Monday, August 17, 2020

Irrigation Distribution Uniformity

We've been talking a lot lately about replacing the irrigation system, so a recent incident of misfortune is definitely worth explaining. A couple of weeks ago we had a power failure at one of our satellite boxes on the golf course, and the result was the sprinklers didn't run for one night over a large portion of the 9th and 18th fairways.  We were having some hot weather at the time so unfortunately quite a bit of turf dried out to the point of death.   Here's some pictures of the subsequent damage.

This is a shocking amount of damage for one night without irrigation, and that is why I'm pointing this out.  We shouldn't see this much damage from just one missed irrigation cycle.  It clearly shows just how poorly the irrigation water is distributed over the golf course when we irrigate.  The brown dead areas were obviously very dry before the system failure occurred.  This is what it's like all over the golf course during the months of July and August when we are irrigating every day.  We have some areas that are very very dry, and we have some areas that are very very wet.  You just don't realize how serious this condition is until something breaks down like in this case with a power failure.  I guess maybe I shouldn't say that because many of you do realize how serious this issue is, but you most likely notice it in a different way.  Most of you notice it when your ball hits a soft spot and doesn't roll out at all.  The issue is poor irrigation distribution.  This is not a new problem.  We've been trying to improve our water distribution uniformity since the day our current system was installed.  It is in fact getting worse with each passing season as the sprinkler heads age, but even if we had new sprinklers, our system does not have the capability of achieving good distribution uniformity given it's poor design.  I'm not trying to blame the designer.  When you consider all the decisions that were made during the installation of our existing system back in 1989, I think all individuals involved made good ones.  But, like I've said before, what was okay then, is not okay now.  So this is why you see staff out there hand watering all the time.  They are trying to keep the dry areas from dying so we don't have to apply more water which in turn makes the green areas wet and soft.  It's a balancing act.  Everyday day we have to decide how much water to apply knowing that too little will mean more hand watering or dead grass.  If I apply too much water, playability is compromised with the lack of bounce and roll.  I say all this to point out that a new irrigation system will solve a lot of problems.  A modern irrigation system has far better distribution uniformity which means less dry areas, and less wet areas, and therefore better playing conditions.  It also means we'd see less damage in the event of a failure (since even new systems can have failures). 
Luckily, our technician was out the next day to repair the satellite box, and we were back up and running that afternoon.  It would have been even a worse incident had he not been available at the time.