When head greenkeeper Mark Hastry was having problems with the irrigation system at The Heworth Golf Club in Gateshead, Tyne & Wear, he was keen to get them sorted out as quickly as possible. The solution came in the shape of a new John Deere Aurora irrigation controller, the first commercial unit installed on a golf course in the UK.
The installation was carried out last summer by Full Circle Irrigation Services of Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, with equipment supplied by local John Deere dealer Greenlay of Cramlington, Northumberland.
"Full Circle did a few jobs for me and got my original control box ticking over, but it really needed replacing," says Mark Hastry. "The controller wasn't working as efficiently as it could be, we had a number of electrical problems, and the system basically wouldn't allow us to do what we wanted it to."
After Mark recommended their work, director Geoff Lowes of Greenlay arranged for Full Circle to have a demonstration of John Deere's new Aurora controller.
"With irrigation systems, as with any other key piece of golf course equipment, you have to know what you're doing, so we had to find the right people to provide the right service," he says. "Full Circle are a good fit for us and for the product range - we sell the parts and systems, and they have the specialist installation knowledge and experience."
The irrigation system at The Heworth Golf Club was originally installed in 1994, in two loops of nine, and currently covers all the tees and greens and about half the fairways on this flat, wooded course. The basic wall-mounted Aurora irrigation controller replaced the existing box, and new decoders and connectors had to be wired into each valve box to receive the Aurora's command signals. The whole installation took 2.5 days to complete, and included full insulation and resistance testing.
"After we had the initial demonstration by John Deere, we were able to connect the Aurora controller to the existing system at Heworth and operate it before we made the decision to install," says Full Circle's director Robert George. "Mark has bought the basic set-up, with all the programming done at the box, but he'll be able to grow the system in future as required - you can connect it to the internet and control the irrigation system from anywhere using a laptop, PDA, mobile phone… all the options are there."
The Aurora system now controls 98 stations across the golf course, and offers Mark Hastry more programmes, multiple station starts and more control of his overnight watering schedule.
"With this new John Deere box, I can control our water management much better and more efficiently," he agrees. "We have a full service contract with Full Circle, and this gives us a regular report on what needs doing next, throughout the system. These reports definitely help me to manage my budget better - the golf club committee has to decide on any large investment, so the more information I can give them, the better informed their decisions will be.
"Basically, the Aurora system was fitted because I left it to Full Circle. They're the specialists, and if they'd said the John Deere controller wasn't right for me, I wouldn't have had it fitted. Their professionalism and workmanship have been second to none, so you can see why they're doing so well in this area. Even John Deere's irrigation specialists were impressed when they inspected the installation."
The John Deere Aurora controller is future-proof - the base unit can be fitted at any time with input sensors from ground moisture meters to evapotranspiration meters to a full weather system, for even more precise water management without the need for a PC.
(left to right): Director Robert George of Full Circle Irrigation, Heworth Golf Club's head greenkeeper Mark Hastry, director Geoff Lowes of John Deere dealer Greenlay and director John Grafton of Full Circle.