Close to the Malvern Hills yet only a stone’s throw from the city centre, Worcester Golf & Country Club at Boughton Park is a parkland course originally designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie in 1927.
Specialist irrigation consultant Roger Davey, Managing Director of Irritech, carried out an evaluation of the inefficient, 30-year-old irrigation system in July 2018, identifying short-term solutions, addressing the pump house which needed immediate attention, as well as highlighting longer term requirements. Being sand-based, some course areas could be very dry in summer, so the ideal solution would initially expand irrigation to cover greens, approaches and surrounds, and then tees and fairways if additional funding could be found.
Recommendations were presented at the club AGM and well received. The club began researching different system solutions, visiting several courses locally and sought advice from independent agronomist Peter Jones. Irritech developed a full tender specification and bill of materials and in October 2019, the contract was awarded to North Staffs Irrigation, with work scheduled to begin in January 2020.
“We used to irrigate at various time intervals but by being able to water in cubic millimetres, we’re using the same amount of water overall but covering a far larger area. Given it’s only been operational for six months, we’ve made adjustments along the way to ensure the system is working at its best. We’ve altered the rotor arcs from 180-360° which gives us better cover across surrounds and approaches and we can now damp down bunkers which makes them more consistent, giving members better lies to play from. For those looking to replace and upgrade systems, my advice is to get a consultant in to help, plan your installation work during the winter when ground conditions are more suitable, and work in close partnership with your installation team. The renovation has given our reputation a real boost. With improved coverage, our MacKenzie course is more efficient in terms of water use and looks very well presented; our members are delighted with the results. With climate change making rainfall so unpredictable, what we’ve done so far improves the course and has an impact on the future sustainability of our club.”
— Andy Baker, Club Director
The club invested over £400,000 which included Rain Bird Central and single head control for 450 rotors with an advanced IC System™ backed by a GSP support plan. Rain Bird 751 Series rotors were installed on the 20 greens and surrounds with 950 and 551 Series rotors on all 18 tees. The existing borehole supply for the lake was also enhanced with a new pump providing a feed into a new tank. The new system was finally commissioned in October 2020 and has been fully operational since March 2021.
Course Manager Karl Williams said, “I joined Worcester Golf & Country Club in April, right at the start of the season just as we were starting to come out
of lockdown, and with members’ expectations high, the pressure was on. It was a harsh learning curve but our new Rain Bird irrigation system is a real
asset and an absolute pleasure to work with.
The biggest change it’s made is using the same water volume we used on our greens but now, we also have tees and surrounds that are lush and green. It’s operator-friendly, easy to use and when it’s set up and running, I can go home on a Friday knowing everything will be working fine over the weekend. If there’s a problem, I’ll get an immediate notification and Rain Bird GSP support is very responsive. Having back-up is a key factor and knowing it’s just an email or call away means getting something fixed straightaway and gives you peace of mind. At the moment, my deputy and I operate the system but in future, we may look at one of the team having dedicated responsibility for irrigation. I’ve had fantastic support from our Club Director Andy Baker and from members. As I’m in and out of the clubhouse, I talk to members about the exciting changes we’re making.
We all want the same – for our course to be the best in Worcestershire – together, I do feel we’re a driving force. My top tip having been through two major irrigation system installations is to talk to other Course Managers, pick their brains and when choosing software, make sure you’ve got the best system back up and support in place. We’ve come long way in the last twenty years. Heads have improved but the biggest changes are in software. Today, irrigation is as important as a mower to a greenkeeper“.
Andy Baker agrees that the club is certainly reaping the benefits of installing a new Rain Bird system.