Those who have been frequenting the course in recent weeks will have noticed some areas of the fairways have dried out quite rapidly. The warmer temperatures combined with stronger grass growth, spring winds and lower than average rainfall have all contributed towards having less moisture in the soil than normal. This has resulted in some areas of turf drying out beyond where we would normally try to maintain them.

Not all areas dry out at the same time as seen here on the 9th Fairway

The most common course of action is to replace this moisture as it is depleted through the use of supplemental irrigation. However, as our members were made aware of, having the ability to draw water doesn't automatically translate to unrestricted access.

A recent communication from the club outlined briefly that we have to abide by the conditions of our consent regarding water take. Those conditions are determined by a variety of factors many of which are outside of our influence. It must be recognised that our water source, the Waikato River, is shared among many users so consideration is given to being a responsible user and a good neighbour to other users.

                 This web based screen shows exactly where we are regarding our consent

Our consent stipulates 3 key conditions that must be met:

1: We must not exceed the maximum allocated water per day take.

For us, we are allowed up to 825 cubic metres (thats 825,000 litres) in a single 24 hour period.

2: We must not exceed the maximum allocated water per second take.

This means, in our situation, we cannot "take" more than 26 litres of water per second.

3: We must not exceed the allocated water per year amount stipulated.

We are permitted to take 75,600 cubic metres of water during the period of November 1st through to 31st March each year. During the period of 1st April until the 31st October, we are allowed to access only 5000 cubic metres of water.

All of these conditions are monitored electronically with data being sent off every 15 minutes detailing our activities so there is zero room to operate outside the consent.

This screen tracks our usage over a given time period

While these numbers sound large, it is worth appreciating that currently (as on the 26th October 2018) there is approximately 274,000 litres of water per second flowing past the golf course. Thats 16,440,00 litres per minute, 986,400,000 litres per hour or 23,673,600,000 litres per day!!!

This spreadsheet is used to work out how much water we have left and help allocate it

As we are still in October, we are governed by the smaller volume and what is currently still available of that amount. Therefore, we must prioritise where the water is used with the greens clearly being the main focus at the expense of all other areas.

So, how do we decide what to water and how much to apply?

Historically, experience and visual assessment has been the mainstay of the industry in determining irrigation requirements. While often achieving good results, the modern greenkeeper has a few more options at his disposal these days.

One of the best ways to assess moisture is to take a plug and have a look or feel

The biggest innovation in water management (and potentially turf management in general) in recent years has been the introduction of portable moisture meters. These meters have given the ability to accurately assess soil moisture content (expressed as volumetric water content percentage VMC) by simply inserting a device with 2 small diameter probes  into the ground. This number allows the user to compare areas and decide if more water is required to achieve the desired target. If the number is already above your target, there is no need to apply more water.

Looking down on the TDR300 Moisture meter

Where looking at an area and deciding if it is wet or dry is very subjective, the VMC reading is completely objective and can be used by anyone. While certainly not a replacement for experience it gives the person making the decision more information to work with.

Once the measurements are read, we record them via a custom input form on a phone which then allows them to be accessed electronically on a web browser or downloaded to a spreadsheet for storage and analysis. These numbers are then factored in when programming the upcoming nights irrigation and tailor made water applications are scheduled to reflect the individual requirements of different greens, tees and fairways.

The VMC readings are used to aid in determining what needs watering and for how long. As you can see, only a few greens will receive water tonight

Managing water isnt a straightforward exercise. The quality and flexibility of the irrigation system being used to apply the water is also a massive influence. Add into the equation soil types, grass species, available labour, weather etc and there are a lot of moving parts which can be difficult to line up at times. Be assured though that we take our responsibility of utilising this precious resource very seriously and constantly seek ways to better improve our efficiency and maximise the benefit from the water we do apply. As noted in a previous post about green colour not being the main goal it is important to recognise that grass will look and play differently based on the season. The key, is to try and sustain plant health and vigour to a level that supports good fun golf.

Good Golfing

The Maintenance Team

Hamilton Golf Club


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