How to prepare your irrigation system for winter

By Alistair November 11, 2023 06:46

As you won’t be irrigating the course over winter, you don’t need to worry about the irrigation system until next spring, right? Wrong, says irrigation expert John Kidson, who details what work a greenkeeping team should carry out over the next few months to ensure the system is ready for when warmer weather returns in 2024.

The winter is upon us and it’s the time of year when what is ‘out of sight’ can easily become ‘out of mind’.

Over the past few magazine issues, I’ve interviewed irrigation techs and I’ve taken a quick break from the interviews to help us all prepare for the winter ahead.

Around this time last year, I covered some helpful tips for the winter and received good feedback from the readers.


It’s likely you will be undertaking some in-house projects or even having subcontractors on site. Consider the irrigation in any of the areas.

Consider tracing and marking out your irrigation cables and pipes. This can be done in-house or you can request your irrigation company to pop in and mark up the areas.

Drainage, drainage and drainage causes the most spring start-up issues. Be mindful if you have blocked sprinkler setups, there won’t be cable for tracing.

Tree work with stump removal can also cause issues that are normally overlooked.

Routes and tracks for machines; it’s a good idea to flag out any valve boxes on any route that a new member of staff or a subcontractor might use. It only takes a quick move out the way by a golfer – and a valve box takes the weight!

Marker flags are cheap to buy and you can request your irrigation company to pop in and trace the known construction areas.


For most of the time, the products are within the ground, but they should not be forgotten. When I was a greenkeeper, I used to set monthly reminders on my phone to check over the irrigation. I would open the pump house, walk around the tank, look for animal activity, flick the controller on and run a one-minute cycle, looking for any errors.

We would all like to know well in advance if a cable zone is failing, and it’s always good to check over once any construction work has been completed.

Ball valves like to crack, and with that in mind it’s best to leave them slightly open. This allows for moisture to pass through the open section rather than building up behind the ball part of the valve.


Consider next season; while it’s still on your mind, write down the known faults.

I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth backing up any decoder’s details, even if it’s as simple as taking photos on your phone. Many clubs have one piece of damp, half ripped paper as their decoder stations and programmes. Take time in the winter to type this up and backup the file to the clubhouse; email it to yourself.

Keys; if your pump house has one key, this could cause you some stress in a hot period. While it’s not in use it’s worth getting a few more cut. One day you will thank yourself for the short time it will take in the winter.

Stocking up; depending on when your budget refreshes, it’s always a good time of year to assess your stock and clear out bad, failing products.

Training; you can always learn while the irrigation systems are drained down. There’s plenty of online content and you could book up training courses for the start of the year. It’s a nice time for a recap before your system is started. I will have dates released soon for our next training sessions.

I will continue with the greenkeeper interviews over the winter.

It’s always great to hear from the readers – @JKIrrigation on all socials


By Alistair November 11, 2023 06:46

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