The main function of the irrigation system is to replace the amount of water lost due to evaporation and transpiration. This is best achieved by providing uniform water distribution through proper sprinkler selection, placement and operation. Uniform distribution will provide a consistent turf that looks great and is a pleasure to play. Inefficient irrigation, on the other hand, will cause areas of soft and hard turf which irritates players, takes away the fun from the game, and unhappy golfers means more complaints. In the absence of an efficient irrigation system, it has been observed that fairways and greens are typically overwatered by 30 to 50 percent. Intelligent use of water is therefore a critical factor for a good, well-maintained golf course.
Golf Course Design Course Design is a key component of effective water management and it is critical to understand the natural water flow patterns throughout the site. If the design aligns the holes to take advantage of natural flows and recycle excess water, it is a good start to water management. Most architects locate bodies of water at low points on the site. This helps excess water flow naturally to these bodies of water but if there are obstructions to the free flow, it will lead to water logging issues. The way a course is designed, therefore, has a major impact on water requirements. Less irrigated turf lowers water requirements and grass selection also plays a very important role. Native drought resistance grasses help save water and also provide a good contrast between playing and non-playing areas.
Recycled water is increasingly becoming the main source of irrigation and proper storage of the recycled water is critical. Some architects have opted for underground storage tanks which has been very successful. It not only keeps the recycled water from deteriorating but also drastically cuts evaporation losses. The water storage -can then be used as a play area or teeing surface.
There is a popular misconception that using more sprinklers indicates excess watering but the reverse is often the truth. More sprinklers with shorter throws are better in managing irrigated and non-irrigated turf and lead to substantial water savings.
Water Conservation If the course design provides for better rainwater collection, this is a great start towards improved water conservation. Effective collection and utilisation of rainwater is the first critical step in water conservation and course design plays a huge role in achieving this. Technology also plays a vital role in conserving water, including the use of individual sprinkler control, real time monitoring, sensors for rain and moisture sensing and using the collected data in real time, smart pump monitoring and flow management. Architects have to take the lead in bringing up the need for these technologies to be implemented on the course. Efficient water translates directly to firm and optimal playing surfaces which in turn has a direct effect on player satisfaction.
Maintenance The selection of appropriate turf plays a vital role in managing the recurring costs of golf course maintenance. The type of turf will dictate the water usage, the frequency of mowing and the resources required to maintain it. Integrated control technologies that can pinpoint the source of the problem in the irrigation system as well as predict future problems go a long way in reducing maintenance costs. Though budgetary constraints and the type of feel preferred influence maintenance costs, the type of grass dictates the amount of water required for the irrigation cycle.
Advocacy One of the biggest roles that a Golf Course Architect can play in water management is the stewardship and advocacy to steer the thought process of the management. Responsible use of land and water are very important to water management, and incorporating wetlands in the course design is a very good way of providing a natural zone to filter chemicals and runoff from leaching into the soil. Many Golf courses around the world are working with organisations like the Golf Environment Organisation to make their courses more sustainable and these initiatives are often promoted by the architects. Water conservation is increasingly becoming a key aspect of sustainability and efficient water management plays a vital role in meeting sustainability goals.
Water scarcity, regulations and increasing water cost are forcing the golf courses to consider how the course design impacts water management needs for the course. This also has a direct impact on profitability for the course. As courses incorporate efficient irrigation systems, they begin to be viewed as part of the solution and not the problem. Many courses that recycle city sewage and use it for irrigation are playing an important part in changing public perception. It is clear that Golf courses can use course design for effective water management while also providing an enjoyable playing experience.
This article was provided by Rain Bird, EIGCA Gold Industry Partner. Click here for more information about Rain Bird.