The intricacies of selecting and installing the right irrigation network are no more pronounced than for West Sussex Golf Club, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, which recently completed the installation of a full course Toro irrigation system.
Set on the very rare terrain, which is lowland heath with extensive heather, scots pine and birch, the club had very clear expectations of what it wanted for both the course and its members. The new system also had to meet the specific requirements of Natural England in their approval of the required work.
Kerr Rowan, course manager at West Sussex Golf Club, elaborates: “We are fortunate to be one of a small number of traditional heathland golf clubs in the country. Our players gravitate towards the firm, fiery and fast fairways. By their very nature, these areas turn brown, particularly in summer, and there was concern from the club that a new irrigation system would make them too green. However, the incredibly hot summer of 2018 proved that rather than turning areas green, irrigation was vital to keeping those naturally dry areas alive. As a result of that hot dry weather, we lost a lot of grass and it highlighted the importance of having a premium irrigation system in place.”
The system was designed by irrigation consultants Irritech Limited, which used its expertise in understanding the resident natural flora and fauna to handle the challenges of the course.
Roger Davey, managing director at Irritech Limited, comments: “The project required an advanced level of diligence and care. This is because a large part of the course is within a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and therefore Natural England insisted that water should not be sprayed or allowed to leach on to the heather areas, falling only on the fine grass fairways.
“Water throw had to be carefully calculated so a three-row system was installed on the fairways instead of a two-row alternative. This provided greater accuracy and efficiency. We couldn’t simply install pipe wherever we liked, it had to be planned with precision and out of respect for the natural surroundings. For example, we had to be mindful of large, deep tree roots when installing pipework along the tree lines. Plus, as the site is not blessed with an incredible amount of water, we had to design a system that was efficient and sustainable for the club.”
With these considerations in mind, the club, led by the Green Committee, undertook a thorough process to find the right products to replace the old system which at 40 years old didn’t cover the fairways. After a series of meetings, presentations and sourcing references from other clubs, the board at West Sussex opted to use equipment offered by Toro.
Kerr continues: “What impressed me most about the Toro irrigation products was the Lynx central control system. Five of our greenkeeping team use the control system app, enabling us to do so much at the touch of a button including operating the sprinklers remotely.
“I like how Toro has constantly evolved its products, making them as efficient as possible. You can stop the sprinklers within a second which reduces water wastage, and if there are any technical issues the sprinklers are top-serviceable thus minimising disruption to our course and members.”
With Toro chosen and the design finalised, Irritech Limited worked alongside West Sussex Golf Club to appoint a contractor to handle the installation of the system. This was handled by Lancashire-based, Reesink-approved contractor LS Systems, starting in October 2020 and finishing in May 2021. Despite some weather days which presented challenging conditions with heavy winter rainfall and spring frosts, the installation was mostly completed during weekdays, avoiding the club’s busy weekend periods. An unscheduled government-enforced winter lockdown also presented additional quiet spells for progress to be made.
The installation included over 27,000m of pipe, 27,000m of cable, 958 sprinklers and the state-of-the-art Lynx Smart Module; the brain of the system. Infinity sprinklers were used on the fairways, greens and approaches as well as the larger tees. T5s and T7s were used on the smaller tees.
Tim Griffiths, project manager from LS Systems, comments: “What’s key for an irrigation system of this kind is accuracy of application. In making this investment West Sussex Golf Club is now better able to manage its water resources, bringing about both environmental and cost saving benefits whilst allowing them to maintain the character of the course with pinpoint precision.”
When asked about the impact the new system has had on the club, course manager Kerr is resoundingly positive: “It has the precision we need to tailor the setup to suit the varying areas of the course. We can spot-target areas that need it and when we do water, we water less so the water goes exactly where we want it. This makes a significant cost-saving to the club. We appreciate the speed, responsiveness and ease of the entire system. With the Lynx app on my phone I’m able to turn on tailored irrigation as and when we need it, something which gives us ultimate control and flexibility.”