Saturday, November 28, 2015

Winterization--the Golf Course and Beyond

Most people are aware that this is the time of year when we remove the water, or "blow out" the golf course irrigation system to avoid the chance of pipes freezing during the winter.  However, the scale of this job may come as a surprise, as there are a number of other areas that must be winterized as well.

On the course itself, we have over 1,000 sprinklers, approximately 20 miles of 2" pipe, and another 5 miles of larger "main line" pipe, which ranges in size from 4" to 14" in diameter.  We use a large compressor, rated at 750 or 825 cubic feet per minute to deliver the volume of air needed to get this job done expeditiously.

For the golf course sprinklers, we connect into a port at each of our two pumping stations.  High volume is good, whereas high pressure is not.  Remember that, generally speaking, air can be compressed, whereas liquids can not.  With high pressure, the compressed air can expand quickly, breaking system components.
A large compressor is required for purging water from the golf course.

What you may not be aware of is that in addition to the golf course, there are several other locations on the property where water must be removed.  On the Clubhouse grounds, this includes the bridge crossing pipe, the 32 zones of turf and landscape irrigation, the unheated Cabana building itself, and the four har-tru tennis courts.
Water must be removed from the Cabana and tennis courts.

But wait, we're still not finished.  The entrance islands to the development also have irrigation systems which must be winterized.  In fact, there are three separate irrigation controllers, meter pits, and backflow preventers for these areas.

It's a good feeling when we finally get this annual project completed.  However, the success of this won't be known for months.  Only when we charge the system next March will we find out if our efforts kept all pipes from freezing.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I See the Light

Daylight Savings Time ended a few weeks ago, and for those of us who ready the course for play each day, this change was welcomed.  With weekend play starting at 7:30 AM, the lack of light we experience in the fall can make things a bit sketchy for the first few greens we prep in the morning. 

One of the things employees must do prior to cutting the green is to check for objects, such as stones and ball markers, which could damage the mower's reel.  Even something as small as a twig or seed from a tree may spell trouble, as they can lodge in the grooved roller of the greensmower causing a scuff or line across the green.  Of course, operators must also be mindful of how the mower's cutting; and, as with all motorized equipment, be certain that it's not leaking any fluids on the green.

While most of our greensmowers are equipped with lights, and employees often wear headlamps, it can still feel like a roll of the dice when we start in the dark, as it is very difficult to see and be aware of any of these issues on a green without full daylight to help.

In addition to the difficulty with greensmowing, other tasks, such as cup cutting can be challenging as well.  An area of the green which appears to be a reasonable hole location in the dark may have an entirely different appearance once the Sun rises.  Because of this, we often times will go out the day prior, and dot the hole locations we're going to be changing first the next day.

Even with the shift to Standard Time it's not exactly bright out when we arrive now, however it's definitely a big improvement over those dark October mornings!

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Shady Deal

Last week's USGA Green Section Record focused heavily on the impact of trees on a golf course.  The northeast regional update noted:
  • Sun angles change throughout the year. With the winter solstice a little more than a month away, take note of trees that are now shading your turf. Fall sunlight is critical to the hardening process and some trees weren’t causing shade problems a month or two ago. Turf that is shaded in the fall is weaker entering winter, essentially guaranteeing that it also will emerge from winter in a weakened state.

The putting green by #1 tee has several issues, including its size and drainage problems.  However, one of the greatest challenges this green faces is the growing environment.  The picture below was taken on Monday, November 9, a full six weeks before the winter solstice:

With 2/3 to 3/4 of the green in the shade, you might think this picture was taken in early morning or late afternoon.  The unfortunate truth is that it was taken at 12:30 PM.  Last winter was tough on all of the grass, but we had only one green which actually suffered turf loss and had to be reseeded:  The putting green.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Locating the Leak

We have a saying that irrigation leaks will always show themselves in due time.  Therefore it was quite a mystery when the pump station by #5 green began cycling frequently to maintain pressure, yet no leak could be found. 

Based on the amount of water we were losing, we knew that there was exactly one gallon per minute flowing...someplace.  With 25 miles of pipe in the ground, that may not sound like a whole lot of water loss, but it equals over 1,400 gallons per day--something we'd expect to find pretty quickly. 

After isolating various sections of the system we were able to narrow the source of the leak to the irrigation loop around #5 green.  Now we only had a few hundred feet of pipe to check, but once again, still couldn't see any water bubbling to the surface, or turf that felt like quicksand.
A green surrounded by water made locating the leak difficult.

At this point, we speculated that water could be making its way back into the lake, however with the green surrounded on three sides by water, the question of how to determine the exact location still had us scratching our heads.  The thought of using an indicator dye occurred to us, but we needed to get the dye just into the greens loop, and not the miles of pipe which the pump station supplies. 

The solution was to use the quick coupling valves we typically hook into when handwatering the greens.  We shut the isolation valve to #5 green, relieved the water pressure, hooked a portable air tank to a quick coupler to remove water, poured some dye into a second quick coupler, then opened the isolation valve and re-pressurized the green's irrigation loop.
The tools used to get dye into the irrigation loop at #5 green.
Within an hour, we had our answer, and the mystery of where the water was going had been solved.  Sure enough, the point of least resistance for the leaking water was not coming to the surface of the ground as we typically see.  Instead it was making its way into a drain line near the front of the green, which exits into the lake.
The dye seeps into the lake from the drain line.
The 2" PVC irrigation pipe and corrugated 4" drain line run perpendicular to each other, so the place to start digging was where the two pipes cross each other.
The completed repair.

When the pipe crossing area was exposed, it was easy to see why the water never made it to the surface, as the perforated drain line and surrounding pea gravel took this water straight to the lake.  

The actual source of the leak was a glue fitting which had gone bad after 25+ years.  All in all, a relatively simple fix--once we knew where to dig.