I have been designing golf course irrigation systems for about 35 years and today’s systems are extremely complex when compared to those that I was designing in the 1980s and ’90s. They are also much more expensive as complexity comes with a cost. Today’s golf irrigation systems are manufactured and designed to interact with more equipment, including critical asset protection, pump stations, various water supplies (primary and backup) and auxiliary equipment such as fans, aerators and fountains.

These complex systems require a great deal of coordination among golf course staff, design professionals, manufacturers and possibly outside government agencies. Coordination is time consuming. Without it, though, an irrigation project can very quickly turn bad and become very expensive.

Here is a short list of what needs to be coordinated:

  • Power to controllers
  • Power to pump systems (exterior)
  • Power to wells
  • Power to transfer pumps
  • Well piping to the storage pond
  • Transfer piping to the storage pond
  • Weather station location, power and communication type
  • Asset protection equipment (lightning detection/horns) location, power and communication
  • Landscape irrigation (clubhouse, entrance road, pool area)
  • Tennis irrigation
  • Drinking fountain power
  • Drinking fountain piping
  • Fan power
  • Pump house size and pump system configuration
  • Pump house electric (interior)
  • Pump house doors and hatch locations
  • Fertigation/injection requirements
  • Golf course renovations
  • Erosion control

The first task in coordination is to determine who is responsible for what. To be honest, the more responsible parties there are, the more possibilities for mistakes. For example, all the electrical design should be completed by the electrician or electrical engineer even if it includes irrigation, pump house and power supply instead of separate for each.

The first task in coordination is to determine who is responsible for what. To be honest, the more responsible parties there are, the more possibilities for mistakes.”

Coordination takes time and requires attention to detail. For example, you may put a central control interface in your pump house to save on wire. As a result, you will need to coordinate the power supply to it (120 volts), the communication path out of it, the antenna location and wiring for it, and if it has asset protection for the power and wire antenna. Where does the power come from, how many conduits are needed out of the building and how many conduits up to the roof? On top of that, who does what? Where does the irrigation contractor’s work start and the electrician’s end, or vice versa?

The other reason that coordination up front is so important is that when, not if, something goes wrong, it will most likely be the superintendent’s responsibility to figure out the issue and solve it. If everything is sorted out before construction with the superintendent involved, many issues can be avoided. Many times, a contractor will go to install a piece of equipment and the superintendent will say, “I don’t want that there. I want it over here.” Avoid those issue by being involved from the start with all aspects of the irrigation project so you always know what is proposed. Just because it may not directly impact the turf, it does indirectly, so do not hesitate to weigh in on all the type of equipment being installed and its location. As with everything, careful planning and “coordination” is the key to a successful project without surprises and being on budget.

Brian Vinchesi, the 2015 Irrigation Association Industry Achievement Award winner, is President of Irrigation Consulting, Inc., a golf course irrigation design and consulting firm with offices in Pepperell, Massachusetts and Huntersville, North Carolina that designs golf course irrigation systems throughout the world. He can be reached at bvinchesi@irrigationconsulting.com or 978-433-8972 or followed on twitter @bvinchesi.