Clubs can generally identify what they need to do in the broadest sense. The Course Manager may have provided reports about the current system, recording additional working hours spent hand watering and the increasing costs of maintaining an ageing or deteriorating system.
But renovation planning should go beyond that and consider the wider vision for the course. Does it meet members’ and visitors’ expectations? If not, where does it fall short? Are any architectural changes needed in order to remain competitive? Are there operational, efficiency or regulatory challenges that could be solved with a better irrigation system?
Lee Knight, director of specialist sports turf contractor Irrigation Control, suggests clubs consider the following as part of a comprehensive evaluation.
Contact your local planning department at the outset to determine what’s required and confirm timescales and cost.
An audit of your current system will determine the scale of renovation required and the enhancements needed. A significant proportion can be capital expenditure for infrastructure improvements which also need to be considered and evaluated.
The most important is the water source. Ideally, mains water should only be used as a back-up as the cost is high and there may be potential restrictions. Are alternative sources available on site, such as boreholes, rivers, lakes or wells, and can these be incorporated? Licenses that have lapsed or resources that have never been considered could be investigated along with the additional implications of sourcing power for abstraction and access for drilling which will need to be included in any planning application. A helpful option when looking for alternative water sources is to commission an independent hydrologist to carry out a desktop study. This indicates the potential for water and provides advice on licensing and longer-term feasibility.
Ensure water storage meets initial and future demand. Where mains water is the only source, consider allowing for additional capacity so that in the event of drought, the water can be managed over a greater period of time to maintain critical areas. Carry out ground surveys are and consult planners to determine any requirements for construction or for the pump house.
Check power supplies to determine suitability. Again, consider scope for expansion not just at the irrigation point but also at the point of distribution. The increase in loads for the irrigation system may affect planned works at the clubhouse if this is the point of power distribution.
Existing infrastructure isn’t always sited in the best location. If new power and water supplies are required, explore whether a new location is more suitable and offers potential savings when bringing the services to site. Is there space for increased storage?
Your renovation’s success depends on having the right team in place. Your golf architect, irrigation consultant, contractor, manufacturer and distributor are all specialists in their respective fields and each has an important and distinct role to play in the project plan.
Last year, Goring & Streatley invested £700,000 upgrading to a Rain Bird IC System™ and Stratus® II Central Control. The core irrigation infrastructure was completely replaced, with new pipework and rotors across greens, tees, approaches and fairways. General Manager Martin Hucklesby advises, “Even if you have a very good understanding of what’s involved in an irrigation renovation project, the very first thing to do is find someone you can trust. Before you go out to tender, before you do anything, find yourself a recognised irrigation consultant to work with you from start to finish as the independent expert who can answer any questions the board or committee have, and verify the information the club needs when making decisions.”
“You need a very solid evaluation process. Investing a significant sum is a business decision and it needs to be thought through. There’s a lot of pressure to do a deal and make decisions quickly but don’t be swayed and take advice from your consultant. Get the timing right. Plan to do the work in the winter – even if it means a delay. Members don’t want the course renovated in summer, so agree the timing of the work with the contractor. Take your time.”
The club’s Course Manager visited other clubs and sought advice from his peers as part of the planning.
As irrigation system enhancements are honed to meet the club’s needs, there are a few additional factors to bear in mind.
Is there an opportunity to phase improvements so that immediate upgrades can be made now and other improvements included in second or third phases? Which priorities can the club realistically afford? What timing constraints are there to take into account?
Many projects can be phased to minimise disruption to play and spread the cost. Even small changes can make a real difference and new technologies can now be integrated easily into many older systems to deliver cost savings which can then help fund future upgrades. Your project team can help you answer these questions, and then you’ll be in a position to establish the project scope and scale, and confirm an outline budget.