Old Palm
Golf  Club

Any major course renovation comes with unknowns — but by working with the right people and suppliers, the comfort and confidence you get knowing you’ve selected an intuitive, high-quality irrigation system goes a long way toward more stress-free days.


Introduction

In 2021, the course at Old Palm Golf Club outside West Palm Beach, Florida, underwent a $7.5 million full renovation — part of a much larger complete club renovation. The updated course design called for a new Platinum Paspalum grass, which is becoming more common for course renovations because it handles lower-quality water better and has a high tolerance for heavy traffic.

But as with any grass, paspalum sod comes with its own set of challenges: in particular, consistent overwatering can quickly lead to disease. That can happen easily when heavy Florida rains — which can dump large amounts of water unexpectedly — are added to the mix. The grounds crew at Old Palm needed an irrigation system to help them accurately monitor water coverage down to each individual head to keep the course in exceptional condition year-round.

Project Goals

  • Ensure that soil isn’t persistently too wet from both on-site irrigation and Florida rains
  • Reduce the amount of time it takes to water the entire course
  • Make necessary repairs faster

Challenge 1: Disease Prevention

For the course redesign, the architect chose to go with a new grass type, Platinum Paspalum, which is very common in South Florida. Any time it rains, however, the team needs to be on high alert for disease pressure. That makes being on point with irrigation imperative. With their old system, that would have required constant small adjustments just to keep moisture levels where they needed to be.

Solution: Install a system that allows the team to monitor coverage down to individual heads

With a single-station solution (versus dual paired stations), fine-tuning is easier — the grounds crew can adjust and run one head rather than having to run two at once. They’re also able to dial in a lot tighter for individual run times.

“I don’t like making big block changes,” says Blair Kirby, Director of Agronomy. “Unless we’re seeing a fairway that needs a big increase, I’d rather go in individually to each head and change run times so we’re getting the water where it needs to be and not just throwing it all over the place.”

How We Did It: Installation of a Rain Bird® IC System™

The new IC (Integrated Control) System allows the team to collect real-time data from every sprinkler/rotor to help prevent issues before they occur. With the intelligence the system provides, they’ve simplified troubleshooting to save on time and labor costs.

Challenge 2: Unnecessary wear and tear due to inefficient watering

When irrigation systems run too long and too often, parts deteriorate or need to be replaced faster. This increases both labor costs and the costs for parts, which in turn causes the overall course management costs to surge.

Solution: Switch to an efficient, smart irrigation system

“At just under 2,000 heads, we can now water the entire golf course in about three and a half hours on average — that’s a lot quicker than what I’m used to,” Kirby says.

The new Rain Bird irrigation system is much more efficient, which in turn means the pumps are running more efficiently to minimize wear and tear. With less maintenance and around a 50% decrease in watering times, the Old Palm team can realize savings today and well into the future.

How We Did It: Installation of a Rain Bird® IC System™

The new system assures the grounds crew that everything is working properly — and alerts them if something isn’t — which allows them to put more focus on other course-related issues.

“Our irrigation tech loves it because if there’s an issue, he can use his phone to turn it on and off — he doesn’t have to use a radio and those types of logistics,” Kirby adds. “The diagnostics are a big plus with this system.”

Challenge 3: Satellite-based troubleshooting

Kirby and his team have managed old systems where satellites are wired to multiple heads and back to a central computer, and tracing the wires literally sent them all over the place. These systems also didn’t diagnose problems. So the team oftentimes had to run back to the shop to grab more parts or tools, adding to their time management challenges.

Solution: Adopt an intelligent system with fewer components

Satellites on the course can be intrusive and create extra failure points, but an integrated system is more intelligent. Plus less wire and fewer components mean less to buy, install, maintain and troubleshoot.

How We Did It: Installation of a Rain Bird® IC System™

With the new IC System, the grounds crew gets simple diagnostic indicators: Green means good; red means there’s an issue. The team can now leave the shop with everything they need, go out, make the necessary repairs and be done in no time.

Results

In their efforts to be able to monitor water coverage down to the individual head, the team at Old Palm Golf Club also cut in half the amount of time needed to water the entire course — and the best part is they can monitor their system on-site or remotely for faster troubleshooting.

The efficiencies gained, coupled with the ability to better prevent disease on the course, should equate to lower costs and less time required for Blair and his team to properly maintain the course long term.

Testimonial

“When you’re going through construction, you want things to go smoothly — and that’s especially true with the irrigation. You’ve got fresh grass on the ground, and if your irrigation doesn’t come on at the scheduled times, you will lose that grass. This could result in additional time and money being spent to address the issue, ultimately setting the project back.”

-Blair Kirby
Director of Agronomy
Old Palm Golf Club


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