For Dave Gibbons, Course Manager at Little Aston Golf Club, the  installation of a new irrigation system brought more  than reliability. The Rain Bird® Stratus™ II Central Control  System with Decoder field control has become an essential tool in his quest for optimal course  conditions and the efficient use of resources.

Dave and his team of six greenkeeping staff are responsible for the 180  acres of parkland course, with elements of heathland across several  holes at the West Midlands club, which hosted the Open’s Regional  Qualifier and The Ladies’ Home Internationals and ranked  33 in Golf World 2017 England’s Top 100 courses.

“Our previous system was more than 20 years old, with old  PVC piping and heads that were constantly leaking. It was inefficient  and unreliable. We were perpetually firefighting just to keep it operational. We couldn’t water at night easily and at one point had six  greens shut off at the valves due to leaking. We would come into work  in the morning to find one of the heads had stuck and the green would  be flooded. Our members and visiting players expect to find excellent  course conditions when they play here, and it was hard to provide that  experience in those circumstances.  Our contactor, Irrigation Control, installed the new system which was  designed by Roger Davey of Irritech. It is the first time I’ve used a Rain  Bird system and I’ve experienced a whole new level of control. Instead  of the ‘all or nothing’ I was used to, I’m able to flex and fine tune  different aspects to meet the course’s requirements.   Having the new system has completely changed the way I work and, looking back, I can see how much time was  taken up dealing with problems, hand watering, and coming back to the club to turn the irrigation off if it rained. The  mobile interface, for example, has changed all that. I have all the information I need to view and operate the whole  system from wherever I’m located. Staff can message me or my Deputy if the 18th tee is looking a bit dry so we can  irrigate. It’s easy to use and I can put a head up in seconds. I have complete trust in the hardware and the software,  and that’s hugely reassuring, particularly on the run up to a tournament.”

— Dave Gibbons, Course Manager

Dave decided to tailor the system further by installing Rain Watch™. Catch can rain gauges send rainfall measurements to the control system which automatically adjusts the settings to account for the volume of rain that has fallen.

Dave says, “Knowing exactly how many millimetres of water your turf is getting sounds  basic, but Rain Watch™ takes away all the guesswork. It also means being less reactive and no  longer having to think about whether to leave the irrigation on or off when you go home. Whether it rains or not, you know your course is getting only the irrigation it needs; nothing  more, nothing less. Everyone should have this.”

Making use of the system’s Cycle+Soak™ feature has also made a big difference to his team’s watering practices. Water is applied in increments with a set time in‐between to prevent run off. It prevents water waste and ensures that all the water applied is absorbed by the turf. They conducted a trial on the 2nd and 17th greens, the driest on the  course and sharing similar topography. Both are usually hand watered all summer, taking up significant resources  which could be used elsewhere on the course.

“We set up Cycle+Soak™ programme on the 2nd green, and left the 17th as the control,” Dave explains. “On the 2nd, we focussed on volume application and adjusting the Cycle+Soak™ settings to ensure that all the water being applied was absorbed. This year we did not hand water  the 2nd green much, it made a tremendous difference. Usually the high  points dry out in a similar pattern to those on the 17th, and the  hosepipe was again permanently sited at the 17th green while conditions were dry. We’ll be setting Cycle+Soak™ up for all the greens  ready for next year with the aim of minimising hand watering across  the course.”

Lee Knight, Contracts Director at Irrigation Control said: “The  improvements Dave and his team have made to the course are clear  for all to see. The ability to expand and increase functionality as new  technology becomes available was key when making our initial  equipment selections, and the addition of Rain Watch will definitely  increase the level of control Dave has over his irrigation system”

“When you begin to explore the efficiencies that can be made by  reducing hand watering, you realise they are significant. Dave will  make significant time, labour and water savings using Rain Watch™ and Cycle+Soak™ across the course, along with the agronomic and  playability benefits that come from optimising the use of water.”

— Alastair Higgs, Rain Bird Golf Sales Manager