Irrigation at The Oaks

Steve Mitchellin Golf

Irrigation Services teamA brand new John Deere irrigation system is being installed on 27 holes at The Oaks pay-and-play golf courses at Oaks Park in Carshalton, Surrey, by Irrigation Services (UK) Ltd of Norwich.

The full system, supplied by dealer Golf & Turf of Wokingham in Berkshire, will cover all the greens, tees and approaches. It includes all the pipework and fittings, a total of 147 sprinkler heads, decoders and a John Deere eAurora controller, which will be linked to the internet and controlled by iPhone. This is the company's newest controller, which is now able to manage up to 250 decoder stations.

The club has identified that as water is becoming a more expensive resource, its efficient management and economic use is becoming increasingly important in order to control costs.

An evapotranspiration (ET) meter will be used to make automatic adjustments to the irrigation system according to prevailing weather conditions and rainfall, to prevent the build-up of thatch and other diseases or stresses related to over- or under-watering. The eAurora controller provides programming to the second rather than the minute, which can lead to savings of large amounts of water over a season. Timing to the second also saves on electricity usage, as well as long-term wear on the sprinkler heads and pumps.

"Our old irrigation system, which only covered the greens and four tees, badly needed replacing," says The Oaks head greenkeeper Phil Benn. "We had several major leaks last year, and lost quality on the greens as a result. Our director of operations Mark Burridge and I considered repairing the old system to make it last for a few more years, but really a brand new one seemed to be the most cost-effective way forward, to guarantee good quality greens this year.

"After reading about the new John Deere system in the press, we ended up going to the company's HQ at Langar with David Searles from Golf & Turf, had a presentation on the equipment and specifications, and decided to run with that. We get good back-up service from the dealer anyway, and Paul Muddel of Irrigation Services was also very professional in his approach. It was his competitive quote that led to the decision to install the John Deere system.

"Because we are using mains water for irrigation, accurate water management is crucial," adds Phil Benn. "The John Deere system is just a lot more advanced than anything else out there. You can operate and programme the entire system from anywhere using an iPhone, and it will text you if anything needs attention.

"Use of the course has been steadily improving for the last couple of years, since we improved our fairway cutting regime with the help of a new John Deere machinery fleet package. We have recently started using Headland Amenity for our sprays and fertilisers, and this has also contributed to a real improvement in the overall course presentation - last winter was the first time in my 20 years here that we haven't had any disease on the greens. If the new watering system works as well as this, we can take the course to yet another level of quality."

Image: the design and installation team from Irrigation Services (left to right): Shaun Bammant, Paul Muddel, Louis Anthony, Mark Webster and Sebastian Muddel.

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