System Check Vol. 1

Have you checked your irrigation computer lately?  How do you know that your irrigation computer is doing what it is supposed to do?  Or, better yet, how can you tell if your computer knows what to do?

Unfortunately, irrigation computers are only as good as the information you give them.  I recently moved from a course in Arizona that was extremely reliant on efficient irrigation management.  It was imparitive that the $10k irrigation program and computer was operating to it's fullest.  Indian Summer Golf and Country Club is now my new home.  A private facility located in the South Puget Sound of Washington State.  Our water is basically unlimited compared to Arizona.  There is also twice the rain and about 20 degrees cooler during the summer.  You might say, "nice" at first.

No matter your situation, water is important to manage.  It may seem more important when you have a limited supply, but don't discount the importance when you have a generous supply.

I have been at Indian Summer for three weeks now and I am still adjusting, organizing and learning the property.  I am also trying to prioritize the work ahead of me.  One of the things on my list... the irrigation computer.  It might not have been the first thing I jumped on when I started since the pump station has been shut off for a few months now, but it is definitely something I feel can either be worth the thousands of dollars invested into it, or a tool that can throw a gear grinding wrench into your plans.

Rain Bird, Toro, Hunter, etc.  What ever the equipment they all share one job in common.  Managing the amount of water that is put onto the golf course.  If you are reading this blog you probably wouldn't think this way, but you may think to yourself, 'They make this thing way too complicated for turning a head on and off.'  If you are intimidated by technology, now is the time more than ever to face your fears head on.

I want to explain what I have found through my relationship with central control computers.  I have dealt with both Toro and Rainbird.  This isn't a time to pick out which is better it is a time to take a deeper look into how the brain behind your courses life line thinks and rationalizes why you might need extra water or less water.  A simple check before your season starts could save you some headaches and even some heartache.

The first place I look is to see if anything is off, unassigned, not programed, etc.  I ask myself, "Is there any reason why every single head on the golf course is not running or at least scheduled to run when the time comes?"  Both systems give you the ability to check if heads are not included in the flow tree, or programs.

The next thing that I like to look at is the flow tree.  Indian Summer has no flow tree.  "I know!"  I asked the same question, "How do things run at night?"  The only answer that I could come up with was, "not very good."  Good thing I checked before we were in season and I was trying to figure out why the pressure was horrible.

The last place to look is the database where all the info on how the computer distinguishes run time.

Let me explain the importance of these three simple checks that can save you big before the season starts.

Checking the programs and station reports for unassigned stations is improtant.  You would be suprised at how many times I have looked at an irrigation computer, found a station that was no longer programed or assighned.  Indian Summer had a few unassigned stations, and wouldn't you know it, the stations were located in chronic dry areas.  Hmm.. 5 minutes spent hours saved.

The flow tree.  This is the most important check you can do.  Maybe you have seen the doughnuts associated with poor pressure at night, or worse yet, adjusting heads to a percentage that is outrageously high.  The flow tree is instructions and data given by you, or whoever set the irrigation control up.

In a nutshell:

Unassigned heads can cause issues, wet/dry, poor coverage, etc.  These issues lead to poor playabilty.

The next task is to check the flow tree.  Another portion of the golf courses brain.  Here you have to make sure pipes are properly identfied and the max flow is calculated.  The computer will use the information you give to it to manage the water.  If you are anything like Indian Summer you find that everything is assigned to the pump station.  Let me tell you, "This is not good."

If you are getting ready to kick off the season and haven't looked at the central control computer in a while, check it out.  You might be suprised at what you find.


Could you post an example of a flow tree? Googling it, that doesn't seem to be common terminology.

Justin Ruiz, CGCS, MG delete November 21, 2013 at 5:23 PM

I will see if I can take a picture of the flow tree on or computer and post it in the next couple of days, Thanks