Saturday, January 16, 2016

2016 Project Work Underway

This week, we made a large irrigation improvement, by installing 66 additional quick coupler valves on the fairways.  There is quite a bit of information we'd like to share about this project.  So, in an effort not to have readers fall asleep, we'll break it down into a couple of different blog posts.

For now, let's start with the "what" of this project.  Quick couplers, or quick coupling valves, are terms anyone in the golf industry knows, and we may mistakenly assume others do as well.  Quick couplers are what we use to connect a hose into the irrigation system for hand watering greens.

Before automatic irrigation systems, quick coupler keys were fitted with sprinklers on top. The valves were located down the center of fairways, in the middle of tees, and around the greens. The night watering crew would have to take these and place them throughout the golf course, moving them from hole to hole.  Those were the good old days...
An old school quick coupler key and sprinkler head.

At Laurel Creek, each green has two quick couplers connected to the same piping which feeds the automatic sprinklers.  During the golf season, all 25 miles of pipe is constantly pressurized to 115 psi.  As the name, "quick coupler" indicates, in just seconds you can insert and turn the key with a hose attached into one of these valves and instantly have water flowing.
Before being installed in the ground, you can see the quick coupler valve and key.

Why do we need these on fairways at this time?  With an irrigation system that was installed in 1989-1990, the question of why we would be installing them now is a good one.  There are several reasons that adding quick couplers makes more sense now than ever.

The first reason is irrigation uniformity.  Given the age of the existing system, irrigation uniformity becomes increasingly challenging.  We need to have the ability to put the right amount of water, in the right place, at the right time.  There is a saying in turf management that if you're not hand watering, you're over-watering.  Even with the most modern irrigation systems, overhead irrigation is far from perfect.

A second reason is water conservation.  We are fortunate to have a good supply of irrigation water in our lakes.  However, we welcome any opportunity to save water.  Unlike our sprinklers, which are spaced 80' apart, good old fashioned watering with a hose allows us to get the water exactly where needed, and not waste it.

Playability is a third, and one of the most important, reasons for installing quick couplers now.  While we can't always guarantee firm conditions throughout the year, we are always striving to improve playability on the golf course.  A network of quick couplers on the fairways allows us to rely less on sprinklers, and provide overall firmer conditions.

Labor efficiency is a final reason for installing quick couplers.  To improve playability on fairways, we continue to devote an increasing number of labor hours to hand watering.  We need to be able to maximize the time watering, while minimizing disturbance to our members and their guests.

This gets to the topic of how we've been able to hand water fairways in the past.  To date, this has largely been accomplished by taking apart sprinklers and then inserting a hose connection.  This method is less than ideal.

With several o-rings, nozzles, and screws in a sprinkler's drive assembly, there is a lot that can go wrong when they are constantly being taken apart and reassembled.  One of the major issues we've experienced over the past few years is worn "actuators" on the top of sprinklers, which may make them difficult to turn on and off manually.  Or worse yet, with some actuators turning clockwise and others counter-clockwise, employees may inadvertently leave them in the "Off" position, meaning they will not be able to run automatically at night.  The bottom line is that the less you need to mess with old sprinklers, the better off you are.
There are many parts inside each sprinkler.

Hooking into sprinklers also takes time.  It can take an employee several minutes to disassemble and then reassemble a sprinkler.  That's all time that could be spent actually watering.  Often, it's also time when a player may be waiting to hit their shot and we can't quickly get out of the way.  Again, quick couplers are called that for a reason.  Employees will now be able to maximize their time by hooking into this network, while decreasing the chances of sprinkler problems.

So, there's an explanation of the what and why of this project.  Next week, we'll get down and dirty, as we take a look at the "how" of the install...




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