“Water management is the key to good course management”

By Alistair June 6, 2024 09:39

Ross Jones, the courses director at Get Golfing, who oversees the 13 golf courses the charity has now taken on, talks to irrigation expert John Kidson about how he and all the venues’ head greenkeepers try to meet their varying irrigation needs.

For this month’s issue I’ve sat down with Ross Jones from Get Golfing, discussing his irrigation needs and demands.

Welcome Ross and thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to sit down with us. What is your role within the greenkeeping industry?

Hi John, I’m Ross Jones and I am the courses director for Get Golfing, I oversee our 13 golf courses (currently) which involves all elements of the courses, estates and projects.

Thirteen courses, that’s an impressive amount and must make your workload, and phone, extremely busy. I would guess the main key question is, how do you address the irrigation needs of all the courses?

It’s a mammoth task.. I dread to think how many calls I take a day! Regarding irrigation, each site has its own issues and they are all at different stages of quality, performance, consistency and so on. We have inherited a multitude of brands and software, all at different ages. The challenge is creating continuity in performance, reliability and confidence for the course managers. Due to logistics and varying needs of each site we have used a variety of contractors with expertise in specific areas (yourself included). A couple of years ago we introduced Dan Smith as our group irrigation technician to try and pull things into place.

With so many courses, head greenkeepers and soil types, are there any items you use to help with day-to-day management?

Communication is key. When dealing with multiple sites and staff, you need to be touching base regularly. We have group chats for the course managers including a separate irrigation group. I keep an eye on the content daily and step in when needed. It’s great that the guys can lean on each other and support each other when needed.

We carry out annual soil and water analysis to see how we are progressing and determine what areas need improving. Water sampling and understanding what you are actually applying to your surfaces is a key element and often overlooked.

What key areas or improvements are on your mind for irrigation across the courses?

At the moment we have completed startups across the group, this in hand helps us identify any issues in general performance for the season ahead.

We have just installed a new pump station at a handful of sites and future upgrades to help develop our sites.

Thinking about the future, do you see your irrigation becoming more important when creating budgets over other items, or do you predict the same with an overall increase in demands on budgets?

To have peace of mind and confidence in your irrigation system as a course manager is an absolute godsend. I’ve spent many evenings and late nights sat in pump houses making sure everything is working correctly and efficiently. It’s my role to ensure the course managers have the support, whether it is technical or budgetary, to help them sleep at night. The demand for high performance in all areas of the courses seems to be increasing year on year, a huge element to this is water management, annually we reflect on the irrigation budgets and adjust accordingly.

Are there any set aims for the courses as an overall rule, such as reducing watering or creating more storage?

We are having a big push in sustainability of the sites; water management is a huge factor in this. If we look at the weather and amount of rainfall we have all experienced over the last seven or eight months, it highlights the need for better water harvesting. No doubt in a month’s time we could be potentially in a drought and wondering where all that rainfall has gone. I feel the industry as a whole needs to improve on this but also have the opportunity to be able to; there is a lot of red tape to jump through when looking into reservoirs and grants as one example.

Efficiency in water management is a massive part of my course management ethos, if you manage water correctly and effectively, everything falls into place. Each site operates with a water meter, readings are taken daily across the surfaces, this data ensures consistency in the irrigation’s performance, but also the greens’ performance and health. For me it’s the key to good course management.

You’ve recently sent some of the greenkeepers on our irrigation training courses, and it’s great to meet the team. Do you feel the benefits of staff training outweighs the costs involved?

Absolutely! With the volume of work required across the group, it is vital for us to have a couple of staff within each team that can carry out the basic repairs and setup to their systems. The guys that attended the course have come away with some fantastic knowledge and confidence, I will be sending more later on in the year.

Thank you, Ross, for your time sharing your thoughts and knowledge.

Contact John Kidson @JKIrrigation on social media

By Alistair June 6, 2024 09:39

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