're making plans for a new golf course irrigation system.  This is certainly a major project and I'm sure people have many questions about it.  Beginning with this blog post I'm going to make a series of posts on the subject which I hope will answer these questions.  This post is a history lesson.  To understand where we're heading, it's important to understand where we've been.  Tacoma is one of the oldest golf clubs in the country so I think you might find the history of it's irrigation system pretty interesting. 
This picture was taken sometime after the American Lake course opened in 1905 and sometime before the installation of the first irrigation system in 1923.  Golf in those days was played during fall, winter and spring since the golf course wasn't very playable during the summer months.  Without rain the prairie soils where too hard and rocky for golf.  The idea of "year-around golf" at Tacoma was realized with the advancements in irrigation technology.  The first underground irrigation system at Tacoma was installed in 1923 using wood stave pipe (Click HERE for some really cool images of wood stave pipe).  Below is an image of the 1923 "as built" for that system.  Click HERE to download it if you'd like to take a closer look at the entire map.
 Notice there is no pipe in the fairways.   The system worked by delivering water to a series of spigots where a greenkeeper would attach a watering device like the TORO serpent (see below).
The source of the water was American Lake but water was pumped up to a water tower and gravity provided the power to pressurize the pipe line.  Check out this 1946 picture of the Club and you can see the tall water tower near the clubhouse and lake shore.
This wood pipe system was in operation for 30 years and I can tell you that it probably wasn't replaced because the wood pipe went bad.  We have uncovered a lot of this wood pipe over the years and the stuff is still in very good condition and very difficult to break or cut. Here's a pic of some of this pipe that we unearthed during the 2013 bunker renovation.
The wood pipe was good pipe but it's one big limitation was the inability to handle high pressure.  You can imagine that in the 30 years this system was in operation considerable advancements were made in irrigation technology.  Specifically, the ability to pump water efficiently and reliably revolutionized irrigation.  In 1953 the Club installed a new system with pipe that could handle higher pressure and power the newer sprinklers. The new pipe was called "Transite" and was made of a mixture of concrete and asbestos.  Below is an image of the "as built" for that system.  Click HERE to download the entire image if you want to take a closer look.
Notice now with this system the pipe is right down the middle of the fairways and around every green.  This system utilized high pressure sprinklers which could throw water 100 feet or essentially the entire width of each fairway.  This was a manual system meaning that each sprinkler had to be started and stopped by hand, thus these were the days of the night waterperson.  The night waterperson was that greenkeeper who came on shift in the middle of the night to set sprinklers.  Here's a 1979 aerial showing what the course looked like in the summer during those days.
The 1953 manual system clearly had some limitations.  Only the fairways were irrigated and the control over the amount of water applied was poor at best.  Still, this system served the Club for 35 years and in 1989 the Club invested in a system which was much more advanced.  That 1989 system is what we're currently running and it's completely automated with computer control.  Below is a picture of the "as built" for this system.  As you can see there is an impressive network of underground pipes and wires.  
I can run sprinklers and make adjustments from any computer remotely and even use my smart phone for most operations.  Literally every square inch of the property is irrigated.  So why are we replacing it?  That's what I'm going to explain over the next few blog posts.  Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. Nice use of the photo of Charlie Erickson, Superintendent at The Minikahda Club and his invention of Serpetine irrigation system. Great historical explanation. We've got the map to the original 1916 irrigation system in our club house.

    ReplyDelete