Founded in 1893 and the oldest of the Surrey heathland courses, Woking Golf Club is a traditional club with immense character and ranked 17th in Golf World’s Top 100 Golf Courses in England.
When Andy Ewence joined as the new Course Manager, his ambition was to steer this highly-rated course towards an even better standard of conditioning, leaving a legacy that would benefit golfers well into the 2050’s. Within weeks he discovered an existing irrigation system in poor shape, some of it at least twenty-five years old, with deteriorating PVC piping, rotors manufactured by Bear that were redundant over a decade ago, and a computer system no longer supported by software updates. Without detailed information about the location of cable paths and cable joints that weren’t waterproof, faults occurred every time the system was operational. Grass coverage was continually lost, partly due to sprinkler configuration, so all fairways had to be overseeded regularly, with repair costs spiralling.
The club operates in a very competitive market in Surrey and newly-arrived Club Secretary Richard Pennell knew that to have any chance of keeping up with or moving ahead of its peers, the club needed to provide staff with appropriate tools for the job as well as aiming to fulfil its desire for achieving best environmental and sustainable practice.
Following an initial appraisal, specialist irrigation consultant Roger Davey completed a detailed design blueprint, full irrigation system tender specification and bill of materials. With an independent specification completed and backed by the Committee, a substantial number of members offered gifts or interest-free loans to help finance what would be the most significant investment in the club’s long history. With generous support from its members, the club stepped forward with confidence.
Members were kept fully informed so they understood why the current system needed to be replaced, the risks associated with continuing to operate the old system and how investment would ensure even better tournament-quality course standards for years to come. They were sent a video about the installation process and many were surprised that installation was far less disruptive on the course and a lot less like the building site they had imagined.
Contractor MJ Abbott began installation of a Rain Bird IC System™ with Stratus™ II Central Control and 875 Rain Bird rotors in October 2019 with Rain Bird 751 and 950 Series valve-in-head rotors on greens, tees, approaches and lawns, and a triple row watering system on fairways, which avoids watering the surrounding heather. Pipework is large enough to facilitate future system additions. Work was completed in May 2020.
The new irrigation system design addresses the hydraulic challenges of an undulating site across a very large area, rising from the lower parts of the course around the 6th, 7th and 8th holes to 20-30 metres at the 9th and 10th holes. That variance has been managed so that even coverage is achieved on the fine turf areas but water is still conserved. The solution has achieved uniformity of coverage and maximised irrigation efficiency.
Image supplied by Woking Golf Club
Photography Credit: Jason Livy Photography
“The difference is astounding. All the surfaces are green and there are no bare patches at all. We’re achieving excellent distribution, a better, closer cut which means a consistent speed on greens. An irrigation system is one of the largest investments a club ever makes. My aim was to have the safest, most future-proof system available. Paperless, fully computerised, using the very latest touchscreen and mobile technology. And we’ve got that. We’re totally teched-up! We have a 60” screen in the office for mapping, a smaller computer, a laptop and mobile making access easy. The Rain Bird IC System™ gives us an immediate and direct line of communication, straight from PC to rotor head. When I come in at 5.30 in the morning, I can do a full system test straightaway, in minutes. We’ve got complete confidence in the new IC system because it works, it’s safe and it’s reliable. There’s a real ‘wow’ factor when members see the mapping on the huge screen in the office. And what’s exciting for our team here is that we’re still learning and tweaking the system. Next year, we will be able to realise the true potential of the IC system in bringing the club’s overall vision to life.”
—Andy Ewence, Course Manager
Results out on the course have been both performance-enhancing as well as immediately visible. Members noticed, the Head Professional received lots of positive feedback, and there’s a waiting list of people wanting to join the club. The Committee, Captain and members were hugely supportive and interested in the new irrigation system with small groups of members being shown around to see how it works.
“Despite the weather, despite Covid-19 and lockdown, despite everything, the entire team involved excelled. The hot spell this summer and high traffic post-lockdown gave the new system a chance to shine and it did. It’s been a great success, and sets the club up for a couple of decades of ‘compound interest’ in terms of efficiencies, turf retention and improvement.“
—Richard Pennell, Club Secretary
Richard Pennell CCM
MJ Abbott Limited
Rain Bird Europe Personnel
RAIN BIRD PRODUCTS:
Integrated Control (IC) System™
Stratus™ II Central Control V8
IC Connect for Real time monitoring of Pump Flow and Rain Fall
Pro LT Weather Station
875 Rain Bird rotors:
8005 & 5004 Series Rotors on tees
751 & 950 Series Rotors on greens
751 & 950 Series Rotors on approaches
751 Series Rotors on fairways
PEB IC pressure regulated valves
34,000 metres 2-core control cable