Hosting last week’s Wales Open and gearing up for the Ryder Cup in 2010, Jim McKenzie manages one of the largest irrigation systems in Europe. He explains how he keeps water-wise at the Celtic Manor Resort by saving and storing water and careful irrigation.
A key concern to Jim, director of estates management and Ryder Cup courses development, is keeping the Wales Open Course and new Ryder Cup Course in A1 condition. Based in hills and valleys with a generous rainfall is proving a decided advantage and the resort has been designed to be self-sufficient in its water supply.
“Luckily we are in an area renowned for its rain levels and this is a tremendous asset, as we harvest water in the wetter months, store it, and use it on our courses during drier periods,” says Jim.
“Permanently re-cycling our water in this way works well and we are also careful to select grass species which are more drought tolerant.”
Irrigation and drainage specialist MJ Abbott has been involved in fitting more than 2,400 sprinklers at the resort, to cover the Coldra Woods course, Roman Road course, driving range, turf nursery and the new Ryder Cup course.
“It is vital to ensure shaping incorporates the provision of water collection on the modern golf course,” says Nigel Wyatt, contracts director for MJ Abbott. “Swales leading to catchment areas, to prevent unnecessary run-off, should be shaped into the golf hole.”
Weather patterns are changing dramatically, with frequent heavy storms now becoming the norm.
“Storm water collection is the key to successful recycling of water, particularly within the summer months,” says Nigel. “Transportation of the storm water is generally through a network of twin-wall plastic pipes, sized to accommodate peak water flows during storm conditions. Outfalls should discharge into purpose-built reservoirs or ponds for storage until the water is transferred into the irrigation system.”
This principle has been successfully applied at the Celtic Manor Resort. “Serious and expensive damage can occur very quickly to the sward during dry periods, if grass roots are unable to obtain sufficient water to make up for transpiration losses and the grass becomes stressed,” says Jim.
“Our licence restricts the volume of water we can use, so growing-in the new holes could make our quota really tight this year. This is why it is vital we maintain the highest levels of efficiency when irrigating. I think in recent years the biggest advance has been the introduction of valve and head sprinklers,” he says.
“You can specifically target a small area and this helps us to maintain our water storage capacity. But up on top of the hills we hand-water areas, rather than indiscriminately applying irrigation.”
Managing the irrigation systems for the last 11 years is irrigation engineer Neil Shephard and his assistant Noel O’Connell. For greater accuracy a weather station is used to pick up every drop of rain.
“This station enables us to know the exact amount of water being received,” says Neil. “Regular readings are recorded and charted every day, month and season of the year. The system is supplied by water collected from our drainage, which is fed into three holding lakes on the new Ryder Cup course.”
Keeping an eye on the pH of the water, the Celtic Manor is looking at introducing pond water features to help keep the lakes clean and as an added attraction to the course.
“There is a pump house down at the bottom of the course, together with two large transfer pumps,” he says. “These send water to the top reservoir to help irrigate the Coldra Woods and Roman Road courses.”
The irrigation system is Toro and run by a Site Pro, but the original Wentwood Hills course has a Rain Bird system and the mainframe of this is being retained.
On the current 13 holes of the new course there are 243 sprinklers on the tees, 76 on the greens, 372 on the fairways and 42 on the approaches.
Greens and fairways are being fitted with Toro 800 and 850 series sprinklers, the fairways 835 and the tees include some 720G series sprinklers.
“The 800 series sprinklers are the latest ones so they are more controllable,” says Neil. “You can alter the spray and lower it if it is windy. These days we only drain down for about two to three months of the year,” he says.
“Towards the end of the year there are a lot of fertilizers on the course so we need to water these areas in. My biggest challenge is the greenkeepers,” says Neil. “They think it strange that there I am in the pouring rain in winter identifying problems with the system. But with the increased use of aerators and spikes more damage can occur, so it is vital to combat leaks. This helps us to ensure we are irrigating with the greatest efficiency to conserve our valuable water resources.”
MJ Abbott www.mjabbott.co.uk
Celtic Manor Resort www.celtic-manor.com